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Leaders call for sustainable approach to Africa's urban centers

By Edith Mutethya in Nairobi, Kenya | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-05-18 21:56

African leaders and experts have called for tangible, practical and sustainable solutions to the challenges facing Africa's urban centers, presently characterized by unplanned and unregulated growth.

The leaders, who spoke at the opening of the ninth edition of the Africities Summit in Kenya's western city of Kisumu on Tuesday, underscored the importance of developing intermediary cities to make Africa's urbanization more equitable.

Uhuru Kenyatta, president of Kenya, said this year's summit, the first to be held in an intermediary city, provides an effective forum for the continent to take stock, reflect and plan on the best ways of addressing urbanization challenges.

"This year's theme is most apt, as the summit comes at a critical time when Africa's rapid urbanization and the challenges of future cities are increasingly coming into sharp focus; more so after the shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.

Kenyatta emphasized the need to scale up the role of intermediary cities as the next frontiers of African urbanization and development, noting Africa's unprecedented rate of urbanization has increased the number of intermediary cities to approximately 1,086.

"These intermediary cities are home to approximately 174 million people, representing about 36 percent of the continent's total urban population and contributing about 40 percent of the continent's gross domestic product," he said.

Anyang Nyong'o, governor of Kisumu County, said intermediary cities have the potential to address inequalities among groups.

"Countries like South Africa have not only entrenched devolution but have also devolved key public functions to other cities. Cape Town houses their parliament, Pretoria is where the executive sits while Johannesburg is the business center," Nyong'o said.

"Apart from its well-established federal system, Nigeria has developed Abuja as its capital city, leaving Lagos largely as a place for business."

Nyong'o also cited Tanzania, which though largely governed with a central structure has Dodoma as host for its parliament while Dar es Salaam remains the commercial and industrial center.

Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN-Habitat executive director, said Africa is faced with a deficit of housing and housing finance with only 15 percent of urban dwellers able to afford their own homes.

"Our goal is to see an African continent which shows inclusive growth and sustainable development, social transformation and improvement in the standard of living and quality of life of people in both rural and urban areas," she said.

Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, the general secretary of the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa, called on African leaders to develop small cities to help people grow themselves.

"The reality of our continent is reflected in the way we treat our intermediary cities. Treat them well and they will treat African citizens well. Treat them bad and you will harvest problems," he said.

Held every three years, the Africities Summit brings together leadership of cities and government to advance decentralization and local governance.

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