President Kenyatta Calls For Tangible Solutions To Africa’s Urbanization Challenges

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President Uhuru Kenyatta - UN Habitat Assembly
President Uhuru Kenyatta: PHOTO/COURTESY

resident Uhuru Kenyatta has called for tangible, practical and sustainable solutions to the challenges facing Africa’s urban areas.

Speaking in the lakeside city of Kisumu on Tuesday when he officially opened the 9th Edition of Africities summit, President Kenyatta noted that the summit provides an effective forum for the continent to take stock, reflect and plan on the best ways of addressing the challenges of urbanization.

This year’s Africities summit held under the theme “The role of intermediary cities of Africa in the implementation of the Agenda 2030 of the United Nations and the African Union Agenda 2063” is the first to be hosted in an intermediary city.

“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,” the President said.

At the same time, President Kenyatta emphasized the need to scale up the role of intermediary cities as the next frontiers of African urbanization and development.

“I say so because in Africa, an unprecedented rate of urbanization has propelled intermediary cities to stand at 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 GDP,” President Kenyatta said.

Accordingly, President Kenyatta said the Africities summit has the task of providing the continent with a comprehensive and achievable roadmap on how intermediary cities can contribute more towards the implementation of the Agenda 2030 of the United Nations and the African Union Agenda 2063.

The President informed the summit that in Kenya the National Government has over the last five years been implementing projects and programmes geared towards the improvement of the lives of Kenyans through the achievement of SDGs.

“This has been achieved under the auspices of our national Economic blueprint, the Kenya Vision 2030 and its Medium Term Plan – the Big Four Agenda. The agenda espouses provision of a decent roof over many more heads at affordable costs, affordable healthcare for all, value addition and increase in manufacturing and jobs and ensuring food security for all Kenyans,” he said.

He said the Government has also embarked on a slum upgrading programme spread across the country, notably in the capital city of Nairobi and the intermediary cities of Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru.

“These concerted actions have been taken through the Kenya Devolution Support Programme, the Urban Support Programme, the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme and the Kenya Informal Settlements Improvement Programme,” the President said.

Noting that cities and local authorities around the world played a key role in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the President said they proved to be an indispensable “ring” in the governance chain and prevention of the pandemic.

Speaking at the panel discussion session of the Africities summit, former Primer Minister Raila Odinga who is also the African Union (AU) High Representative for Infrastructure Development, underscored the importance of infrastructure in addressing the challenges of urban areas in Africa.

The former Prime Minister said, as the AU High Representative for Infrastructure Development, he acts as the catalyst to ensure infrastructure projects identified by the AU are implemented on a timely basis to accelerate the continent’s progress.

Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa who is also the acting CS for Devolution, Kisumu Governor Prof. Anyang Nyong’o and his Kisii counterpart James Ongwae who is also the deputy chairman of the Council of Governors spoke at the ongoing summit that has attracted delegates from over 110 countries.

Other speakers included United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa) President Christine Mba Ndutume, UCLGA Secretary-General Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, U.S Special Presidential Envoy on Climate John Kerry and UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed who delivered their speeches virtually.

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