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'Big lessons' to be shared between Africa, China: UN-Habitat chief

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-10-19 09:46

Joan Clos, executive director of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) poses for a picture during an interview in his office in Nairobi, Kenya, on Oct 17, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]

NAIROBI - Africa is in a crucial time and the successful story of China in linking urbanization and development would be a source of learning for the continent, Joan Clos, executive director of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat), told Xinhua in an interview on Tuesday.

With an average GDP per capita of around $2,000, the current economic picture in Africa was a little bit like what China was when it initiated the opening-up process in 1978, he said.

"Africa has a huge demand for development, with a young population searching for a better future," Clos said, adding that there were "quite big lessons to be shared between Africa and China."

Clos said an array of measures taken by the Chinese government in pushing urbanization and development over the last five years has left him impressed.

"Addressing the question of environmental sustainability, for example, in the case of Chinese cities, has been a very important one," he said.

"The successful history of Chinese urbanization is a linkage between urbanization and development," Clos said, stressing that the success did come at a price, like the issue of environmental problems.

He hailed China's support at the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris in late 2015 and its championing of sustainability in tackling the issue within the country and beyond.

The measures and policies taken by China add to an "already successful process of linking urbanization with industrialization," Clos said.

He is upbeat about the future of China-Africa relations, noting that the last five years has seen a very clear advance in ties between the two sides.

The Belt and Road Initiative, which was proposed by China in 2013 to connect the vibrant Asian economic circle at one end and Europe at the other, and then extend it further to other regions, is "another clear sign of added impetus to this process of China-Africa cooperation," Clos said.

The UN-Habitat chief, who is scheduled to travel to Guangzhou, southern China, to attend the global observation of 2017 World Cities Day on Oct 31, said he looks forward to enhanced relations between the UN agency and China.

"We have built a very positive relationship that we would like to continue in the future," Clos said.

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