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Nairobi, 27 Nov 13

(Picture copyright Julius Mwelu)
UN-Habitat and the United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD) are holding a major conference for Africa’s mayors to discuss the challenges and opportunities surrounding urbanization across the continent. 

Held at the United Nations  compound in Nairobi, about 50 mayors and senior city officials attended the first day of the Forum for Mayors and Senior Urban Officials on Sustainable Urban Development and Management in Africa.

Speaking on behalf of UN-Habitat’s Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos, the Director for the Regional Office for Africa, AxumiteGebre-Egziabher, said “Our hope for sustainable development will either be won or lost in the urban areas…Urban poverty, urban inequality, inefficiency, and inadequate capacity are the new and intractable challenges virtually all cities must confront.”

In his opening remarks, the Govenor of Nairobi, Mr. Evans Kidero, recognized the importance of a cohesive approach to urbanization.  “An interdisciplinary team including engineers, urban planners, computer scientists, economists and sociologists will have to work together to develop dynamic system solutions geared toward this sort of mobility and the cities of the future,” he said.

Senior delegates from Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are attending the Forum.  Its main objective is to enhance the capacities of African mayors and senior city officials in planning and implementing an integrated set of policies and measures to meet challenges of sustainable urban development and poverty reduction.

This is the second of such forums that UNCRD is conducting and the first one in Africa.  The first one was conducted in Nagoya, Japan for mayors in Asia Pacific.
Cities in Africa have the fastest rates of urbanization on the planet which provides both challenges and opportunities for the continent.  Cities are hubs for ideas, commerce, culture, science, productivity, social development and much more. At their best, cities have enabled people to advance socially and economically. Concentration of people in urban areas facilitates provision of education, health care and other social services. Energy and natural resources are conserved since people living in densely-populated cities use substantially less land, energy and water per person than people with comparable incomes in suburban or rural areas. However, providing for millions of urban residents with essential services requires vast investments, skilled management and innovative leadership. Inadequate management capacities of African cities continue to pose serious urban development challenges, key among them being what the World Bank referred to as “urbanization without growth”, unplanned settlements, slums and shanty towns, etc.

 
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