Urbanization in Africa is progressing rapidly. The continent’s rate of urbanization soared from 15 percent in 1960 to 40 percent in 2010, and is projected to reach 60 percent in 2050. It is expected that urban populations in Africa will triple in the next 50 years, transforming the profile of the region, and challenging policy makers to harness the urbanization phenomenon for sustainable and inclusive growth and development.
There is now a growing appreciation that it is impossible to deal with Africa’s growth and poverty challenges without managing urbanization. Inspired by the strategy document “Optimizing the Urban Advantage”, which emerged from the fourth edition of the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMCHUD4) in 2012, and guided by the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the Africa Urban Agenda Programme (AUA) aims to raise the profile of urbanization as a force for the structural transformation of Africa.
For decades, African governments and the international development community have tended to view Africa through a rural lens, while regarding urbanization as both a symptom of failure and a deterrent for future development. A complex milieu of post-colonial nationalist ideology and a basic needs development approach has ensured that development initiatives generally target rural settlements. Furthermore, urbanization and human settlements development is neither given priority by national governments, politicians, bureaucrats and technocrats, nor fully grasped by the population at large.
This neglect is made salient by a failure by African policy makers to appropriately plan for and manage urbanization in order to harness the potentials of urban centres as drivers of development. The Africa Urban Agenda Programme works to link people-centered processes with leadership, vision and advocacy to increase buy-in in a nexus of bottom up and top-down processes, thereby deepening ownership by all citizens.
The specific objectives of the Programme are to:
- Raise the profile of urbanization as an imperative for development in Africa.
- Stimulate debates and buy-in for sustainable human settlements and urbanization among Africa’s heads of state and government.
- Support inclusive and participatory human settlement development in Africa’s structural transformation and attainment of Agenda 2063 through regional and global coalitions and commitments.
- Contribute towards promoting democratic governance through mobilization, sensitization and empowerment of non-state actors to partner effectively with national governments in Africa on urban development concerns.
- Enhance the capacity of African countries to better engage and contribute at all levels to advance the Urban Agenda in key regional and international processes, including the Sustainable Development Goals, the New Urban Agenda and Agenda 2063.
- Support African countries in preparing national reports, building consensus around identified priorities and enhancing advocacy and buy-in at national and global levels.
The AUA programme at the moment is composed of two projects:
i) The Strengthening Partnership for an Africa Urban Agenda (SPP)
ii) The Presidential Initiative (P.I)
The SPP is sponsored by the Government of Nigeria, while the P.I by the Government of Ghana. Both projects complement each other, emphasizing top-down and bottom up capacity development and advocacy frameworks for increased stake holder participation and high level political buy in. More African governments are demonstrating interest in supporting the basket fund to advance the Africa Urban Agenda as a pillar in Agenda 2063 for the structural transformation of the continent and the implementation of the SDG 11 and New Urban Agenda.
In 2016, all the outputs for the Africa Urban Agenda programme were undertaken as activities within the phase one. The SPP facilitated a participatory drafting of nineteen African National Report to Habitat III; ensuring a high representation and engagement of all relevant stakeholders during the process. This National Report to Habitat III provided the basis for the formulation of the Common African Position to Habitat III (CAPH3).
The CAPH3 was endorsed by African Heads of States during the Kigali Summit in July 2016 and informed a substantial part of the New Urban Agenda, unified the voice of Africa during the formal and informal negotiations, thus ensuring Africa’s priorities were well captured in the final draft of the NUA.
The Presidential Initiative (P.I) on the other hand, played an important divergent and complimentary role to the SPP. The P.I ensured high level political buy in for sustainable human settlements and urbanization as a vehicle in attaining structural transformation within the framework of Africa’s Agenda 2063. This year’s outputs of the P.I include; high level events, a presidential documentary and a report on the sustainable human settlements and urbanization in Africa.
Since the implementation of the AUA programme the following activities have taken place:
- A Take Off Conference to launch the Programme, held in Nairobi in December, 2013.
- Sponsorship of 31 participants to attend the Seventh Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF7) which took place in in Medellin, Colombia in April, 2014.
- A City Changer side event at WUF7, attended by 75 participants from various countries.
