UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, will meet in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Thursday for two days of talks with members of the new Commission for Africa that is preparing a report for next year’s meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations.
Mrs. Tibaijuka is one of 17 internationally known figures on the Commission. She will meet Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, the British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, and other members of the Commission at its second working session in Addis Ababa.
Before her departure for the talks, the Executive Director told a World Habitat Day news conference that she wanted to ensure that urbanization and human settlements issues are brought to the G8 agenda next year.
According to UN-HABITAT’s research, Africa has the world’s fastest annual rate of urbanisation. The annual average urban growth rate is 4 per cent - twice as high as Latin America and Asia. Already, 37 percent of Africans live in cities, and by the year 2030 this is expected to rise to 53 per cent. But many of those seeking a better life in cities end up in sprawling urban slums. Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s largest proportion of urban residents living in slums. These slums are home to 72 per cent of urban Africa’s citizens. That percentage represents a total of 187 million people.
In Africa, this urbanisation of poverty has occurred in an environment of consistent economic decline over the past 30 years. The Executive Director said she would continue to lobby governments to implement housing schemes that take into account the needs of the poor who occupy largest sectors of human settlements both in urban and rural areas.
The Addis Ababa meeting will also be attended by Band Aid star, Sir Bob Geldof, who is also a member of the Commission, 20 years after his appeal for starving people in Ethiopia helped raise more than US$ 160 million.
Mr. Blair has pledged to make Africa and climate change key issues on the G8 agenda next year when the UK holds its rotating presidency.
In remarks to reporters on the eve of the Addis Ababa meeting, Mr. Blair said: “We have made it clear that Africa should be the dominant theme - along with the issue of climate change - at our G8 presidency next year.” He said the Commission would inspire real progress, saying: “It is the action in the end that people need, not the words.”
Over the next two days, the Commission for Africa will look at issues such as development aid, fair trade and debt relief. Thursday's meeting is the group's first in Africa, after its initial gathering in London in May. This time, the 17 world figures will hear directly from civil society organisations.
The commissioners are: Mr. Fola Adeola who is chairman of FATE Foundation in Nigeria; Mr. K.Y. Amoako, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa; former US Senator Nancy Ladon Kassebaum Baker, who previously chaired the US Senate Subcommittee on African Affairs; Mr. Hilary Benn, the British Secretary of State for International Development; Mr. Blair; Mr. Gordon Brown, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer; Mr. Michele Camdessus, President Jacques Chirac’s Personal Representative on Africa and former Chairman of the IMF; Sir Bob; Canadian Finance Minister Mr. Ralph Goodale; Dr. William Kalema, Chairman of the Uganda Manufacturers Association and Chairman of the Board of the Uganda Investment Authority; the South African Finance Minister, Mr. Trevor Manuel; Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia; President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania; Ms. Linah Mohonlo, Governor of the Bank of Botswana; Mrs. Tibaijuka, and Mr. Tidjane Thaim, Group Strategy and Development Director of AVIVA in Cote D’Ivoire.