Africa: a continent of chaotic urbanization

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 06 May 2010

The World Economic Forum should send a warning on rapid urbanization to all levels of leadership in Africa. The undersecretary general and executive director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, Professor Anna Tibaijuka, made this suggestion yesterday.

Squatter Camp outside Cape Town

Speaking during the first opening of the Co-Chairs Press Conference at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Dar es Salaam, she said she hopes that the forum will make it clear that Africa is a continent on the move and in transition where about 70 per cent of Africans have crossed into urban areas.

“This is taking place, I am afraid, in a very rapid and chaotic manner. So Africa has to catch up with this scourge of rapid and chaotic urbanization for the continent to be secure for business and economic activities,” she cautioned.

In this demographic transition it is the women and children who are normally caught in between; the 70 per cent who have crossed into cities and towns are living in squatter settlements without access to safe water and sanitation, “indeed to call a spade a spade without dignity,” she lamented.

Prof Tibaijuka continued to say that Africa is a useful continent where over 60 per cent of the people are below 30 years old. This brings into perspective the question of providing opportunities for young people in education, skills and training.

She said the WEF coming to Dar es Salaam and East Africa generally has to explore the environment of the African continent, not only from the traditional resource perspective of Africa such as in extractive resources, but try to develop Africa for Africans.

“Sustainable development in Africa will have to pick a social perspective in order to secure the interests of the people because then and only then could we flourish,” said Prof Tibaijuka.

She warned that if Africa fails to contain the rapid urbanization, it faces a threat of perishing because it is a recipe for unrest and urban upheaval.

Presenting his thoughts and expectations for the meeting, the founder and chairman of the HCL inforsystems of India and Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum on Africa 2010, Mr Ajai Chowdhry, said his expectations are on how all participants can collectively bring together their knowledge and experience to build the next Africa.

“India has a billion people; so does Africa. We have very similar problems; therefore we could have similar solutions which we in India can bring into Africa,” he said.

He said the first area is in helping create effective institutions and inside that create transparency and good governance. He explained that India has done a lot by technology intervention in e-governance which can easily be brought to Africa.

He said when India votes over 700 million people participate by using electronic voting machines and the results come out the following day.

He said the whole issue of mindset empowerment, which is also being discussed at the WEF by fundamentally looking at the poor, is the only way to ensure that the poor do not remain poor by providing information. In this regard only technology intervention is a sure way to achieve the desired results, he said.

He said information available at the village level in India has dramatically changed the lives of the people.

For his part, the chief executive officer of Old Mutual South Africa, Mr Kuseni Dlamini, said Africa has suffered from a historical legacy of Afro pessimism. He hoped that the meeting will have informed and concrete conversations that will enable Africa turn the corner in terms of pervasive negative perceptions that it has to go through.

He said in order for Africa to turn itself around it needs to focus on how it builds capacity to ensure that the continent has got institutions that can deliver to the needs of Africans.

“We also need to ensure that we got the right capabilities to enable Africans start and run companies that can succeed not just in Africa but also in the world stage,” said Mr Dlamini.

He said the vast amount of arable land that Africa is endowed with, if effectively and collectively utilized, the continent can be able to curb the crisis of food shortages not just for Africans but also supply food to the rest of the world.

– Ray Naluyaga
Source: The African Seer

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