Malawi's Deputy Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Christopher Ngwira, officially opened the National Urban Forum in the capital Lilongwe to mark the start of a two-day meeting on city development in the country.
Road upgrading in Malawi's capital, Lilongwe. Photo © UN-HABITAT / J. Elsworth
The meeting hosted by the Government of Malawi and UN-HABITAT drew some 200 representatives of government, the private sector, NGOs, informal settlements, civil society and academia. Participants travelled from as far away as Australia and Sweden to take part in the two days of talks 27-28 October. In opening remarks, the Deputy Minister urged participants to think about the way forward over the coming sessions and to make an active contribution to the talks.
Addressing the opening as a keynote speaker, World Bank Malawi Country Director, Ms. Sandra Bloemenkamp, said ignoring the trend of urbanisation was no longer a viable option for countries such as Malawi.
"No country has achieved middle income status in the world without urbanisation and industrialisation," said Ms. Bloemenkamp. "And Malawi will not be an exception. Cities not only contribute to national growth but they can also have an impact regionally."
Malawi is a prime example of how cities punch above their weight in terms of contribution to the economy. While housing only 20 per cent of its population and taking up only 5 per cent of the land, Malawi's towns and cities produce nearly two-thirds of its Gross Domestic Product annually.
Furthermore, with 5.3 per cent urbanisation rates annually, well above the world and African averages, Malawi is one of the fastest urbanising countries on the planet and is expected to be 50 per cent urban by 2050.
Every second year, UN-HABITAT holds the World Urban Forum, the most prominent UN conference on urban development on the international calendar. The next one is scheduled to take place in September 2012 in Naples, Italy.
National Urban Forums are important events in the run up to the global conference because they keep vital urban issues on the agenda in the two-year gap while providing a platform for those unable to attend the international event. This is the second National Urban Forum in Malawi. The first was in December 2008.