In the run up to the twenty-first session of the UN-HABITAT Governing Council, young African entrepreneurs gathered in Nairobi on Sunday to discuss market opportunities, best practices and business models to strengthen youth entrepreneurship in urban areas.
Addressing the meeting, UN-HABITAT Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka decried the continued marginalization of young people, especially those living in poverty.
“Of the estimated 1 billion people living in slums and inner cities, more than half are under the age of 25, and 40 percent of them are under 19. These are the primary victims of poverty. Despite this potentially explosive situation, the problems of urban youth living in poverty are largely absent in urban policies and strategies,” said Mrs. Tibaijuka.
Mrs. Tibaijuka said the shocking facts and figures explain in part why young people are so vulnerable to unwanted pregnancies, early marriages, prostitution, drug abuse, crime, and AIDS. She said, “This is why we are working to keep the candle of hope burning by investing in young people and consulting them.”
She said there is urgent need to acknowledge youth both as partners and an important part of the solution to sustainable cities by creating policies and programmes in the area of youth entrepreneurship.
Mr.James Kinobe, Ugandan Minister for Youth and Child Affairs, said that young people are the most important resource any country has.
Mr. Stephen Kisui, Tanzanian Director of Youth Affairs, said young people demanded tangible action and said that his ministry fully supporeds the proposal by UN-HABITAT to help young African entrepreneurs by establishing a fund to address the financial difficulties they face.
A senior Norwegian foreign ministry and international cooperation advisor, Mr. Erik Berg said there were currently 3 billion children and young people in need of attention if the poverty cycle is to be broken.
UN-HABITAT member states will discuss the proposed fund at the upcoming UN-HABITAT Governing Council, taking place from 16 to 20 April in Nairobi. Many private sector and non-governmental organizations support the establishment of the fund as a great step towards the youth agenda.
Young people will be heard at a Governing Council meeting scheduled to seek ideas on how urban poverty can be reduced through local action, with an emphasis on local finance and participatory planning.