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Cooperation key to building smart cities

China highlights willingness to work with Africa as UN assembly opens

By WANG XIAODONG in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2023-06-06 09:53

A general view of Nairobi, Kenya, Feb 6, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

China highlights willingness to work with Africa as UN assembly opens

China is willing to improve cooperation with African countries to achieve sustainable development for cities in the continent, said China's minister of housing and urban-rural development.

China has rich experience in promoting the sustainable development of cities over the past decades, including increasing the provision of affordable housing, improving the urban living environment and promoting digital technology to build smart cities, which can be shared with African countries, Ni Hong said in an interview ahead of the second session of the United Nations Habitat Assembly of the UN Human Settlements Programme that opened in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Monday.

"We are willing to bring our technologies and capital to Africa for mutually beneficial cooperation," he said. "We will intensify international cooperation in housing and urban-rural development and make contributions to promoting building a human common community with a shared future."

After decades of sustained efforts, living conditions in China have greatly improved. More than 65 percent of Chinese people are now living in urban areas, with an average per-capita housing area exceeding 40 square meters. More than 60 million units of various types of affordable houses and old houses have been built or upgraded since 2012, benefiting 150 million urban residents who had difficulties in securing decent housing, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development said.

"We have successful experiences in building affordable housing, including formulating new standards and methods for construction, which result in the swift building of houses that are greener and of low carbon," Ni said.

Many of the latest technologies have been adopted in urban development across China to improve living standards for urban residents and reduce the risks of city operation and management caused by factors such as global climate change, which can be shared to promote sustainable development and resilience of African cities, he said.

Delivering a speech at the opening ceremony of the assembly on Monday, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, executive director of UN-Habitat, called on countries to join efforts to cope with challenges such as global climate change for sustainable development of cities and a more livable environment for human beings.

"At this second assembly, we are coming together at a time when the world is facing multiple and interrelated crises, … all this is happening when humanity is facing a triple planetary crisis involving climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss," she said.

Crucial role

As more than half of the world's population lives in cities, with rapid urbanization expected to be accelerated in many developing countries in the coming decades, cities play a crucial role for humans to cope with major challenges such as climate change.

"The climate goals, the Paris Agreement and our aspirations to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees can only be achieved if member states prioritize sustainable urbanization as the basis for sustainable development," Sharif said.

"The impact of extreme climate events, conflicts, natural disasters, global pandemics and the cost of living crisis are felt first and foremost in cities."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated in a video message the role of international solidarity for sustainable urban development.

"Cities are critical battlegrounds. We need a strong, inclusive multilateralism to help cities to play their part," he said. "Together, we can achieve the sustainable urban future we need to build a peaceful, prosperous and healthy world for all."

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