President Mwai Kibaki on Thursday officially opened the Fourth Session of the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMCHUD IV) in Nairobi.
H.E Mwai Kibaki, president of the Republic of Kenya when he officially opened the forth session of AMCHUD in Nairobi © UN-HABITAT/Edward Aput
President Kibaki assured that his Government will step up the slum upgrading initiatives through the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme and the Kenya Informal Settlements Improvement Programme.
President Kibaki, at the same time, urged African countries to adopt policies and programmes that focus on effective and prudent use of resources for the benefit of present and future generations.
He noted that the conference comes at a time when half of the world's population is living in urban areas while in Africa over a third of the inhabitants currently live in urban areas.
Said the President: "It is projected that half of Africa's population will be living in urban areas by the year 2030."
In this regard, the President said the rapid rate of urbanization requires careful planning and implementation of remedialmeasures.
In his speech, Kenya's Housing Minister Mr. Soita Shitanda said the fourth session was expected to discuss ways through which urban development can be managed to create opportunities and employment, attract investments, and maximise the potential of cities in contributing to socio-economic growth in Africa.
AMCHUD offered the best platform for the member states to exchange best practices from one another, Mr. Shitanda said. He cited the example of Kenya where he said they were working with all agenda partners including grassroots organizations. The best example of this was in the Nairobi slum of Kibera where such a partnership had seen a local community based organisation manufacture manure from human waste.
The Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development of Mali Mr. Yacouba Diallo recalled the Bamako Conference 22 - 24 November 2010 and its outcome, the Bamako Declaration and the Action Plan on land in the context of urban management and housing. He said it had been his mandate from 2010 to the present to ensure the implementation of the actions and the achievement of the agreed objectives. In Rabat, Morocco, the AMCHUD Secretariat, he said, also developed a road map for implementation.
In his address, UN-Habitat Executive Director Dr. Joan Clos said Africa was at a crossroads and the direction it took would be critical for the destiny of the continent as a whole in terms of urban planning. He said cities had to be seen as an asset, as strategic nodes of development and engines of growth that can generate employment. He said the urban population growth in Africa, set to double in the next 15 years offering a chance to go back to basics on a matter that can be addressed in five ways: Plan in advance for growth; plan at scale; plan simply and in phases; allocate 30 per cent of space to streets; and plan for mixed social and economic uses.
Kenya's Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka told the convention that peace and harmony were vital if Africa was to seize this century as its own, and develop. He reminded delegates that Africa needed to be speak singly to enhance the mandates of UN-Habitat and the United Nations Environment Programme, especially with the approach in June of the Rio +20 summit.
The Director-General of the United Nations Office in Nairobi Dr. Sahel-Work Zewde referred to what she called a trying time in Mali. Recalling she had served as her country's ambassador in Mali, she said the UN Secretary General had called for calm in Mali and hoped the constitutional order would be restored shortly