Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, last week solicited the views of more than 40 African housing ministers and senior officials on urbanization, aid and trade on Friday for a report that will go to the Group of Eight leading industrialized powers.
Mrs. Tibaijuka is one of 17 members of the Commission for Africa (CFA) constituted by the British Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, to bring and keep African concerns high on to the agendas of the G8 and the European Union.
In a process which a British diplomat was at pains to describe as part of an ongoing series of consultations that will not necessarily come to an end when Mr. Blair leaves office – a concern raised by some of the African ministers – Mrs. Tibaijuka is compiling a report detailing Africa's growing urbanization crisis.
At a luncheon hosted by Mrs. Tibaijuka in her capacity as a Commissioner, several cited what they called skewed World Trade Organisation rules, the exploitation of Africa's mining, oil and agricultural wealth, poor coordination between bodies like the WTO and the World Bank, as well as what they perceive as a lack of trust in Africa. Mrs. Tibaijuka asked each to think of one burning issue, no matter how radical it may seem, just incase there was something she may not have dealt with in the report.
One of the ministers immediately responded: “ Africa is a continent that is fast evolving today, many of our countries are becoming more democratic and more accountable to their citizens. So why is it that aid is tied to specific projects? Can the money not be deposited in our Central Bank so that we can decide how to allocate the funds. Sometimes we feel humiliated, that perhaps we are not trusted.”
Another wondered whether the donor nations would live up to their commitments at the Monterrey conference on funding for development in 2003 to allocate at least 0.7 percent of GDP for aid. They also asked at length about debt relief.
Mrs. Tibaijuka said she would include their concerns in her report, which already reflected many of the views expressed.
When the Brandt Commission published its report in 1980, most of the world's population lived in rural areas, nowhere more so than in Africa . Today, she said this was changing fast, and that by 2030 most of Africa will cease to be a predominantly rural continent.
In a continent where 72 percent of the urban population live in slums, Mrs. Tibaijuka has insisted that the CFA recognize the problems caused by rapid urbanization because failure to do so would be to ignore a crisis in the making. An agenda for action for a prosperous Africa has to be based on the spatial dimension and Africa 's dire urban realities.