UN agency urges concerted efforts for advanced urbanization in Africa

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OMDURMAN, SUDAN - JANUARY 05: Sudanese men building a house in a village, Khartoum State, Omdurman, Sudan on January 5, 2019 in Omdurman, Sudan. (Photo by Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images)
OMDURMAN, SUDAN – JANUARY 05: Sudanese men building a house in a village, Khartoum State, Omdurman, Sudan on January 5, 2019 in Omdurman, Sudan. (Photo by Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images)

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) on Friday urged concerted efforts to create advanced urbanization as an estimated 90 percent of Africa’s population live in informal housing.

The urgent call was made by Oliver Chinganya, Director of the Africa Centre for Statistics at the ECA, who stressed that “human settlement must be thought of in terms of quality of life and levels of satisfaction of basic needs.”

Chinganya deplored the fact that an estimated 60 to 70 percent of urban households live in slums and close to 90 percent of the population in Africa live in informal housing during a two-day Global Forum on Human Settlements (GFHS 2019), which is underway in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, under the theme “Sustainable Development of Cities and Human Settlements in the Digital Era.”

“This is a large share of the population that live in overcrowded, unhealthy and risky environments,” the ECA official stressed, adding the informal housing across Africa “lack the basic services and social protections that many of us here take for granted, such as clean and safe water, a decent toilet, title deeds or rental agreements, among others.”

Chinganya further said all sorts of discussions on smart cities and the digital citizenry must be conducted with the understanding that only a third of Africans are on the internet, and that the digital infrastructures are far from the world’s best in terms of speed, volume, and reliability.

Over the past two days, close to 500 experts and policymakers who are drawn from 52 countries worldwide have been sharing innovative policies, strategies, technologies and examples on sustainable cities and human settlements towards the betterment of cities and the lives of urban dwellers.

The Forum, among other things, explored how to harness the huge opportunities arising from the digital revolution to upgrade the planning, construction, and management of cities and human settlements, and make them greener, smarter and more sustainable.

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