Accepted paper:

"Information is power!" - Young people's involvement in participatory urban governance in informal settlements


Morten Lynge Madsen (Plan International Denmark)

Paper short abstract:

Grassroots play a critical role in supplementing lacking service provision in informal settlements but mismanaged urbanization is also a matter of poor data. The paper explores grassroots' role in urban knowledge production and the inherent power dynamics between grassroots and local authorities

Paper long abstract:

Urban growth continues, including in primary, secondary and tertiary cities in Africa. Cities are stretched beyond their limits in terms of providing basic services to their inhabitants, decent employment to their growing youth populations and a sense of security and safety. This is not news, but despite greater attention to urban governance across a range of African cities, as well as at national and regional level, the gap between service provision needs and available services are widening in many informal settlements. Based on quantitative and qualitative data from six cities in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe, using a mixed methods approach, the paper explores the role of youth-led grassroots organisations in engaging with local authorities to ensure, as well as claim their rights to, basic social services in a time of chronic urban disruption. Taking youth engagement in the Mukuru Informal Settlement in Nairobi as a case, the paper argues that the challenge goes beyond a simple deficit of resources vis-à-vis ever-increasing demand. Rather, the paper proposes to address grassroots involvement in participatory urban governance as a contestation over data, documentation and information - and essentially a question of power. Coordinated, systematic approaches to data generation on service provision, safety and demographic developments in informal urban settlements are often scarce, as are effective feedback mechanisms to ensure that information and data can be of use to citizens' participation in urban development and governance processes. How can young people claim and exercise their rights to information and participation in this context?

panel Env12
Taking the initiative in African cities: grassroots responses to rapid and mismanaged urbanisation