It was in the legendary district of Soweto that the inaugural meeting of the Forum of African Metropolitan Cities took place on August 26, 2018 at the Soweto Campus of the University of Johannesburg (South Africa). Soweto, the city of leaders of the struggle against apartheid: Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela and Desmond Tutu, amongst others.
In this year, when South Africa celebrates the centenary of its historic leader, Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), the annual meeting of Metropolis (World Association of the Major Metropolises), which is taking place from August 26-29, at the Sandton Convention Center in Johannesburg, could not miss this event. The conclave of large African cities marked the beginning of the annual meeting of Metropolis with the theme, “Inclusive metropolitan cities and cities-regions.”
For its part, the inaugural meeting of the forum, initiated by Metropolis and UCLG Africa, generated great interest and enthusiasm between the large cities of the continent. Fifteen cities participated in the exchanges, including, Abuja (Nigeria), Brazzaville (Congo), Libreville (Gabon), Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Accra (Ghana), Rabat (Morocco), Dakar (Senegal), Johannesburg (South Africa), Ethekwini (South Africa) and Tshwane (South Africa).
The event was marked by opening addresses from the Premier of Gauteng Province, Honorable David Makhura, the President of UCLG, Mr. Parks Tau and the welcome address by Dr. Babu Sena Paul, University of Johannesburg.
In his speech, the Premier of Gauteng province invited the metropolises of the continent to become aware of their potential. Actually, the metropolitan cities have enormous potential for the development of Africa. In South Africa, the Gauteng region alone accounts for 35% of the country’s GDP, a ranking that places the Gauteng region as the 7th largest economy on the continent. “There is a need to be more confident that the sub-national governments, the cities and the regions have a power that the central government cannot stop. Gauteng is proud to have hosted African metropolises ahead of the annual Metropolis meeting. We are working here for the launch of the Forum of Metropolitan Cities and Regions of Africa at the next Africities Summit (November 20-24, 2018, Marrakesh, Morocco),” said Mr. David Makhura.
This forum on African metropolises will serve as a platform for metropolitan cities of the continent. The platform will represent a unified voice in the fight to attain sustainable development. “This will be an inaugural platform to engage in discussion for the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, the 17 SDGs and the African Union Agenda 2063. We need to start discussion with one voice,” said David Makhura. “Poverty, social inequalities and the informal economy are features of African urbanization. As leaders of Africa’s largest cities, we have the joint responsibility to achieve the goals of the African Union’s Agenda 2063. It is time to make tangible the African renaissance advocated by Nelson Mandela,” he continued.
For the Secretary General of UCLG Africa, Mr. Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, the Forum of African Metropolitan Cities provides concrete answers to the challenges they have to take on. “This forum places the cities at the heart of Africa’s structural transformation,” he said. Let us recall that the statistics indicate that the African continent will be the most populous by the year 2050, with almost 2.5 billion inhabitants, including around 60% of city-dwellers. Africa is the continent with the youngest population in the world (under 35 years). It is the continent that has more than 70% of agricultural land free of pesticides, and it is the continent that has 16% of the mineral resources in the world. This places the continent at the center of the world, because in reality, all economies depend on Africa.
This great potential of the metropolises of the cradle of humanity, “is not yet perceived by several leaders as drivers of growth,” deplored the Secretary General of UCLG Africa. As metropolises are at the heart of urbanization, they must, in this respect, make their voice heard by the African Union to implement this concern in the Agenda 2063. “Cities should enjoy the financial resources from their territories. This requires defining a common strategy of local taxation and mobilization of natural resources. African metropolises are different from the ones in Europe, and consequently urban planning of the cities in the North is not compatible with those of the cities in the South. In Africa, there is no forward planning, there is therefore a need to plan with the people who are already on the lands,” explained Mr. Mbassi.
The Secretary General of Metropolis, Mr. Octavi de la Varga, said, in his contribution, that the implementation of the New Urban Agenda entails a management of several levels of governance taking into account the gender approach. “We must invest in building up the capacities of the local and regional governments. Metropolises are mainly concerned with SDG 11 and SDG 17. The future of human planning will be defined in Africa. Thus, the Forum of African Metropolitan Cities is important, because we need your voice to spread the appropriate message,” he said
Towards the setting up of the Forum of African Metropolitan Cities
An action plan presenting the major thrusts of the forum was adopted unanimously by the large African cities present. It will contribute to formulating innovative and sustainable responses to the challenges faced by the continent’s metropolitan cities and promoting learning between the different spheres of governance. The participants emphasized that this forum will not be an additional network, but will act as a platform that will meet in parallel with the main meetings of the already existing local governance organizations, namely UCLG, Metropolis and UCLG Africa. This platform of African metropolitan cities will have the advantage of defending their specific interests in a united way in order to enable them to fulfill their role of developing the continent by connecting it to the global market. The development of the economic potential of the continent’s large cities will be a key element in this approach.
The action plan has 5 points:
- Establishment of a first generation business plan to be approved at the launch of the Forum of African Metropolitan Cities at the Africities Summit (November 20-24, 2018, Marrakech, Morocco);
- Establish an operational secretariat with an initial complement of skeletal staff, office systems and procedures;
- Consolidate current membership arrangements and strengthen partnership and linkage to a range of stakeholders, including all spheres of government, the civil society, trade unions and businesses, based on specific programs and projects;
- Increase general awareness of the importance and role of large cities in the African continent’s economy and changing demographic profile, through various platforms;
- Determine key performance indicators for the secretariat that will be set up.
Before the official launch of the Forum at the Africities summit, African metropolitan cities are invited by the Province of Gauteng to take part in the Africa Investment Forum from November 7-9, in Johannesburg; an event jointly organized by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the province of Gauteng. Governor David Makhura intends to seize this opportunity to promote the voice of African metropolitan cities with the aim of open and honest collaboration with the AfDB to ensure the sustainable development of the continent.