KAMPALA – On the 28th of April 2020 the Parliament of Uganda approved and passed a motion for the creation of new cities and of these seven are set to take effect on the 1st of July 2020. With the establishment of these new cities, it remains to be seen whether young people can be intergrated in the growth and development of these cities.
Youth remains an untapped economic resource and needs to be viewed and treated as an asset and driver of safe, resilient, and sustainable cities. With the 2030 development agenda, there is an increased interest in engaging youth at local, national and global levels as drivers for positive change to address the root causes of challenges and opportunities.
The world is growing younger and more densely populated than ever before. More than half of Uganda’s population is under the age of 30. Young people below the age of 35 years comprise 78 % of the national population. Of the 78%, a substantive number are between the age of 18-35 years of age. This means that with such big numbers of young people in the population, they are presented with an opportunity to contribute to the development of the country more so the newly approved cities in the country.
Globally, young people are on the move, often migrating from rural settings to urban locations, seeking employment and better opportunities. Looking at the demographics in urban settings, particularly in the new approved cities, urban populations are very youthful and becoming increasingly so. UN-Habitat projects that by 2030, 60 percent of urban residents will be under 18.
The New Urban Agenda offers the opportunity and responsibility to ensure that policies and actions developed to inform urban development are inclusive. Urban development needs people to remain at the core of its attention, especially since an overwhelming number of city dwellers continue to face marginalization often because they are deemed too young to be heard and seen.
Engagement of young citizens remains an essential idea for good governance, which in turn is essential for economic growth and private investment. Young people’s participation in the life and decisions of a city is a right and important benchmark of social inclusion. By building on youths’ assets and capacities so that they can have a voice in and influence on the institutions that affect them, they are also positioned to make positive contributions. It has been proven repeatedly that young people desire and seek this kind of positive participation.
Launched in 2015, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) lay out an ambitious plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. Comprised of 17 goals and 169 targets, the plan encompasses a broad range of social, economic and environmental issues.
Among these, Goal 11 states, “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.”This goal cannot be reached, or even approached, without a plan to include and engage young people. When cities work in partnership with young people, they make great strides towards part of that goal becoming more inclusive and they also tap into a tremendous resource for addressing the goal’s other targets related to safety, resiliency and sustainability.
As these new approved cities search for new and creative solutions to the challenges they face, they may discover they have been overlooking a resource that was there in growing numbers all along. As such the youth can be the faces of Urbanisation in Uganda.
The Writer is a Lawyer and Advocacy and Human Rights Coordinator at Youth Line Forum