Mr. Daniel Biau, Director of the Regional and Technical Cooperation Division of UN-Habitat, called on African countries to promote a better understanding of urbanisation and its implications on the continent. He presented UN-Habitat research showing that nearly 1 billion people live in informal, irregular and unplanned settlements in cities of the South. In Africa south of the Sahara, he said two-thirds of the total urban population of 304 million live in informal settlements. This was due mainly to rapid urbanisation in the developing world, a lack of decent employment opportunities, and shortfalls in urban planning and management. Urban poverty in Africa he said was characterized by monetary poverty with people earning less than two dollars a day, and human poverty, as defined by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and reflected in the growth of slums. The four fundamentals of successful urbanisation in Africa lay in the role of infrastructure as a pillar of economic development; basic services such as health care, primary education, drinking water, sanitation, public transport and security; the application of realistic urban strategies because most African cities did not have urban development plans; and fourth, easier access to land and financing for the construction of decent housing. He recalled that UN-HABITAT’s Governing Council had unanimously adopted a set of guidelines in 2009 covering five dimensions: 1/ the promotion of participatory urban governance; 2/ the decentralisation of public responsibilities; 3/ the development of partnerships between local authorities and service providers; 4/ the guarantee of pro-poor financing and tariffs; and 5/ managing the environmental impact of basic services provision.
Mr. Hubert Ouedrago, Representative of the African Union, the Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank, said despite its land resources, African land matters were associated with urban and rural poverty, conflicts, corruption and bad governance. Referring to the policy of the bodies he represented, he said African Heads of State had to transform land commitments into action on the ground, and implement policy harmoniously, taking women’s needs and rights for all into account. While Africa had abundant land resources, he said, the irony was this did not play role it ought to in sustainable development. The main reason was that the colonial land legacy had not been adequately adjusted or improved. The role of land was therefore inadequate both in general development, and especially in urban development. This was why he said the African Union, the Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank had decided to take the matter hand with its Land Policy Initiative joint initiative to help governments with land policies that respond to the challenges of rapid urbanisation, and matters like climate change. He said the Initiative endorsed in Malawi on 21 October 2010, was aimed at transforming the political will of Heads of State into concrete action on the ground, and at taking urban matters into account rather than just rural issues. Security of tenure was a challenge that had to be taken seriously, especially in slums.
Mr. Alioune Badiane, Director of UN-HABITAT’s Regional Office for Africa and the Arab States, said it was essential that the AMCHUD Conference served as a springboard and to prepare and frame the African position on sustainable urban development, housing and land during these global dialogues and that it act as one through dialogue and consensus for the benefit of the continent. Praising the African-led Land Policy Initiative, guided by the African Union, the Economic Commission for African and the African Development Bank, he cited six entry points: First, ensuring regulatory land and environment policies; second, strengthening the land sector capacity to support urban development; third, taking into account the multiple functions and roles land plays in making urban areas sustainable living spaces; fourth, the importance of the three ‘Gs’ - Gender, Grassroots and Governance; fifth, to make land work for urban and housing development; and sixth, the importance of urban land markets as means to leverage housing and urban development in African cities. He then outlined UN-Habitat’s Cities and Climate Change Initiative working in seven African countries and set to expand. He also reminded the audience that Africa’s food crisis was exacerbated by emerging and recurrent conflicts in Africa linked to land matters. He was thus convinced that the Bamako Declaration on the sustainable management of land resources for urban development and subsequent action plans would help Africa speak with one voice at upcoming global meetings.
Mr. Nduese Essien, Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development of Nigeria, spoke in his role as the outgoing Chair of the Amchud conference. Like all the ministers, he congratulated Dr. Clos on his appointment at the new Executive Director of UN-HABITAT. Wishing him a successful term of office, he described urbanisation as the as the most pervasive and dominant challenge facing Africa. He said the growing urban divide due to insufficient urban infrastructure, basic services, environmental degradation, unemployment and social exclusion were serious concerns for sustainable development in Africa. AMCHUD had been set up in 2005 to address these matters and take charge of its urban future. Athough there had been appreciable progress, African countries still had to ensure that present and future generations had better opportunities for economic and social progress. He recalled the second Abuja conference of 2008 on the Millennium slum target, and the key elements of the Abuja Declaration produced by the second AMCHUD session. He said the idea of a permanent secretariat for AMCHUD should serve as a knowledge centre as well as a body to manage the organization so that it could become a self-sustaining entity funded by African governments.
Ms. Gakou Salamata Fofana, Minister of Housing and Urban Development of Mali, who was elected the new Chair for the next two years, said said the third session of AMCHUD was very important because of the fact that some 60 percent of people in African cities lived slums and it was the duty of those present to manage land better in this context. She described runaway urbanisation as the source of the consumption of land in and around cities, and said that no sustainablity could be achieved without better land management. Land tenure and security of tenure were vital for cohesion and social peace. She said the matter of sustainable land management and better funding mechanisms to make security of land and tenure accessible to a greater number of people constituted a major challenge. She urged delegates attending the third session to come up with recommendations on preparing for suitable land policies with with guarantees to draw investors and thus take the needs of future generations into account, especially keeping in mind women and youth. It was important, she said, to debate this and to arrive at a common position ahead of the the 23rd UN-Habitat Governing Council in April 2011, and the 2012 review of the Rio Declaration on Sustainable Development. Paying tribute to South Africa for ensuring the functioning of the secretariat, she concluded by saying that it was important for Africa to tackle these matters in a new spirit - the spirit of Bamako.