The 2010 World Economic Forum on Africa opened on Wednesday with sessions designed to identify the opportunities that can unlock Africa's growth potential. The aim of the meetings is to discuss the barriers to social and economic progress.
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At an opening press conference, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, who is one of the co-chairs, emphasized that urbanization was one of the key challenges facing the continent. She hoped that by tabling the dangers of chaotic urbanization, the Forum would help send a message to political leaders to prioritize urban development.
“Africa is urbanizing faster that any other continent, so much so that by 2030, Africa will cease to be a rural continent. Despite this, few African leaders are taking the issue seriously," she said. "It is time that policy makers include plans for balanced territorial urban development. This is one of the keys to economic growth especially as investment in infrastructure and housing in African cities provides a great opportunity for the private sector.”
The three-day meeting in Dar es Salaam provides participants — more than 1,000 delegates from 85 countries, including several heads of state and government — with a platform to discuss how Africa can face up to the challenges brought about by the economic crisis, and how the crisis can be used as an opportunity to redesign a sustainable roadmap for Africa's future.
President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania is hosting the meeting, which this year explores the theme “Rethinking Africa’s Growth Strategy”. President Kikwete said: “Africa is a continent full of potential. Africa has been growing despite the economic instability that is facing the world today. We will have the opportunity to examine the strategy of Africa for today to ensure that there is a better tomorrow.”
For the first time, a number of sessions have been dedicated to discussing the problems and possibilities of urbanization on the continent, including sessions on sustainable urban design and housing for all.
At the same time, the seventh Young Global Leaders Summit is being held in Dar es Salaam from 2-7 May in conjunction with the World Economic Forum on Africa. Over 265 Young Global Leaders from more than 70 countries representing business, government, civil society, arts and culture, academia, media and social entrepreneurs are participating.
"Africa is confronting a lot of challenges: poverty, diseases, conflicts — we have to overcome these crises," Salim Ahmed Salim, former Prime Minister of Tanzania, told young leaders at the opening session of their Summit.