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Africities Summit in Kisumu will focus on continent's urban future

An aerial view of Kisumu town [Jacob Otieno, Standard]

A central theme of 9th edition of the Africities Summit to be held in Kisumu County next month is the role of intermediary African cities in the implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the African Union Agenda 2063.

Both the UN and the African Union recognise that African urban centres and cities will hold more populations than Africa’s rural areas in the next two decades, bringing into sharp focus the level of preparedness of these cities to provide for the large populations.

These populations will need food, shelter, security, healthy environments to live in, security, an efficient transportation system, reliable, cost effective and clean energy, social amenities, employment opportunities, etc. They will need effective political representation and governance structures.

It will be very expensive to provide all these critical amenities in a sustainable manner. The coming summit is an important opportunity for the continent’s local government leaders to reflect on Africa’s preparedness to meet this challenge. The fact that this will be the first time that the Africities Summit is held in a city outside a country’s capital in the initiative’s 20-year history underscores the growing role of intermediary cities in Africa’s future.

The summit, organised by the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa) aims to promote urbanisation as a positive transformative force for people and communities, reducing inequality, discrimination and poverty. The summit meets every three years to measure Africa’s progress towards attaining the UN 2030 Agenda and the African Union Agenda 2063 which call for urgent reflections on sustainable urbanisation in Africa.

Enormous potential 

The 9th Africities Summit whose theme is “The role of intermediary cities in Africa in the implementation of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the African Union Agenda 2063” reflects the shift in Africa to devolve services and developmental focus away from capital cities.

Kisumu, as Kenya’s third largest city, is only just beginning to tap into its enormous economic, social, cultural and political potential and its importance will only grow if it harnesses its potential as a principal city around the Lake Victoria Basin. The summit will test the city’s credentials to meet the objectives of a modern, well planned city responsive to the needs of an urban population.

The summit presents huge opportunities for the country, but mostly for the communities living within Western Kenya. As the County Government of Kisumu, working in collaboration with the Kenya government and the Council of Governors forum, we are keen that residents of the region leverage on the opportunities that the summit presents.

We have invested heavily to prepare Kisumu as the ideal host location, from upgrading infrastructure, improving the region’s hospitality and transport network to enable it to host the close to 10,000 people expected for the summit.

Kisumu International Airport has been spruced up to handle more passengers and cargo at a cost of Sh240 million while the Kisumu port has undergone a Sh22.5 billion expansion and modernisation to enable it play a bigger commercial role in the growing trade in the East African Community.

The national government has upgraded and expanded the road network around the region to help ease movement of people and goods. Since 2013 the government has spent over Sh100 billion on roads around Nyanza which has helped spur economic growth. One of the more notable projects is the Kisumu Northern Bypass which has had a direct economic impact on Kisumu and the neighbouring regions.

The rehabilitation of the Meter Gauge railway line between Kisumu and Naivasha also portends well for the economic fortunes of the Western region, and is one of the showpieces of the infrastructural importance of Kisumu as an intermediary city.

These investments demonstrate how devolution can help grow rural areas into important economic hubs that respond to the challenges of sustainable development goals as set out by the United Nations.

We are inviting participants, exhibitors, and all visitors to take part in this important summit. We have created an expansive exhibition area for business and expect more than 500 exhibitors from across Africa and beyond.

Among those expected to attend the summit include regional heads of state and government, ministers in charge of local government, housing, public service and urban development, local authorities and local elected officials, officials of local and central administration, civil society, trade organisations, economic operators in the public and private sector, researchers, academics and international cooperation agencies among others.

The 9th Africities Summit is jointly organised by the UCLG-Africa, the Kenya Government, the County Government of Kisumu, the Council of Governors, and is supported by the African Union, the African Development Bank, UN Habitat, the European Union, UN Economic Commission for Africa and the Cities Alliance, among others.