The Ministry of Local Development, in cooperation with the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat), the European Union, and a number of international development organizations, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), organized the conference “African Cities: Engines for Sustainable Development” during the period from 18 - 20 June 2019. The conference was held under the auspices of President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt presided by the presidency of the African Union this year, in the presence of Egypt Prime Minister, senior officials and ministers from Egypt, representatives from United Cities and Local Governments Africa (UCLGA), as well as a number of local development ministers and mayors of African cities.

The conference presented regional and international experiences, and discussed the challenges faced by African cities, the available opportunities, and ways to increase their efficiency and optimize their resources to achieve sustainable development in its three dimensions, economic, social and environmental. Sessions were structured around three main axes that reflect the aspirations and priorities of local development in Africa, namely the Economic and Social axis; Environment and Resource Sustainability; and Planning and Local Development, where the challenges and opportunities were discussed in each of these axes, in addition to presenting success stories from African cities and key lessons learned.

Increasing urbanization rates in Africa is a powerful asset for the overall development of the continent and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. However, cities can only realize their full potential when they are properly planned and managed. UN-Habitat works to support cities achieve sustainable and inclusive urbanization, in collaboration with the Ministry of Housing, the General Organization for Physical Planning (GOPP), and Local Governments, within the framework of its Strategic Plan 2020-2025, and its four domains of change: Reducing Spatial Inequality and Poverty; Promoting Shared Prosperity; Strengthened Climate Action and Improved Urban Environment; and Effective Urban Crisis Prevention and Response.

"Cities play a vital role in improving citizens' living standards, stimulating the local economy, and creating job opportunities" said Prime Minister Dr. Mustafa Madbouli, who stressed the importance of the conference and its outputs to "Advance the competitiveness of African cities to the position they deserve in the light of making use of Africa's rich and diverse resources"

Dr. Erfan Ali, Director of UN-Habitat Regional Office for Arab States added that “UN-Habitat works to empower local governments as pivotal actors of urban governance, and will continue to support local authorities by improving their capacities related to multi sectoral inclusive urban planning, local finances, data gathering, developing inclusive, evidence based national policies that respond to environmental, social and economic challenges”

The conference was concluded with a set of key messages highlighting the importance of coordination and exchange of experiences among African countries to support the development of local planning systems and local economic development, enhancing local governance and supporting decentralization.

The sessions also highlighted the importance of adopting social programs for the protection and social welfare of disadvantaged groups in African cities to address the effects of high rates of population growth, poverty and malnutrition with special attention to women and with special needs and women as well as the need to develop a common vision for the development of African cities with a focus on youth and women, and to take advantage of African women's resilience and capacity to face challenges.

The Final Declaration of the Conference included 8 key recommendations:

1-     To strengthen the orientation towards decentralization and to take the necessary measures to achieve this in a systematic and gradual manner.

2-     To stimulate the role of local administration in providing the necessary financial resources to achieve sustainable development.

3-     The importance of capacity building through training and rehabilitation programs for African youth, sharing experiences, building on successful regional experiences and intensifying the use of information and innovation technology in building effective systems to enhance the role of local administration in finding quick and effective solutions to the challenges facing them.

4-     Promote the principles of participatory transparency and local governance, develop the local planning system and provide the necessary information and data for monitoring, evaluation and impact measurement, which also allows citizen participation.

5-     To promote synergies between African cities on the one hand and international development institutions.

6-     Encourage the participation of the private sector and civil society in the provision of infrastructure and public utilities and regulate the work of the informal sector to contribute to the competitiveness of African cities and to increase their resilience, adaptation and the effects of climate change.

7-     Providing the necessary resources to enhance the role of African women and empower them politically, socially and economically for their important and fundamental role in achieving sustainable development.

8-     The establishment of a committee of the African Cities and Local Governments Organization to monitor and evaluate all the recommendations of this conference and previous conferences and present them at the next conference to be held in Kenya in 2021.

"UN-Habitat will continue to support local governments, in collaboration with UCLGA and the Ministry of Local Development, to operationalize and implement the recommendations of the conference" said Rania Hedaya, Director of UN-Habitat Egypt Programme. The conference concluded with the announcement of the Minister of Local Development, General Mahmoud Shaarawi, to transform it into an annual conference hosted by Cairo, to follow up the recommendations and the ongoing consultation on the future of local development in Africa.

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