2018 Metropolis Annual Meeting: Towards more inclusive metropolitan cities

Gauteng Province hosted the annual meeting of the World Association of the Major Metropolises (Metropolis) at the Sandton Convention Center in Johannesburg, South Africa, August 26-29, 2018.

Approximately 700 delegates, including governors, mayors, local elected officials, local governance experts and academics from across the world, took part in the meeting, “Inclusive Metropolitan Cities and City-Regions.” During the fourth day participants had the opportunity to express their views on the various aspects of the theme and to adopt the Gauteng Declaration – Inclusive Metropolitan Cities and City-Regions .

The declaration recognizes that the goals set by the international community to implement the global agendas cannot be achieved without the participation and commitment of metropolitan cities and all local governments. It calls for the injection of more resources to effectively localize the Sustainable Development Goals, the New Urban Agenda and Paris Agreement on Climate Change; and to address the environmental, economic, social, and governance, dimensions of exclusion in metropolitan areas.

The 2018 Metropolis Annual Meeting was organized in partnership with the World Organization of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and its African Section, United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa), as well as the ICLEI organization. The inaugural meeting of the forum, organized by Metropolis and UCLG Africa, was held on August 26, 2018 at the Soweto Campus of the University of Johannesburg. The official launch of the forum will be made at Africities 8 (November 20-24, 2018, Marrakesh, Morocco).

Gauteng Governor, Mr. David Makura, UCLG President, Mr. Parks Tau, Metropolis President, Mr. Michael Müller (Mayor of Berlin), Metropolis Secretary General, Mr. Octavi de la Varga and the Secretary General of UCLG Africa, Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, reaffirmed their commitment to build inclusive metropolitan cities, taking into account cultural diversity, gender equality and offering a better quality of life for people.

Growing Integration of African Cities into the Global Investment Network: The Geography of Investment in Africa

The opening and closing ceremonies were marked by cultural presentations of songs and dances from the Zulu people. The meeting provided a framework for scanning the geography of global investment in African cities. The topic was the subject of a remarkable presentation by Professor Ronal Wall, President of the Department of Economic Development, School of Economics and Business Sciences, University of Witwatersrand  (Johannesburg, South Africa). Based on the latest report of “The State of African Cities” published by UN Habitat in July 2018, the professor reviewed the situation of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in large cities. It revealed that over the period 2003 to 2016, foreign direct investments (multinationals) increased inequalities in the metropolitan cities, (Cairo, Casablanca, Johannesburg, Lagos, Algiers, Cape Town, Tangier). Professor Wall urged local leaders to focus on regional investments (between African countries) that reduces inequality, rather than looking to international investment.

With regard to the impact of FDI (Foreign Direct Investments) on food security, Africa has a disproportionate level of food imports compared to food exports. This implies that investments in food security do not have any real impact on food security, as multinational food companies mainly export to global markets.  When considering the influence of FDIs on smart cities, a study shows that the intelligence of a city is not only determined by the technological measurement and coordination of cities, but especially by its position within the global networks of foreign investments. In other words, the more connected a city is through investments, the more intelligent it will be.

Professor Wall suggested a number of recommendations, which he addressed to the leaders of local governments, with the aim of prompting African cities to develop strategies to become essential nodes for products and services in the global market. The main objectives would be to make significant progress in the fight against urban unemployment and poverty, the reduction of the proliferation of urban informal settlements (slums) and, above all, to ensure future food security. In this respect, the urban revolution should go hand in hand with a pronounced agricultural revolution.


  • Intensify investment connectivity of African cities to the world;
  • Empower cities to shape their investment environments by, for example, accommodating location preferences of multinational firms;
  • Scrutinize sectors of investment and only attract types that reduce income inequality and environmental degradation;
  • Urban planners to create technological hubs for high-tech firms to gain economy of scale benefits and to increase absorptive capacity of foreign technology;
  • Promote gender parity in the labor market;
  • Local authorities to build on sectors where they already have comparative advantages; linking cities, countries and regions through road and rail transportation to expand market size, especially for landlocked countries to connect with port cities;
  • Target investment in renewable energy; smart cities, food security, green cities, infrastructure, real estate, infrastructure;
  • Formulate policies that attract food firms focused on local markets; and
  • African continental, regional, national and municipal institutions to invest in and support accessible high-level data collection, as well as stimulate advanced analytical methods and technologies;
  • Globally, the report calls for international organizations to, inter alia: expedite investments in Africa by financing regional infrastructure to improve the flow of goods, finance and labor; prioritize urban food security; and help promote governance to attract multinational firms in the food sector.

The Alexandra district

Participants in the meeting had the opportunity to assess the challenge of inclusion in the heart of Johannesburg. Delegates were able to see the contrast between the luxurious and fast-growing Sandton urbanization, where the conference was taking place, and the slum of the Alexandra district located 4 kilometers away. They visited the Iphutheng Primary School in the district, where they planted trees and installed tree water taps within the school.

The end of the 4 days was marked by a plenary session on “How the cities of the world locate the Global Agendas” and 16 parallel sessions. The plenary session provided the opportunity to share the experiences of actions implemented by the cities of Barcelona (Spain), Montreal (Canada), Montevideo (Uruguay), Porto Alegre (Brazil), Turin (Italy), Brussels (Belgium), Johannesburg, (South Africa).

The Metropolitan City of Turin elaborated about a territorial integration plan for the development of a green city with a population-centered economic program. For their part, Barcelona focused on SDG5, to build a more feminist city and SDG11, on the right to housing. The municipality presented a declaration on housing to address this issue and avoid an urban crisis, similar to that threatening the other metropolises of Spain.

Montevideo focused on the social economy and the fight for gender equality. Porte Allegre implemented SDG3 to facilitate better access to care, resulting in the extension of hospital opening hours to 10:00p.m. The municipality also built 19 housing units for the homeless, most of who suffer from mental disorders related to drug abuse. Montréal is implementing the Montréal Sustainable Plan (2016-2020). The Canadian capital city is speeding up the development of its urban transportation while respecting the attainment of SDG13. 300 hybrid buses will be put into circulation to reduce the city’s carbon footprint and 1,200 social housing units will be built to provide access to housing for a greater number of people, including migrants.

Safety of women in public spaces

The parallel session on women’s security in public spaces enabled the President of the Council of the Agdal-Riyad District of the City of Rabat, Ms. Bennani Badia, to share the experience of her municipality with regards to this issue. The city, notably, created a citizenship club to instill citizenship values ​​in young people, in terms of the freedom of women and young girls. According to the local councilor, this approach contributed to a 67% reduction in the rate of violence against women in urban areas. Ms. Silvia Llorente Sánchez, Task Manager Metropolis Women presented a report on the results of a study on the safety of women in public spaces of large cities. (Note that most cities and public spaces are designed by men and for men). 36% of metropolitan cities do not have gender-sensitive public spaces; 49% of cities have repressive policies on violence against women; for 61% of preventive policies and 20% of transformative policies (awareness of citizens). In South Africa, on average 4 men have already raped a woman in their life. Statistics show that progress still needs to be made to ensure the safety of women in public spaces.

Commitments made by the large cities on this issue in Johannesburg, will be assessed at the next Metropolis annual meeting, to be held at Montevideo in Uruguay in 2019.