New African Urban Agenda – Meeting with the Ministry of local government and rural development of Ghana

At the invitation of the minister of local government and rural development of Ghana, Mr. Akwasi Opong Fosu, the UCLG Africa secretary general participated in the meeting called in Accra on 19 and 20 November 2013.

The aim of the meeting was to discuss the implementation of the New African Urban Agenda initiative in preparation of the 2016 Habitat III Conference. It shall be recalled that this initiative was launched by President Mahama of Ghana and President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria at the last UN general assembly in September 2013.

The meeting was also attended by UN Habitat (Mrs. Mariam Yunusa); the Cities Alliance Secretariat (Mr. Julian Baskin), GIZ (Mr. Sebastian Sunderhaus), as well as by officers from the national association of local authorities of Ghana (NALAG) and from the ministry of local government and rural development of Ghana. The meeting was chaired by the minister in person.

The agenda included:

  • the New African Urban Agenda: background, content, actors, process
  • the Post-2015 process
  • the Habitat III process
  • the Africa 2063 Agenda

The meeting reviewed the state of the art on each of these topics and identified four key convergent building blocks that can inform the New African Urban Agenda: 1. the 2014 State of African Cities Report published by UN Habitat; 2. the report on Assessing Enabling Environment for cities published by UCLG Africa and Cities Alliance; 3. the Cities Alliance Africa Strategy; and 4. the New Urban Pact by AMCHUD (All Africa Ministerial Conference on Urban Development).

The meeting highlighted the need to start changing the narrative about African cities, from negative to more positive. There is need to reinterrogate common knowledge, including the vocabulary used to describe the urban realities of Africa.

The meeting identified:

  • three enabling vectors for a New African Urban Agenda: 1. a national urban policy; 2. a multistakeholders platform to debate urban issues; 3. a renewed attention on urban economy and cities as engines of growth;
  • and three operational vectors: (i) spatial planning; (ii) urban basic services provision; (iii) fiscal system for decentralized authorities.

The meeting also reviewed the Habitat III roadmap which includes three preparatory committee meetings (Prepcom): Prepcom I is scheduled in New York in September 2014; Prepcom II will take place in Nairobi in April 2015; Prepcom III will take place in 2016, the venue yet to be defined. Guidelines for preparation of national Habitat III reports has been issued by UN Habitat for consideration by member countries and other UN agencies. In Africa, Nigeria has put 3 million US dollars to help African countries in the preparation of their national reports, which will be then synthetized at subnational level by December 2014, and in an African continental position by September 2015.

The meeting defined also key milestones towards building the New Afican Urban Agenda as follows:

4-6 December 2013, Nairobi, Kenya: conference on forging partnership towards a New African Urban Agenda

25-28 February 2014, N’Djamena, Chad: AMCHUD meeting

Third Quarter 2014, Accra, Ghana: Africa Urban Forum

1-5 December 2015, Johannesburg or Lusaka: 7th Africities Summit

The meeting concluded its proceedings as follows:

  • UCLG Africa will be tasked with the responsibility to engage with African national associations of local authorities and AMCOD (All Africa Ministerial Conference on Decentralization and Local Development);
  • Cities Alliance will propose a draft roadmap and work plan that would inform the presidential initiative on a New Urban Agenda for Africa, including the framing of a compelling positive narrative in favor of African cities and key messages to be championed by the Presidents of Ghana and Nigeria;
  • UN Habitat will provide more information on the partnership building meeting in Nairobi and keep track on the discussions underway about the inclusion of a urban development goal among the sustainable development goals to be adopted within the Post-2015 Agenda;
  • the Government of Ghana will follow up on the initiative and manage to obtain the buy-in of the roadmap, the work plan and the compelling pro-cities messages by the Head of State;
  •  A steering committee for the initiative was set up under the chair of the minister of local government and rural development of Ghana, comprising the representatives of Nigeria, South Africa and Ethiopia as well as UN Habitat, the UCLG Africa secretariat, the Cities Alliance secretariat;
  • A permanent team tasked with the day-to-day management of the initiative that reports to the steering committee was also envisioned, which details will be defined later on at the initiative of the Chair of the steering committee.

At the fringues of the meeting a working breakfast session was held on 20 November 2013 between the minister of local government and rural development, NALAG secretary general and the UCLG Africa secretary general, on the hosting of the UCLG Africa West Africa Regional Office (WARO) in Accra, Ghana. The minister confirmed the acceptance to host and proposed that a Headquarters agreement be concluded between the government of Ghana and UCLG Africa as soon as possible. The Headquarters agreement should be informed by the agreement concluded for the Head office in Rabat, a copy of which should be sent by UCLG Africa secretariat to the officers in charge in the ministry of local government and rural development of Ghana. The UCLG Africa WARO seat will be within the NALAG premisses. Since these premisses were also identified to house the CLGF Regional West Africa project on local economic development, and given the need for a working space for the team of the New African Urban Agenda presidential initiative, it was felt appropriate to build synergies between NALAG, UCLG Africa WARO and the other projects and initiatives in order to create a local government Hub within NALAG. The possibility of such synergies will be explored by all parties, including through direct talks between the ministry of local government, NALAG, CGLF, and UCLG Africa. A specific meeting to address synergy building might be convened at the initiative of the minister of local government and rural development of Ghana.