"Students in the Spotlight" is a conversation series with members of the SofC Student Academy and Urban Leadership Fellowship program.
- What are you currently working on? What are your research and engagement interests?
Upon completing the dual masters degrees in Public Policy and Global Affairs at Sciences Po Paris and the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at UofT (MPP/MGA), I joined the International Centre for Tax and Development (ICTD) as a research and communications associate. I have been taking part in different research projects, some of which tackle fiscal policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in developing countries. For example, one of the research projects I am part of explores the perception and the role of Zakat in Muslim majority countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the relationship between Zakat and formal taxation. I am really happy about this recent professional transition as the research conducted at the ICTD perfectly meets my interests in policy analysis and development in Africa and in the MENA region. I am confident it is an environment that will allow me to learn a lot and refine my skills in conducting policy-oriented research.
- What has motivated your interests and journey? How do you hope to make difference?
Growing up in Morocco and experiencing first hand hurdles that living in a developing country entail motivated me to study policymaking and development with an ambition to one day take part, even on a small scale, to efforts aimed at changing situations for the better. I want to be a part of a new generation of young African leaders who are not only aware of the weaknesses of their countries but who are also able to identify their strengths and are equipped to address these challenges. I strongly believe that new dynamics are underway in Africa, and brighter times are ahead.
- What’s the latest project you have been working on and would like to share with the SofC audiences?
My fellowship project explores the role of sustainable urbanization as an enabler of structural transformation in Africa. My main focus is the two megatrends that the continent is facing: rapid urbanization and the demographic transition.
My project investigates the opportunities and challenges associated with rapid urbanization, as well as its drivers and impact, and suggests policy responses that could ensure that the rural-urban shift and population growth will not outpace service delivery in African cities. The policy recommendations all aim at designing targeted, inclusive, and forward-looking policies at the local, regional, and national levels for African cities.
- As a student, researcher and or activist, what have you learned from the pandemic and its global impact?
I think that the pandemic served as a good reminder that we are not facing the same challenges with equal means at a global level, and it highlighted in many ways the importance of international cooperation and knowledge-sharing. I believe it also underlined the importance of fighting social inequalities structurally, and the necessity to build more fair and equal communities and societies. In doing so, I am convinced that cities, as dynamic engines for innovation, could play a central role for change in policy-making. Overall, these considerations are in line with my fellowship project, as urbanization - if well managed - could serve as an enabler for perennial change.
- Please share with us your experiences at the SofC. How do you think being a member of the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program has contributed to your scholarship and added to your experience as a student?
My experience has been very positive. The exposure to new perspectives and approaches enabled by the cross-disciplinary nature of the fellowship has been so enriching and insightful, and I am really grateful I got to take part in this program. Additionally, having to pitch my project to different types of audiences pushed me to rethink the way I describe and present my work, an essential skill in policy and research. The fellowship also allowed me to dive into a research topic I am passionate about, and knowing that I could rely on the extensive network of the School of Cities was very reassuring and empowering.
- Any final words/ message?
I would like to thank Professor Marieme Lo for facilitating the SofC Urban Leadership Fellowship and Academy Program, and for her constant trust and support. I would also like to thank everyone at the SofC who has made this experience enjoyable for us despite the disruption caused by the pandemic.
If you would like to get in touch, please feel free to reach me via email or via Twitter.
Soukayna Remmal is currently pursuing a dual degree Masters in Public Policy and Global Affairs (MPP/MGA) at SciencesPo Paris and the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy. Prior to that, she graduated with a B.A in International Relations and a minor in African Studies from Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane-Morocco. In pursuit of her degrees, she completed internships at a think tank, an embassy, and an international humanitarian organization. Her areas of interest are policy, advocacy, African urbanization, and international cooperation in the Global South.