Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki opened the Fourth Africities Summit on Monday with a call for better management of African cities.
In remarks at a glittering opening ceremony, President Kibaki told the delegates converging at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre that it was imperative for African nations to strive for better management of their cities and municipalities as a way of attracting investment.
"We have hosted this great event because we believe that peaceful, clean and efficient cities attract business and investments. They also serve as a good habitat for the huge populations whose lives are intertwined with the socio-economic dynamics of these cities," he said.
He said his government was committed to reforming the local authorities so that they are adequately empowered to carry out their mandate adding that the summit provided the necessary environment for sharing of experiences and knowledge in the management of cities in Africa.
In his address, Kenya’s minister for Local Government Musikari Kombo said: "As a host nation we believe that the summit will chart out the best way forward on the state of local governments in Africa and their role in local level development and the implementation of the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals."
Nairobi’s mayor, Mr. Dick Wathika, said he expected more than 1,800 delegates at the 18-24 September meeting. The theme of the conference this year, "Building Local Coalitions for the Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals in African Local Governments," is well reflected in an exhibition at which the public sector, private businesses, local government suppliers and others, like UN-HABITAT, are showcasing their products, services and latest technological advances.
Alluding to this theme, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said local authorities were among the front-line actors working to achieve the MDGs. His remarks were read on his behalf by Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT.
Mrs. Tibaijuka was at pains to raise the problem of spreading urban poverty in Africa.
"When we, at UN-HABITAT raise the alarm about the 72 percent of the African people living in slum settlements, essentially, we are pointing to the physical manifestations of the state of water, sanitation, housing, infrastructure and basic services in general," she said.
She said the condition of human settlements was an important indicator of progress towards achieving the MDGs. "The way we live, the manner we access basic services, the available means of livelihood, and the infrastructure that facilitate all those processes define the nature of our human settlements and are the essence of the Millennium Development Goals," she said.
Mrs. Tibaijuka’s statement urged local governments to take the problems of urban poverty more seriously.
Delegates and representatives of the private sector, non-governmental organizations, academics and others will exchange views in a series of seminars and workshops. An Africities ministerial meeting was scheduled at UN-HABITAT headquarters on Thursday 21 September.