Elevating the Role of African Cities in Preventing Extremism and Hate: Mapping City Needs and Priorities


From 10 to 12 May 2022, the Strong Cities Network (SCN) convened over 65 mayors and other local leaders, civil society representatives and senior officials from national governments and multilateral bodies in East and Southern Africa for an exchange of views on how best to support city and other local authority-led efforts for preventing extremist- and hate-motivated violence and polarisation. The multi-stakeholder gathering included officials and experts from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as the African Union, IGAD, UNOCT, UNDP, UN Habitat, UNOPS, other city networks including the East Africa Local Government Association and the Global Parliament of Mayors, and the British, Danish, Dutch and US embassies in Nairobi. The EU-funded workshop is part of a larger EU-supported initiative to map city-level prevention-related needs and priorities across Africa.

Workshop participants exchanged perspectives on the current increasingly integrated threat landscape of hate and extremism in the region; the comparative advantages of cities and other local authorities in prevention and policies and infrastructure needed to leverage them; the main challenges cities face in the specific context of East and Southern Africa, and how international, regional and sub-regional bodies and networks can support cities with overcoming these challenges. Key barriers identified by participants included a lack of national-local cooperation (NLC) and an overly-securitised and centralised approach to addressing the identified threats, often leaving local authorities with limited space for and understanding of how to contribute. Participants also discussed the main characteristics of a “strong city” in East and Southern Africa, with good local governance, strong civil society and a clear role for local authorities identified as key. Participants also proposed a role for the SCN as a convenor of local authorities on a country-by-country basis in the region, facilitating NLC and helping cities identify, communicate and get national buy-in for their vital role in prevention.

From Blantyre to Cabo Delgado, Cape Town to Dar es Salaam, Djibouti City to Kampala, Mombasa to Nebbi, and Tshwane to Mogadishu and Kismayo, the workshop benefitted from a range of diverse perspectives from local authorities on the threat landscape and the strengths and limitations of existing approaches to preventing and countering the threat. Participants expressed appreciation for the opportunity to have a “safe space” to candidly discuss the topic of prevention, and to learn from the diversity of experiences in the region.

A detailed meeting summary that highlights key findings and recommendations based on these discussions will be shared in the coming weeks. Key findings from this workshop, as well as a West Africa-focused workshop that will be held in Dakar, Senegal at the end of May 2022, will inform a comprehensive report the SCN will produce that outlines the needs of African cities to become leaders in prevention, recommendations for which will be presented during the high-level opening of the 77th UN General Assembly in New York on 22 September 2022.

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