Marrakesh, Morocco 20 November 2018 - Thousands of local government experts are attending the Africities 8 summit to discuss improving people’s lives in Africa’s urban areas by adopting sustainable development policies.

A flagship pan-African event organized by the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLGA) the Summit takes place every three years. The theme for the eighth edition taking place in Marrakesh, Morocco is: The transition to sustainable cities and territories: The role of African local governments. Participants include ministers, representatives of local authorities, civil society, NGOs, trade unions; the private sector, traditional rulers, academics and international development agencies.

The opening plenary was addressed by the President of UCLG, the Interior Minister of Morocco and the Mayor of Dakar, Senegal, all of whom emphasized the essential role of local governments in the transition to sustainable cities.

A parallel session organized by UN-Habitat on “The demographic transition in Africa: implications for urban planning” explored how far Africa is along the demographic transition from high birth and death rates to lower ones. Participants discussed key determinants including birth rates, fertility, migration, health and death rates, comparing trends in Africa with those outside the continent.

The session was chaired by Mr. Alioune Badiane, former Director of UN-Habitat and current president The Urban Think Tank Africa who highlighted the fact that Africa will be the most heavily populated continent by 2050 with 2.2 billion inhabitants.

“Africa will be the determining continent for everything that happens in the world – are we ready for this major jump in population?” he asked.

Mr. Robert Ndugwa, Chief, Global Urban Observatory Unit, UN-Habitat noted that “the increasing urban population in Africa needs to be well managed with education and health services provided to ensure quality skills development. Then we can take advantage of the demographic dividend with the right skills sets.”

Other speakers included Mr. Kazumi Kobayashi, Deputy Mayor of Yokohama, Japan, Mr. Jean François Tribillon, Land Advisor to the French Government Mr. Aziz Farzane from the National Planning Commission in Morocco. The experience in much of Africa was contrasted to Yokohama’s where despite having a declining population, the city of Yokohama managed to bounce back in the face of similar challenges faced by many African cities today.

The South African Local Government Association organized a session on “urban and territorial planning for improved socio-economic outcomes” which was co-chaired by Mr. Mpho Parks Tau, President of UCLG, and Dr Greg Munro, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum with Ms. Laura Petrella representing UN-Habitat.

The session reflected on opportunities for different stakeholders to play a role in implementation of international guidelines on urban and territorial Planning and the supporting guide 'Leading Change' concluding that there is need to advocate for better documentation and reporting on adoption of the guidelines by local authorities in Africa.

During the four-day summit UN-Habitat and UCLG organized several thematic and open sessions in collaboration with different partners. The UN-Habitat booth at the exhibition showcased the agency’s work and most recent publications in sustainable urbanization.