Ghana, the United States and UN-HABITAT are bringing bankers, business, finance and private sector interests from the West Africa region to a meeting with land and housing ministries on how the private sector can be brought in to help invest in affordable housing for poor people.
The meeting in Accra 28 November - 1 December 2006 will be the second such regional gathering of its kind, following a similar East African meeting in 2005.
Jointly organized by the Government of Ghana, United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the UN-HABITAT, it is financed by a coalition of international development partners including; the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, United States Agency for International Development, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, The World Bank, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and UN-HABITAT.
The theme of the conference, Government enablement of private sector lending for affordable housing, will discuss ways of showing the private sector how beneficial it can be to help the poor invest in themselves.
The discussions will focus on three areas:
- How government policy and regulatory frameworks, and incentives can support and strengthen existing finance institutions for affordable housing.
- Private sector backing and innovations.
- How strategic institutional arrangements can be used to promote affordable housing
- Public–private partnerships and financial intermediaries such as housing cooperatives, micro-finance institutions and community based organizations.
The conference reflects the political will in Africa to address one of the world’s greatest shelter problems. Africa is the fastest urbanising continent in the world today. The annual average urban growth rate is 4 percent, twice as high as Latin America and Asia. Already, 37 percent of Africans live in cities, and by the year 2030 this is expected to rise to 53 percent. Research conducted by UN-HABITAT, the UN Agency for Cities and other Human Settlements state that inn sub-Saharan Africa, 72 percent of urban dwellers (187 million people) live in slums. They constitute 20 percent of the global slum population.
The Accra meeting is expected to draw participants from Nigeria, Senegal, Benin, Mali, Liberia, Cape Verde, as well as the United States and Canada. Keynote speakers include the UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, President John Kufuor of Ghana, and U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Alfonso Jackson.
One of the highlights of the Twentieth Session of the 2005 UN-HABITAT Governing Council was a high-level dialogue on “Financing Human Settlements”. It discussed the need to seek new sources of finance for housing and basic services in the context of rapid urbanization, the proliferation of informal settlements, and the commitment of member states to achieve the targets of the Millennium Declaration.
There was focus on how low-income households and their organizations could accumulate savings and augment public and private investment to improve their living conditions. It also examined the need to mobilise domestic capital and attract private investment for affordable housing and urban infrastructure.
The dialogue led to a decision by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and UN-HABITAT to consider how the US housing agency could share lessons learned about public sector support for private sector financing of affordable housing. This led to the first regional meeting in Uganda 2005 of East African government and private sector representatives from the Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
The meeting is also inspired by the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMCHUD). Two AMCHUD meetings, since February 2005 have called on governments for concerted action on:
- slums, shelter delivery, and the provision of and access to basic services for all;
- urbanization and human settlements within the Framework of the African Union’s Strategic Plan and the NEPAD Programme;
- governance and urban development; and
- financing for housing and urban development