Youth Transforming Bargny: The Young Gamechangers Initiative

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21 June 2024, Nairobi. – It is not a coincidence that this year’s International Youth Day is dedicated to the topic of digital engagement towards accelerating the sustainable development. We are living in exciting times when we finally got the technological edge to get the high quality data to make informed decisions about transforming our living environments. With the rise of innovative approaches to civic engagement like participatory budgeting and co-design of public spaces, the discussions now revolve around involving youth in city planning and local urban management processes. 

But simply calling young people digital natives won’t cut it when striving to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. We must dig deeper, recognizing regional and country-specific nuances, to equip youth with necessary skills to ensure that their engagement is meaningful and has a long-term impact on the cities of the present and the future.

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The ITU’s 2023 global report reveals that 79% of 15 to 24-year-olds use the Internet, a stark contrast to the 65% usage rate among the broader population. In Africa, the digital divide is even more pronounced, with a 20% higher internet usage rate among youth. Yet, the urban-rural divide remains a significant challenge, with 81% internet use in cities compared to just 50% in rural areas. 

This positions cities, including intermediary cities like Bargny, as critical hubs for digital transformation that have a potential to transform the urban landscape of the entire continent.

Equipping Youth with Basic Knowledge of Urban Health

Bargny is one of three cities selected to pilot the Young Gamechangers Initiative by UN-Habitat and Fondation Botnar. This project aims at empowering youth to reshape their city, fostering inclusivity and enhancing public spaces through innovative solutions.

To kickstart this transformative journey, the Young Gamechangers Initiative begins with introdcuing yoth  to the cutting-ende knowledge building a robust foundation of their understanding of urban health. In May 2024, a comprehensive workshop was conducted by WHO, where local youth gained insights into the role of cities in promoting mental health and well-being. This engaging workshop included dynamic team-building activities and encouraged youth to reflect on their experiences in Bargny.

Meeting with Young Gamechangers of Bargny

A key outcome of this engagement was getting to know the champions of the project—the Young Gamechangers of Bargny. These seven exceptional young professionals are passionate about digital inclusion, civic engagement, and public space transformation.

Post-training, these young gamechangers embarked on field visits to various public spaces identified by the initiative’s project team. UN-Habitat pinpointed several key areas in Bargny, with at least five in dire need of improvement. The youth explored these spaces, providing valuable insights and innovative ideas for enhancements.

I want to be a Young Gamechanger because I want to be among the people who change their city and train the future generations to do so.

Community Voting

During their visits, the youth shared their impressions and proposed creative solutions for improvement. Among other things, young people highlighed the need to have clean and safe public spaces that encourage locals to come together and spend time engaging in joint leasure activities.

A community voting process was set up, inviting people of Bargny to choose the public spaces of interest online, prioritizing the voices of young people, to determine which two spaces would be transformed. The citizens of Bargny chose Diamalaye CFP and Place de Nguène 1 for the redesign.

Diamalaye CFP Place de Nguène 1

Next, a redesign workshop will be held, featuring a competitive element to inspire creativity and innovation. Using Minecraft, young professionals will build and present their designs for public voting. The winning design will then be developed by professional architects, bringing these visionary ideas to life.

Stay tuned for updates as Bargny’s youth lead the charge in creating a more inclusive, sustainable, and vibrant city!

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