The Cities Alliance and UN-Habitat open session on Youth and the City was held at the 7th Africities Summit on 1 December 2015. It aimed to explore different models for youth empowerment and participation in urban governance and development processes in Africa.
Africa will not develop without its youth
Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLGA, addressed the packed room with these words, “Africa will not develop without its youth. The best asset that the local governments have are its people; and among these people, its youth”, he said.
The panel discussion was moderated by Douglas Ragan, UN-Habitat’s Unit Leader for Youth and Livelihoods Unit, and featured a spectrum of different viewpoints, thanks to the following panel members: Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, UN-Habitat Director for Africa Regional Office; Shamim Nabbale, Senior Programme Manager, CEDA International; Michael Uwemedimo, Project Director CMAP (Collaborative Media Advocacy Platform); Motlalephule Hlalele, FEDUP (Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor) and Yona Yethu Youth Savings Scheme; Cyvette Gibson, the Mayor of Paynesville, Liberia; Dr Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, UN-Habitat Deputy Executive Director and Serge Allou, Lead Urban Specialist, Cities Alliance.
Sharing policy recommendation and youth projects
The session was a call for encouraging participation of youth – an indispensable part of societal change and deepening democracy. The key objectives of the open session were to:
- Explore different modalities on how to ensure active youth participation and contribution towards the creation of inclusive cities in Africa
- Discuss what local authorities, NGOs, and youth groups can do to support/promote youth participation and youth projects in Africa
- Identify necessary framework conditions that will aid local authorities in promoting and supporting youth participation and projects in Africa
Dr Carole MacNeil, the facilitator from the Cities Alliance’s three-day Youth and the City Learning Workshop held just prior to Africities, presented the workshop results and policy recommendations on how cities can prioritise youth participation and incorporate youth contributions to achieve inclusive cities. (More information on the Youth and the City Learning Workshop in the following article)
70% of Africans are below the age of 30
To give the audience a snapshot of the exciting youth projects happening on the most youthful continent, Cities Alliance and UN-Habitat invited two speakers from the Youth and the City Learning Workshop to present their projects at the open session. The speakers, Shamim Nabbale, Senior Programs Manager CEDA International and Michael Uwemedimo, Project Director CMAP (Collaborative Media Advocacy Platform) called for gender equality and community participation.
Shamin, manager of the Slum Women Economic Empowerment Program (SWEEP) said to a captivated audience, “We train young women for three months and then support them to build their own income generating initiatives. We are bringing issues of women to the forefront. We need gender equality. We cannot change the whole world, but we can definitely make a difference.”
In her take-home message, Mayor Cyette Gibson urged young people in Africa to put themselves in leadership roles, use their power and let their voices be heard. “Your voices are louder than you know”, she reassured young people. “Let your faces be seen and hold people accountable. Local governments are here to serve you. And pay your taxes!” she concluded to a laugh of appreciation from the session participants.
The interesting panel discussion and round of comments were closed with UN-Habitat’s Deputy Executive Director, Dr Aisa Kirabo Kacyira words, “This has been an enriching discussion; passionate and very strategic, ”she said. “ To young people I say this: It is the time to be aware of your power. 2030 is a global development agenda and it is no longer about north south. In the middle of a crisis the first people to take power and organise matters are the youth. Take the opportunity and exploit every space you have. We are delighted to have been a part of this. We are very committed, together with Cities Alliance and the United Nations family, to making a difference.”