Urbanization can lift Africans out of poverty, says UN boss

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addressing sexual abuse claims Wednesday in New York UN.Photo/Eskinder Debebe

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo

The Sectary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon has told African leaders to prioritize urbanization because it can drive development.

Ban Ki-moon was addressing presidents attending the African Urban Agenda session at the UN Headquarters in New York Thursday.

“Africa is the most rapidly urbanizing region of the world,” the Secretary General said adding “Two-thirds of Africa’s projected total population of 2.5 billion people will require urban services by 2063. And Africa needs to be ready.”

Mr. Ban Ki-moon underscored effective urbanization can anchor economic growth and improve people’s living standards but also cautioned poor plans can acercerbate exacerbate insecurity and other social problems.

“The urban model of the last 50 years showed us the role of urbanization in accelerating development,” the UN chief said.

He added that “however, the record is mixed. Some models have been successful in terms of economic development, but were less so in other areas such as environmental preservation and social cohesion.”

He added that, with the introduction of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 11, there is a chance to encourage effective urban planning, and make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, and develop efficient urbanization as a tool for development.

The African Urban Agenda, is an initiative launched by UN-Habitat, that is aimed highlighting the role of urbanization as an anchor of sustainable development on the continent.

Several African leaders have embraced the UN-backed project.

According to the UN-Habitat, Africa has seen tremendous reduction in urban slum dwellers in the last 25 years; in 1990 seventy percent of urban residents  in Sub-Saharan Africa lived in slums, this number has dropped to 59% today.

To build on this positive trend, and to make cities in the region more sustainable, inclusive and prosperous, experts say more streets are needed in slums as the foundation for provision of water, sanitation and sewerage systems.

“African cities are called to allocate sufficient land to streets to enhance infrastructure development, environmental sustainability, economic and social development; and to make cities resilient to overcome natural disasters and other calamities,” Dr. Gora Mboup, the former Chief of the UN-Habitat’s Global Urban Observatory, and CEO of Global Observatory linking Research to Action (GORA) Corp recently told Afrika Reporter in an exclusive interview.