Youth doing community cleaning to mitigate diasaterJohannesburg 4 December 2015--  Youth and the City session was held at the Africities2015 aimed to explore different models for youth-led empowerment and participation in urban governance and development processes in Africa.

UN- Habitat Youth and Livelihood Unit and Cities Alliance, hosted the session while presenting and discussing findings and recommendations from a prior “Youth and the City” learning and exchange workshop held from the 25th- 28th November, 2015 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 scaling-up. The outcomes of the workshop provided a set of policy recommendations, as a base for discussion at a round table during the discussions with local authority representatives. Panellists emphasized how cities and local authorities have to prioritise youth participation and how youth and youth-led organizations can be assets and positive change agents achieving inclusive and sustainable cities and human settlements.

Addressing the meeting, the Deputy Executive Director UN- Habitat, Dr. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira emphasized on creation of models that will create a creative space for dialogue, leadership and preparedness for youth.

Ms. Cyvette Gibson, the Mayor of Paynesville, Liberia, on her side encouraged youth to be enablers and to transform their challenges and issues into ideas.  As a best practice for replication to other city officials, Mayor Gibson has mainstreamed youth in policy and decision-making processes by enabling a youth representative of the city to sit in planning, execution, decision-making and policy meetings and processes.

The key issues discussed during the round table discussion underpinned urbanization and the approach of sustainable development. Cities are the engines of urbanization and economic growth and Africa’s rising urban population is an opportunity for growth and poverty eradication. African countries need to enhance and expand their economies through production which will in turn create employment for the youth by viewing urbanization as opportunity for agglomeration of the human capital to have an efficient and effective way for building infrastructure. It is important for national and local authorities to enact laws and support alternative approaches and projects and provide a thriving and enabling environment for these alternatives at city level that support urbanization.

“Youth are not a problem to be solved, but problem solvers themselves,” Mr. Douglas Ragan, Chief Youth and Livelihood Unit. With youth participation and inclusion, youth in turn, become the engines for creation of the economic and social capital that is needed to jump-start development in many regions of the world. As a result, the demographic “youth bulge” can therefore be a demographic gift to the countries where it is occurring, (UN-Habitat. Cities of Youth, Cities of Prosperity, 2013). 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.