Programs such as the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme and the Kenya Informal Settlements Improvement Programme President Mwai Kibaki said, are aimed at addressing urban planning, infrastructure services, land tenure, shelter and improved livelihoods in our cities and towns countrywide.
While opening the 4th Session of the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development, (ACHMUD IV) on Thursday, the president said the government had taken measures to address impediments in efficient urbanization and improve the living standards of Kenyans.
“We have stepped up a wide range of measures to address the challenges of urbanisation. So far, we have instituted legal, policy and institutional interventions aimed at promoting access to land, housing, basic services and infrastructure while mitigating the effects of climate change,” he said.
President Kibaki added that within the challenges of urbanisation lie great opportunities for investment as more people are attracted to the urban centres.
The outgoing AMCHUD chairperson Yacouba Diallo, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development of Mali said with 60 percent of Africa’s urban population living in slums, countries had to find common solutions for positive change adding that the slum situation due to the urbanization of poverty led to environmental problems.
Diallo, who is to be replaced by Kenya’s Housing Minister Soita Shitanda as AMCHUD’s chairman, added that the AMCHUD IV’s session was an opportunity to debate the environment and climate change, analyze best practices and elaborate on solutions.
A third of Africa’s population currently occupies urban areas, with projections that by 2030 half of the continent’s population will be in urban areas.
UN-Habitat Executive Director Joan Clos said with most urban planning methods stemming from the 80s and 90s, African governments have an opportunity to revamp the existing methods in line with the current economic and social climate, to facilitate economic growth and employment creation in their respective countries.
“The history of cities in the developed world and even in transition economies is replete with models that are often emulated. But the same history also consists of a number of failed experiments which provide Africa valuable lessons of approaches to avoid,” he said.
Most modern cities today were built at a time when fossil fuel prices were much cheaper rendering the urban planning models on which they were based, economically unsustainable as energy costs have risen.
Clos said traffic congestion needs to be addressed, as it undermines the economic efficiency of African cities.
Ultimately he said there needs to be an attitude change from viewing cities as permanent sources of problems and more as growth instruments spurring economic expansion and employment.
“Africa has reached a crossroads in respect to urban development. The direction it will take from now one and in the years to come is critical for the destiny of the continent,” he added.
Under the theme, Territorial planning, basic services for all and the impacts and the impacts of climate change in Africa the conference drew participants from across the continent and will run until 23 March.