Debates Conférences
from 11:00 to 13:30
from Thursday 20 June 2024 11:00 to Friday 21 June 2024 13:30
This event is restricted
Nairobi, Kenya
Nairobi, Kenya

City Diplomacy in Africa. The role of municipal actors in global policies and geopolitics Conférence Nairobi, Kenya

Across the globe, mayors, city managers and leaders of decentralized governmental institutions are increasingly contributing in international policy making and geopolitics. In Africa, too, cities have become players on the international policy and diplomatic scenes.

The event will take place in English only in Nairobi, Kenya.
French Institute for Research in Africa (Ifra), Laikipia Road Kileleshwa 58480-00200, Nairobi, Kenya

This conference aims to take stock of ongoing debates and initiatives about city diplomacy, especially in Eastern Africa. Based on a multi-stakeholder approach, it will bring together experts from Africa and Europe involved in partnerships at the municipal and decentralized levels to identify challenges of city diplomacy and concrete results of this action. Specific attention will be paid to empirical research and data on existing forms of city diplomacy and their results. Emphasis will be put on the contributions of young scholars, whose research is dedicated to the above-mentioned challenges and opportunities of city diplomacy. 

The French Institute of International Relations (Ifri), the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat) and United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa) are co-organizing this conference on June 20 and 21, 2024. This event marks the end of the second year of the “Governing Urban Transition in Africa” research program, coordinated by Ifri.




Day 1 : "The case for City Diplomacy"

Climate setting interview: Demystifying city diplomacy

  • Sina Schlimmer, Head of the “Governing Urban Transitions in Africa” program, Ifri
  • Dorah Modise, Africa Regional Director, C40 Cities Nairobi


Official Opening and Keynote address

  • Alain Antil, Director of the sub-Saharan Africa Center, Ifri
  • Oumar Sylla, Head of Regional Office for Africa, UN-Habitat
  • Johnson Sakaja, Nairobi County Governor (tbc)
  • Rahmatouca Sow Dieye, Advisor for Political Affairs and International Relations, UCLG Africa


Session n°1: Leveraging diplomacy in fast growing cities: actors and partnerships

The aim of this session is to discuss how city diplomacy concretely materializes. What actors (municipal, local government, civil society, private, etc.) are involved, which forms of partnership are built and how do they contribute to and (re)shape international relations? This session will particularly focus on the activity of African intermediate cities and how they use international partnerships to gain visibility, as well as the synergies between state and city diplomacy.

Moderator : Winnie Mitullah, Professor, University of Nairobi


  • Peter Anyang' N’yongo, Kisumu County Governor (tbc) 
  • Lorenzo Kihlgren Grandi, Director, City Diplomacy Lab
  • Victor Jaja, Alternate Permanent Representative To UN-Habitat, Nigerian embassy to Kenya


Session n°2: Conflict, instability & migration – can cities further diplomatic efforts when States fail?

Security, conflict resolution and peace are prerogatives of the state and the central State in particular. However, city and local government stakeholders have proven to be at the forefront of formulating rapid crisis solutions. The response to challenges related to migration and internally displaced people is one of the examples juste where of rapid response mechanisms cities share knowledge and best practices and thus fuel city diplomacy. To what extent do city and local government partnerships represent more appropriate, complementary or competitive forms of diplomacy, compared to traditional State diplomacy?
Moderator: Abdelrahim Mohamed, UN-Habitat (tbc)  
  • Jim van Moorsel, Research Coodinator, Mixed Migration Center
  • Hervé Nicolle, Founder & CEO, Samuel Hall
  • Francis Onditi, Head of Department, School of International Relations and Diplomacy, Raira University 



Day 2: "City diplomacy: way forward"

Session n°3: Cities at the center stage of geopolitical competition: the diversification of partnerships 

As the world is experiencing major geopolitical shifts, African countries are diversifying their partnerships. New alliances with emerging partners such as China, Turkey and Russia can also be observed on the city and local government levels. Little is known about these forms of subnational cooperation, in which fields and through which forms does this cooperation take place? Do cities and local governments align with the diplomatic directions of the central government, or do they reflect different geopolitical strategies?

Moderator: Sina Schlimmer, Head of the “Governing Urban Transitions in Africa” program, Ifri


  • Rahmatouca Sow Dieye, Advisor for Political Affairs and International Relations, UCLG Africa
  • Susan Kihika, Nakuru County Governor (tbc)
  • Brendon Novel, Researcher, University of Montreal 


Session n°4: How to finance city diplomacy and local government partnerships?

This concluding session will summarize the main outcomes of the conference and provide an outlook on the next steps to undertake to facilitate city and local government partnerships in different policy areas. Most importantly, it will address the challenges of financing city and local government partnerships and how city diplomacy itself can contribute to enhancing local revenue generation.  


  • Melissa Kerim-Dikeni, Global Fund For Cities Development
  • Remy Sietchiping, Chief of Policy, Legislation and Governance Section within the Urban Practices Branch, UN-Habitat  




The event will take place in Nairobi, in English only.

In association with:




French Institute for Research in Africa (Ifra), Laikipia Road Kileleshwa 58480-00200, Nairobi, Kenya
Contact the organizers: 

For more information on the debate, please contact Hector Dubois (afrique@ifri.org) or Sina Schlimmer, Program Head (schlimmer@ifri.org)

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