- Financial and technical support to 19 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Africa to prepare their Habitat III national reports.
- Technical support to 7 non-LDCs in Africa towards preparation of Habitat III national reports.
- A side event on the Role of Urbanization in the Structural Transformation of Africa held on the side lines of the Eighth Joint Annual Meeting of the African Union’s Specialized Technical Committee on Finance, Monetary Affairs, Economic Planning and Integration/ UNECA Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, held in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, in March 2015.
- An applied research report titled Towards an Africa Urban Agenda, in collaboration with the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town.
- Collaboration with United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLGA) for strengthening the capacity of local government associations during the 7th edition of the Africities Summit, which took place in December 2015, as well as their role in the preparations for Habitat III.
- A heads of state and governments’ dialogue on the Africa Urban Agenda: “Urbanization in Africa within the context of the post-2015 development agenda, Africa’s position on Habitat III and Agenda 2063” — a UN-Habitat side event, was held on the margins of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York;
- The African Preparatory Meeting to Habitat 3 was held in Abuja, Nigeria from 24th-26th February 2016. This was a historic forum with the presence of more than 30 line ministers, the largest number to attend any regional meeting. During this, the African Common Position to Habitat 3 (Caph3) and the Abuja Declaration were adopted
- A publication of the compilation of key messages on urbanization in Africa
- The African Common Position to Habitat 3 was adopted by the Executive Council of the African Union on the side lines of the Africa Head of states summit in Kigali, Rwanda
- A side event titled “Africa’s Priorities in the New Urban Agenda’ was organized on the sidelines of the Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for Habitat III (PrepCom3). This was an important meeting because African countries and other partners were able to come together and highlight Africa’s priorities and the implementation framework for the New Urban Agenda
- The AUA hosted a side event on the sidelines of the Habitat III Conference. This event titled “Implementing the New Urban Agenda for Africa’s Structural Transformation” addressed how Africa can learn from all the countries present especially developed countries but tailor make these urbanization solutions to suit the African context.
- A publication of a presidential report under the title, “Sustainable Urban Development in Africa”
- A presidential documentary on Urbanization in Africa was produced
There has been a lot of traction gained for the African Urban Agenda which has proved imperative for the progress in attaining the goals of the project. For example, the programme was acknowledged by the Chairperson of the African Union in March 2015, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who emphasized and acknowledged the importance of urbanization in Africa’s development. In addition, the secretary general of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, in his keynote speech during the Heads of State Dialogue on the African Urban Agenda, shared his sentiments on sustainable urbanization in Africa.
He opined that “when managed well, the benefits of urbanization spread far beyond the boundaries of cities and towns and can even contribute significantly to rural development.” Also during the same event, the president of the AfDB, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina statedthat “24 cities in Africa today are projected to account for 44 per cent of the GDP of Africa going forward to 2030.” He emphasized that this meant that Africa needed to turn its cities into real industrial growth engines to create enough jobs. The above are a few of the many global leaders who support the need for sustainable urbanization in Africa and harnessing its tool for regional development.
The Common African Position to Habitat 3 was and continues to be very important for the pre and post Quito sustainable development activities in Africa. It has provided a platform to form various partnerships with a myriad of stakeholders who contribute to sustainable urbanization in Africa. It has also aided in providing guidelines to highlight the priorities of urbanization in Africa moving forward. This is therefore to ensure that decisions made by policy makers and government bodies are guided by the principles of the CAPH3.
The programme has continued to work in partnership with UNECA, the African Union Commission and UCLGA to achieve its objectives. The AfUA also works in liaison with the African Development Bank Group, CitiesAlliance and the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Africa (OSAA) in driving the Programme. Phase two of the Programme will be articulated and launched in 2017. It will be designed to highlight regional programmes that will focus on implementing the New Urban Agenda and achieving the targets of SDG goal 11, whiles highlighting the points of convergence with the AU Agenda 2063 and the Common African Position to Habitat 3 (CAPH3).
These would include poverty alleviation, reviewing urban and regional planning curricula, as well as regional integration. A key objective that continues to be addressed is increased advocacy, representation and debate at national, regional and global platforms addressing urbanization and sustainable human settlement in Africa with a view of expanding the resource base and securing political support from more Member States.