Guest Editorial : Urban Youth - Engaging young people and their futures in African cities

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Laura Nkula-Wenz
Rike Sitas
Mercy Brown-Luthango


The twin reality of Africa as the world’s demographically youngest and most rapidly urbanising continent should, by default, make it a hotspot for youth-centred urban research. And yet, the voices of young Africans remain grossly absent in public discourse, policy debates and mainstream research on issues that directly affect them. This lacuna propelled the conceptualisation of this themed volume, entitled Urban Youth – Engaging young people and their futures in African cities. Showcasing submissions that not only push the envelope in terms of conceptual debates but also reflect in unconventional ways on experimental methods of co-production, this volume contributes to contemporary youth scholarship in three ways: firstly, by bringing together empirically rich, theoretically profound and collaborative scholarship from Africa; secondly, by showcasing cities in general and African cities in particular as productive, epistemological and relevant socio- political settings; and thirdly, by highlighting the importance of collaborative, multimodal research with youth that takes seriously their agency, aspirations and lived experiences, as much as the everyday structural challenges they face. To situate the volume, we first look briefly at common representations of young people, and particularly young Africans, within global media and policy discourses. To outline the broader knowledge project this volume connects to, we then discuss a few basic epistemological overlaps between the emerging fields of Global South Youth Studies and Southern urbanism. Introducing the rich array of creative, rigorous, experimental and propositional practices and research- based contributions that make up this themed volume constitutes the heart of this editorial. In conclusion, we argue that to secure our common urban future, it is pivotal to centre the voices of Africa’s youth. For this, creative multimedia approaches to knowledge co- production and representation will be needed, as will robust, multimodal Afro-centric partnerships.

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Author Biography

Laura Nkula-Wenz

PhD Candidate, Department of Geography, Westphalian Wilhelms-University Münster and African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town