Alioune Badiane, Director of the Regional Office of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) for Africa and Arab countries, has urged African countries to restructure their urban centres and improve their economic activities.
"African countries collect more than half of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the cities. We must consolidate the economic position of cities, and by improving housing, infrastructure, sanitation, water supply and security, we can turn cities into agents of sustainable development," Badiane told PANA here Monday.
Speaking on the fringes of a workshop for the validation of the national plan of action for housing in Senegal, Badiane indicated that UN-HABITAT was willing to establish partnership with the European Union (EU) for the benefit of African cities.
"It's true that urbanisation can cause problems, but it can also be one of the solutions for the socio-economic development of African countries," he noted.
Badiane lamented the current situation in African countries, which, he said, represents a preoccupation for UN-HABITAT. "In Africa, the city is viewed as a place of refuge for the poor and the shantytown phenomenon becomes more marked. We must undertake a series of measures to face up to this situation," Badiane hinted.
Therefore, he suggested a better organisation of land sales, the development of urban land registry and the establishment of financing mechanisms likely to enable the underprivileged sections of the population to attain housing. "African countries must develop financing mechanisms such as housing banks in a bid to enable everybody to have access to housing. We must avoid creating city for rich people, where the poor would be excluded," he cautioned.
He affirmed that in Africa, over 190 million city dwellers are living in irregular and unhealthy districts deprived of pipe borne water, power, and sanitation facilities.
Badiane further recalled that in the 1960s, the UN-HABITAT policy in Africa consisted in promoting housing by emphasising local construction materials, before realising, between 1976 and 1996, that such an approach did not tally with the continent's needs. "This policy did not resolve the huge problems of urbanization confronting Africa. We failed to properly handle the management of our cities, which led to the creation of overpopulated cities with little facilities," Badiane regretted.