Some 20 African and Arab countries are set to benefit from a new series of urban sector profile studies initiated by UN-HABITAT with the aim of reducing urban poverty and improving governance and environmental management.
The Director of UN-HABITAT’s Regional Office for Africa and Arab States (ROAAS), Mr. Alioune Badiane, said on Wednesday that the studies will introduce a broad-based participatory and integrated approach which will help cities and towns plan better.
“One of the major challenges facing urban centres is a lack of information and accurate statistics that could be used when planning development. This is one of the issues we want to address,” Mr. Badiane said.
The successful implementation of the process would help town planners prioritize their needs and put their resources into the places they ought to be. The Regional Urban Sector Profile Study (RUSPS) initiative is a collaborative effort of UN-HABITAT, the participating governments, and development partners such as the governments of Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium and the European Commission.
Mr. Badiane who was speaking in Nairobi during Kenya’s national consultation on RUSPS, further disclosed that a meeting would soon be convened bringing together the participating countries and the donors to assess the progress made so far.
The goal of RUSPS is to reduce urban poverty at local, national and regional levels, through policy development and assessment of needs and responses for urban institutions. RUSPS is based on “Guidelines for Sustainable Urban Development” prepared by the European Commission and elaborated upon in an integrated way by UN-HABITAT.
RUSPS uses a three-phased approach. The first phase involves a rapid appraisal of current issues and policies to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to policy on slums and shelter, governance, gender and HIV/AIDS and the urban environment. Phase two builds on priorities determined in the previous phase so that capacity can be developed and expanded for national and local institutions to improve their performance in the urban sector. The third phase is the implementation of programmes and projects deemed necessary in the earlier phases.
In Kenya, for example, three urban centres were appraised: the capital, Nairobi, the medium-size town of Kisumu, and Mavoko, a small town on the fringes of Nairobi.
Kenya’s Minister of Local Government, Mr. Musikari Kombo, who opened the National Consultation, said new policies were now being devised that would ensure and enhance an orderly urban development. Other programmes were also being formulated to improve the standard of living in urban centres, he said. Nairobi’s Mayor, Mr. Dick Wathika, cited an urgent need to increase investment in adjoining smaller towns so as to absorb some of the people living in Nairobi.
“This will help to address the issue of congestion and the related problem of slums,” he said.
Kisumu’s Mayor, Mrs. Prisca Auma, said the greatest challenge facing her municipality was poverty which had forced 60 per cent of the population to live in slums. On gender and HIV/AIDS, the mayor said women needed empowerment, especially access to credit, so as to be economically independent.
The Mayor of Movoko, Mr. Joseph Mutuku Musau, highlighted the need to address the relationships between central government and local authorities, especially those relating to revenue collection and personnel management.
The Kenya RUSPS National Consultation was well attended by a broad spectrum of high-ranking key urban stakeholders. Participants included representatives of central government and local authorities institutions, academics and practitioners, national and international NGOs, the private sector, donors and external support agencies.
Participants discussed the four key issues of governance, slums, gender and HIV/AIDS, and the urban environment. The deliberations are intended to contribute to a National Urban Sector Profile Study, and detailed city level urban study profiles for Nairobi, Kisumu and Mavoko.