UN-HABITAT and representatives from various stakeholder interest groups this week met in Lilongwe to discuss sustainable urbanization in Malawi.
The meeting debated intensively on urbanization and urban poverty in Malawi and deliberated on the best approaches in tackling the challenge. One of the successes of the meeting was the agreement to establish the Malawi Urban Forum (MUF) which is expected to bring together the whole spectrum of urban stakeholders to work together by sharing knowledge and experiences and advocating for the urban sector in Malawi.
Almost all interest groups in Malawi were represented at the parley- parliamentarians and representatives from the government, local authorities, business and the private sector, statutory corporations, the informal urban economy sector, civil society and the representatives of slum dwellers. The meeting occurred against the backdrop of alarming statistics on urbanization and urban poverty in that country.
The workshop discussed and agreed on the Forum’s terms of reference and set up ten thematic stakeholder groups namely: water and sanitation, housing, infrastructure, environmental management, urban economy, HIV/AIDS and other diseases, transport, urban governance, social services and urban agriculture. The meeting mandated the thematic groups to plan for a high profile launch of the Malawi Urban Forum at a date to be announced later. The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources will be the Secretariat of the Malawi Urban Forum.
Mr Fletcher Zenengeya, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, in his opening remarks called upon all stakeholders in the urban sector to work together to influence urban integration in national policies while on his part, the Habitat Programme Manager Mr John Chome called for concerted action to ensure that Malawi’s urbanization is not synonymous with urbanization of poverty. He said ‘the time to act to address Malawi’s urbanization challenge is now if the cities are to act as catalysts for poverty reduction rather than the centres of poverty, squalor and deprivation’.
With urbanization growth said to be at 6.3 percent, Malawi is one of the most rapidly urbanizing countries in Africa. Every five years between 2010 and 2030 an average urban population of one million will be added to the cities and towns of Malawi – which is greater than the population size of the current largest city of Blantyre (800,000). The UN-HABITAT in its State of the World’s Cities Report 2006/07 estimates that nearly 90% of Malawi’s urban population live under slum conditions.