Cabinet ministers and senior officials from more than 40 African countries will gather in Durban, South Africa, this week for the first African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMCHUD).
The conference 31 January to 4 February, is hosted by South Africa’s Ministry of Housing and co-sponsored by the African Union, and UN-HABITAT. Its theme, Urbanization, Shelter and Development: Towards an Enhanced Framework for Sustainable Cities and Towns in Africa reflects the political will in Africa to address at continental level, the challenge of urbanization and goal of sustainable human settlements.
Its aim is to develop a concerted framework of action to guide and reinforce individual national initiatives to manage, direct and harness the developmental attributes of towns and cities.Recent studies by UN-HABITAT, the UN agency for cities and other human settlements, show that 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.
“Africa is the fastest urbanizing continent in the world. By the year 2030 half of its population will be living and working in towns and cities,” said Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director and Under Secretary General of the United Nations.
Only 19 per cent of the urban population in Africa has access to running water, and only 7.5 per cent are connected to the sewerage system. The informal sector provides the means of livelihood for 78 per cent of the urban labour force. At the same time, the region is handicapped by weak local governance capacity. Despite the measures taken to decentralize functions in many countries, a corresponding transfer of resources has not taken place.
In a process called the urbanization of poverty, more and more people are seeking a better life in towns and cities. In Africa, this urbanization has occurred in an environment of consistent urban decline over the past 30 years. It is a disturbing fact that two out of five of these urban residents today live in circumstances deemed to be life and health threatening.
The statistics show that for the slum dwellers of African towns and cities, slum dwellers have so few services such as water and sanitation, electricity, or telephones compared to their wealthier compatriots, that African cities appear starkly divided, and that even those with these services are far fewer, proportionately, than in other regions of the developing world.