On the 4th of December 2015 a Youth and the City session was held at the Africities Seven Summit, an event for Africa’s local authorities organized every three years by the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa). The Youth and the City session, hosted by the UN-Habitat Youth and Livelihood Unit and Cities Alliance, aimed to explore different models for youth-led empowerment and participation in urban governance and development processes in Africa.
At the session, the Youth Unit and Cities Alliance presented and discussed findings and recommendations from a prior “Youth and the City” learning and exchange workshop held earlier this year in Johannesburg, South Africa. This workshop hosted youth leaders and NGOs from 13 African countries and focused on identifying best practices and innovative methodologies on youth-led empowerment for sustainable urbanization with potential for replication and up-scaling. The outcomes of the workshop provided a set of policy recommendations as a base for a round-table discussion with local authority representatives. The panelists emphasized how cities and local authorities have to prioritize youth participation and how youth and youth-led organizations can be assets and work as catalysts for positive change, achieving inclusive and sustainable cities and human settlements.
The key issues at the round-table discussion dealt with urbanization and the approach of sustainable development. The panelists concluded that cities are the engines for economic growth and Africa’s rising urban population is an opportunity for growth and poverty eradication. The opportunities that the economies of agglomeration provide, can benefit youth in terms of employment opportunities and stimulate the accumulation of information and innovative ideas. National and local governments should seek methods to provide thriving and enabling environments at the city level to support urbanization.
In this process, youth can themselves be enablers and transform their challenges into ideas. As a best practice for replication to other city officials, the mayor of Paynesville, Liberia, Ms. Cyvette Gibson gave a positive example of how youth in her own locality have been engaged in policy and decision-making processes by enabling a youth representative of the city to sit in planning, execution, decision-making and policy meetings.
An interview with the Chief of the Youth and Livelihood Unit, Mr. Douglas Ragan.
A key outcome from the session showed local authority representatives that youth are their biggest assets—not liabilities—in the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development. With youth participation and inclusion, youth can become engines for the creation of the economic and social capital that is needed to jump-start development in many regions of the world.