africities 2015

For the first time since the Catalytic Fund was launched, grantees from a Catalytic Fund Call for Proposals on “Youth and the City” came together for a dynamic and exciting learning exchange. 

The Youth and the City Learning Workshop, which was held in Johannesburg, South Africa from 25 to 27 November, was organised in close collaboration with UN-Habitat. It featured six participants from UN-Habitat’s Youth Fund (Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Uganda and Zimbabwe) and six participants from the Cities Alliance Catalytic Fund (Chad, Nigeria, Mauritania, Peru, Sierra Leone and Senegal), as well as a local project from Johannesburg affiliated with Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI). 

The workshop’s objectives were to capture and share the experience and knowledge generated through the 2012 Call, and stimulate exchange among Catalytic Fund grantees and projects awarded funding through the UN-Habitat Youth Fund. 

The conclusions from the workshop were transformed into policy recommendations which were presented and discussed with stakeholders, decision makers, mayors and other Africities attendees at the Youth and the City open session at the 7th Africities summit.

The three-day workshop was facilitated by Dr Carole MacNeil, a specialist in youth civic engagement and youth development with over 25 years of experience in working with youth and youth-serving organisations internationally. The workshop used various methodologies consisting of groups, plenary and individual presentations structured around a programme that included:

  • Day 1 – innovative approaches and challenges for the projects
  • Day 2 – keys to success and lessons learned from the challenges
  • Day 3 – identifying and defining policy recommendations to integrate young people into city development followed by a site visit in Johannesburg


Working towards meaningful dialogue and partnerships between youth and local governments

As participants learned more about their respective experiences and contexts, one issue resonated clearly throughout the workshop, whether it was said in English, French, Wolof or Spanish: The need for real dialogue with young people on their cities, in a meaningful partnership with local governments as opposed to tokenistic harnessing of young people’s energy for elections and other political purposes.  

“If we form practical partnerships with the local municipality this will help with the integration of young people in our cities. When we act from the ground up we can mobilise young people and grab the attention of local governments; then they will want to partner with us,” expressed Motebang Matsela from the South African SDI Alliance during the discussion on lessons learned. 

It was found that in many cases, local authorities have no mechanisms in place to involve youth. Although young people are often seen as the future of a country, they are not considered as an active or important resource for development in the present.  Participants also emphasised that participation of youth should not take place through parallel structures, but rather be integrated in existing participatory mechanisms. 

Cyrille Rolande from Act for the Youth of Yaounde said, “When thinking about policies it’s very important to allow space for youth to participate in the planning, not just in implementation. They should be involved in the first stages, when we are planning cities and development for youth. The best thing is to keep young people involved so they can participate in the process of deciding what is going to be put in place.”  

The importance of engaging with young people, and the wider community in defining projects was identified as a key to success for project implementation by all participants.  Michael Uwemedimo, co-founder of CMAP (Collaborative Media Advocacy Platform) in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, shared these words during his project overview, “Communities felt invisible and they lacked a voice. Through the participatory mapping project we built a platform for community voice."


Seeing the results of community engagement first-hand

The Youth and the City learning workshop came to a close with a site visit, led by Motlalepule Solomon Hlalele from the Yona Yethu project in South Africa and supported by Motebang Matsela, to the community of Duduza in Johannesburg. The project, pioneered by young people affiliated with the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (aptly named FEDUP), seeks to address the issue of unemployment within the community, and tackle the high levels of drug and alcohol abuse among young people. 

By mobilising young people to take part in waste management and recycling, FEDUP turned a seething informal rubbish dump into a clean, safe space and garden that is especially beneficial to Duduza’s younger inhabitants. The waste management has also created jobs within the community. The income generated is reinvested into the enterprise, is used to pay wages for the workers and invested into savings. 

More Information

UN-Habitat’s reporting on the Youth and the City session at Africities 2015:

News Info