Mandela Washington Fellow Ms. Scarlett Zongo, urban planer and environmental engineering

Interview with Scarlett, Cincinnati, Kentucky, United States, June 2019

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. It aims to recognize and support the critical and increasing role of African youth in strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic growth, and enhancing peace and security in Africa.

For this year 2019, ten (10) fellows from Burkina Faso were selected to attend an intensive leadership training within 3 tracks (Public management, Business and Civic engagement). Here is their stories.

Who is Scarlett Zongo, urban planer and environmental engineering?

Scarlett: “I am an urban planer and environmental engineering master graduate from two universities in Montreal, Canada. After 5 years of working as technical assistant, project manager and coordinator, I decided to go back to Burkina Faso to do my part in developing the country”.

“Since 2016, my contribution to environmental and sustainable development awareness through my start-up CitéBranchée, led to my appointment as a technical advisor to the Mayor of Ouagadougou. Since 2018, I have been in charge of assessment Commissions regarding environmental pollution, gender related environmental issues, sustainable public toilets program and a zero waste area program. Having two “hats” makes me more creative and gives me more flexibility to impact my community. More over, my position at the Mayor’s office enables me to work at a decisions’ making level to really tackle environmental challenges, which as an entrepreneur I wouldn’t be able to do”.

What’s the biggest challenge you would like to take?

“The biggest challenge I would like to solve is the waste management issue in my community. In Ouagadougou, public spaces are use as garbage can, toilet, sewage, and so on due to poor law enforcement, lack of communication, lack of equipment and uncivil citizens. As the Mayor’s advisor I am glad to be able to influence decisions makers to address correctly that matter. I am currently working on the first ever zero waste area program of Ouagadougou. The waste management issue is well known to the decision makers because a dirty city is the first thing that people see. Beside, insalubrity can be detrimental when it is time to be re-elected. Regardless of the will to solve the problem, the implementation of measures and plans are hard to do. That is why, event though huge amount of money is pour every year to manage waste, my city is still dirty and my fellow citizens keep throwing waste on the street, before or after complaining about insalubrity. That is why I have designed a zero waste tolerance zone in the hyper center of Ouagadougou with enough garbage cans, employees to clean the streets, and policemen to enforce all measures that will be put in place. But the bigger challenge I know will be to convince people to change their behaviour toward waste and the respect of public spaces. For that, I have helped develop a communication campaign to explain, inform and advise about what’s coming next year”.

How could you explain your professional approach to this challenge?

“I strongly believe that the private sector is the solution to help resolve one of the biggest challenges African cities are facing, which is unemployment. That is why I want will further grow my company by exploring other environmental related fields such as industrial recycling and waste management plants implementation. More over, I want my business to expand within 3–5 years in order to create more jobs for young people while using local hand force in a social economy kind of way to boost my community and prevent their illegal immigration to European countries”.

Mandela Washington Fellow, for Young African Leaders — Civic engagement — Development Cooperation, Economist, Project Management skills, Free learner

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