On the eve of the Africities Summit in Dakar, Senegal is the first country in the world to initiate a National Urban Campaign and to launch UN-Habitat's I'm a City Changer in Africa campaign.
Held in Guediawaye, a populous suburb of Dakar, the launch was an opportunity to rally citizens to the cause of African City Changers under the banner Defar Sama Dekk - literally meaning in the Wolof language 'I Positively Change My City'.
The event was a vibrant rally of civil society and grass-roots organizations, governmental and professionals partners of the Senegalese Urban Forum, united towards changing their city. The three-hour event was animated by passionate citizens and dancers closing the walk under the beat of African drums. UN-Habitat Executive Director Joan Clos and his team joined the City Changer walk to discover the Senegalese suburb with the people of Guediawaye.
Ms. Khoudia Mbaye, Minister for Housing and Urban Development, strongly reaffirmed the commitment of the Government of Senegal to address urban challenges and to develop strategies to harness the city as an asset and engine of national development. Speaking at a news conference, she challenged all partners to rally to the cause and become active City Changers, starting with every citizen.
Dr. Clos congratulated Senegal on being the first country to campaign on positive change hence positioning the urban agenda as a top priority for national development. He encouraged all partners to particularly take into account youth and women groups and to focus on basic services and urban employment as a way forward.
Guediawaye is typical of those rapidly growing suburbs, where the poor represent a majority, with a high rate of unemployment but driven by a dynamic informal sector. The neighbourhood is also vulnerable to environmental hazards, such as severe floods which it the region in the recent months, ruining homes, infrastructure and livelihoods. Technical and people-centred solutions need to be found through negotiations and dialogue, promoted by the Campaign.
The national campaign will be presented at the Africities Summit in a Special Session to be held on 5 December to launch 'I'm a City Changer' for Africa as a whole. The initiative is supported by the World Urban Campaign.