Although Africa is faced with the daunting challenge of mushrooming slums, there is hope for the continent to move forward and provide adequate shelter for its urban populations, UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka told journalists on Thursday at the ongoing Fourth Africities Summit in Nairobi.
In an interview with the press corps covering Africa’s premier local authorities meeting, Mrs. Tibaijuka said even the big cities of Europe and America once suffered from the scourge of having many of the inhabitants living in slums.
“Although we all live in cities which have slums like Kibera, we must recognize that once upon a time, all the large cities of Europe and America once had huge slums,” she said.
The Executive Director said Africa was on the move, and that many of the towns and cities were doubling their population every 10 to 15 years, adding enormous pressure to the local authorities in provision of services.
“Recent evidence shows that on average, a staggering 72 percent of the African urban population lives in what is defined as a slum,” she said.
While most people lived in slums, Mrs. Tibaijuka said it was important to understand that cities and towns were centres of cultural creativity and economic growth with much of the national GDP being derived from well managed cities. Given Africa’s urbanisation challenges, she said UN-HABITAT was fully supportive of the Africities initiative as being at the forefront to tackle the problems and possibilities of urbanisation on the continent.
“This summit is meant to raise awareness, to exchange ideas and best practices. I just hope that everyone who is attending this meeting will not just be a passive observer,” Mrs. Tibaijuka said. “They must take back ideas so that they can help improve their own cities, towns and human settlements!”