Johannesburg 4 December 2015, The Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Dr. Aisa Kacyira Kirabo has warned that the wide inequality witnessed in African cities was the greatest threat to sustainable urbanization on the continent.
“It is good that we are agreed on the need to sit down and talk. But how can we talk with the excessive poverty and excessive affluence we see in our urban centres,” she posed.
The Deputy Executive Director was speaking at the political session of the Africties2015 summit which came to a close in Johannesburg on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Africities2015 made history when Africabecame the first region to present a common urban agenda ahead of next year’s major United Nations (UN) gathering on housing and sustainable urban development, Habitat III.
In her well received speech, the DED hailed the fact that cities were now an important voice in climate change talks adding that it never came easy. She said the Habitat III conference slated for next year would be a critical platform for local governments to have their voices heard.
Meanwhile, the draft plan proposed at the Johannesburg 2015 Africities summit before submission to the African Union (AU), summarised continental position around eight main pillars. The idea is to author an African narrative taking heed of continental specificities, including how best to involve so-called intermediary cities and empower local governance.
“Africa needs to shape its own narrative going forward. The African urban agenda does not just relate the narrative but explains it,” said Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, director of the regional office for Africa at UN-Habitat.
The continent has defied conventional wisdom, said Oyelaran-Oyeyinka. It has transitioned from agriculture to services rather than increased manufacturing, in turn hinged to structural unemployment. “We need to create dynamic industrial processes and services with high productivity,” he added. A session discussion around the pros and cons of informality subsequently brought such challenges to the fore.
Back at the political session, the Executive Mayor of Johannesburg Parks Tau said that African had more things uniting them than what divided them. “Because of these ties, things like racism, tribalism and xenophobia have no place in Africa,” he charged to a warm applause.
In his speech, Mayor Khalifa Sall of Dakar who is also the President of UCLG-Africa called on local authority leaders to cultivate a culture of dialogue in seeking solutions to the myriad problems their cities faced.
“Mayors are closest to the people and when people have problems they are more likely to run to the mayor first before looking for the minister later,” he said.
South Africa’s minister Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Pravin Gordhan said the African Vision 2063 had set the parameters for the way forward for African countries. In her speech, Ms. Takiwa from the Economic Commission for Africa said that African cities had witnessed phenomenal growth but sadly, this had not been reflected in a quick response to the challenges they faced.
Mr. Amadou Umaru of the African Development Bank said his institution was well placed to help African cities achieve their development goals. “We are going to scale up by USD 50 billion our support to Africa in the next five years,” he said.
Dia Idrissa of the World Bank said they would support local governments in Africa to achieve socio-economic transformation of Africa in the next 50 years.
Meanwhile UCLG has honoured Dr. Kacyira, the Director of Programmes Aliouns Badiane and Ms. Mariam Yunusa for their commitment ant support to the organisation over the years.