Implementation of the New Urban Agenda gains momentum in the African Region

Addis Ababa, 30 October 2017 – Africa’s urban transition is of an unprecedented scale and magnitude with profound implications for inclusive and sustainable growth, an Urban Breakfast held today in Addis Ababa concluded.

Organized jointly by the United Nations Economic Commission for African (ECA) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the event reflected on the African implementation of the New Urban Agenda. Emerging from the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), the New Urban Agenda defines the global framework for urban development for the next 20 years.

The deliberations recapped the centrality of urbanization to sustainable development clearly as recognized by world leaders in SDG 11 on cities and human settlements. In the African context, the wave of urbanization sweeping across the continent was considered to have profound implications for the region’s structural transformation agenda.

Noting that urbanization in Africa was happening in tandem with the youth bulge, Ms. Mathabo Nyepetsi, representing the Director for Political Affairs of the African Union Commission, stressed the need for inclusive policies and strategies to sustain an urbanization process, which caters to the needs of all people especially youth, in pursuit of achieving the goals of Agenda 2063.

Ms. Edlam Yemeru on behalf of the Director of the Social Development Policy Division of the ECA underscored that “Africa’s urban growth is faster than what other regions have experienced, necessitating immediate and deliberate policy responses.” She further noted that while urbanization requires large investments, “doing nothing is not an option as the costs and risks of badly planned and managed urbanization would be enormous in the long term.”

Underlining the key role of well-planned and managed cities in achieving sustainable development, Mr. Naison D. Mutizwa-Mangiza, Director, Regional Office for Africa, UN-Habitat, stated that urbanization can help the world to overcome some of its major global challenges. He informed that regional, national and local implementation frameworks “are currently being formulated for the New Urban Agenda as the blueprint for maximizing the contribution of urbanization to sustainable development.”

A panel of three experts then provided further insights. Mr. Roi Chiti, Chief Technical Advisor, UN-Habitat, tracked the trajectory of the global urban agenda since the first UN conference in Vancouver in 1972 up to Habitat III in 2016, and thereafter the core elements of implementation, including through the World Urban Forum, which will serve as a major platform for monitoring progress.

Ms. Edlam, Chief of Urbanization Section, ECA highlighted the irreversible nature of urbanization in Africa and its inherent linkages to structural transformation. She emphasized that urban areas offer specific advantages for the expansion of productive sectors especially manufacturing. “It is thus urgent to integrate urbanization as a strategic driver of change in national development planning,’” she added.

Mr. Mohamed Halfani, international consultant, for his part introduced the ongoing development of an implementation framework of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) in Africa undertaken jointly by the AUC, ECA and UN-Habitat, and the roadmap for the process going forward.

In the ensuing deliberations, it was emphasized that the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, SDG 11 and other urban commitments must correspond to the priorities in Africa’s long-term vision, Agenda 2063. In addition, ensuring coherence between the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and other development frameworks is vital. A call was made for a people-centered approach to drive Africa’s response to urbanization aimed at improving wellbeing through enhanced economic opportunities and social conditions.

The Urban Breakfast also served to commemorate World Urban Day (31 October) and Urban October (2 October 2017), designated so by the United Nations to raise awareness and engagement on sustainable urbanization globally. Participants were also informed about the 9th session of the World Urban Forum to take place in Malaysia in February 2018 on the theme of “Cities 2030, Cities for all: Implementing the New Urban Agenda”.

About 35 participants including representatives of diplomatic missions, United Nations organizations, policy institutions and academia, among others, attended the Urban Breakfast.  

Issued by:

Communications Section
Economic Commission for Africa
PO Box 3001
Addis Ababa
Tel: +251 11 551 5826