Front of Wiston House.
Five years after the Commission for Africa presented its recommendations to world leaders at the G8 Summit in Gleneagles and five years before the target date for the Millennium Development Goals, a conference was held during the first week of February at Wiston House in Wilton Park to focus on the challenges facing Africa.
Delegates from across the world gathered together at the beautiful grounds of Wilton Park in Sussex, England, to discuss what progress, if any, has been made; where further urgent attention is needed; and how have priorities changed as a result of the global economic crisis and climate change emerging as a key global challenge.
As one of the Commissioners for Africa, Anna Tibaijuka, the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT was asked to make a presentation on Balanced Development for Africa: The Cities of the Future - Beyond Chaotic Urbanisation. In her statement, Mrs Tiibaijuka pointed out that the Commission Report: Our Common Interest had highlighted urbanization as the second most significant challenge, after HIV aids, confronting the continent.
“Africa is urbanizing faster than any other continent and the African urban populations will more than double its 2007 level of 373.4 million as early as 2030, when 51% of its population will be urban. There will be close to 800 million African urban dwellers by that year, which will be more than today’s total number of city dwellers in the entire Western hemisphere. In fact, it is conceived that by 2050 there will be more people living in African cities than the combined urban and rural populations of the Western hemisphere.”
Mrs Tibaijuka went onto highlight some of the problems caused by chaotic urbanization including slum formation, and the increasing inequality within African cities.
In assessing the progress made, Mrs Tibaijuka pointed out that UN-HABITAT had been instrumental in raising the profile of the urban challenge. For example, it had encouraged the African Union in 2005 in Maputo, to adopt Decision 21 . This paved the way for the creation of AMCHUD, which is an Africa wide forum for national governments to deal with sustainable urbanization. She also pointed out that UN-HABITAT recently hosted in Nairobi in 2009, a forum of African Capital Cities which discussed citizenship or the right to the city.
In conclusion, Mrs Tibaijuka emphasised that climate change only makes it more important to confront the challenge of African urbanization. She then called upon the international community to increase resources for investment in housing and urban infrastructure.
Finally, drawing on lessons learnt from the international financial crisis, Mrs. Tibaijuka said that the effect of the sub-prime mortgage problems in the US and other advanced economies was to unleash a global financial crisis and a recession that has yet to go away. “The lesson for Africa and other developing countries is that the sector cannot be left on its own or just to municipal actors. Ultimately, it is a repository of national wealth and must be given appropriate attention and support through regulation.”