REPORT ON THE SPECIAL MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE OF THE
AFRICAN MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE ON HOUSING AND
3 – 4 April 2006
Purpose and outline of the report
This report provides an overview of the proceedings of the Special Ministerial Conference of
AMCHUD. The Special Ministerial Conference took place in Nairobi, Kenya, from 3 to 4 April
2006. Its theme was „ACHIEVING THE MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS IN
AFRICA: STRATEGIES FOR THE REALISATION OF THE WORLD SUMMIT
COMMITMENTS ON SLUMS’.
1.1 After its formation in Durban the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban
Development (AMCHUD) actively campaigned at international fora for slum prevention and
slum upgrading to be at the top of the international agenda. The United Nations World Summit
in New York in September 2005 eventually adopted resolution 56 (m) that read that:
In pursuance of our commitment to achieve sustainable development,
we further resolve:
To achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million
slum-dwellers by 2020, recognizing the urgent need or the provision of
increased resources for affordable housing and housing-related
infrastructure, prioritizing slum prevention and slum upgrading, and to
encourage support for the United Nations Habitat and Human
Settlements Foundation and its Slum Upgrading Facility.
1.2 After the World Summit AMCHUD convened, from 3 – 4 April, in Nairobi, a Special
Ministerial Conference (hereafter Conference) under the theme “Achieving the Millennium
Development Goals in Africa: Strategies for the realization of the World Summit commitments
on slums”. The Conference was held at the headquarters of the United Nations Human
Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT). Its aim: to develop a common framework for slum
upgrading and prevention as a means of achieving the Millennium Development Goals and to
consider ways to improve policy formulation to address the housing and urban management
challenge in Africa.
1.3 The Conference was hosted by the Government of Kenya with the support of UN-HABITAT.
It was attended by over 30 Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Ambassadors, Senior Officials mostly
in the form of Permanent Representatives and experts in housing. Representatives from the
Government of China were present including members of the United Nations Economic
Commission for Africa (UNECA) who attended as observers. A complete list of participants is
given in annexure I.
2. Opening session
2.1 As Chair of AMCHUD and Minister of Housing of South Africa, Dr. Lindiwe Sisulu, opened
2.2 The Vice-President of Kenya, Mr. Moody Awori, delivered a keynote address on behalf of Mr.
Mwai Kibaki, President of Kenya, wherein he welcomed the representatives to Kenya. He
thanked those whose efforts had led to the establishment of AMCHUD as a forum for
discussion and advocacy on housing and urban development issues in Africa. He indicated that
among the greatest challenges facing developing countries were rapid urbanization and
increasing poverty, which strained the management capacities of Governments to meet the
pressing needs of urban development, particularly those related to housing and the provision of
basic services. Good governance and decentralized decision-making were needed to address the
challenges presented by slums in Africa. Mr. Awori, highlighted the urgency and the
importance of combating new slum formations in cities across Africa. He cautioned that
without significant improvements in the capacities of local governments and the private sector
to provide services for new residents of towns and cities problems related to current slum and
squatter settlements will pale by comparison.
2.3 To meet the challenges within Kenya, he indicated that the Government had, in cooperation with UN-Habitat, inaugurated the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme, aimed at providing shelter, water, education and income-generating opportunities for urban slum populations such as those at Kibera in Nairobi. He said a strategy for sustainable urban development depended on strengthening the capacity of local government to provide basic services; including the private sector and local communities in urban management initiatives; and expanded use of underused resources, including locally available technologies and natural resources. In Kenya, for example, the Government was establishing provincial centres to provide information on low-cost, locally available building materials and promote labour-intensive building techniques. He hoped that the conference would identify African solutions to the challenges of housing and urban development in the continent.
2.4 In a statement of support, Mr. Wang Guangtao, Minister of Construction from the People‟s
Republic of China, outlined some of the approaches adopted by his country to overcome the challenges of urbanization. China, he said, had endured serious housing shortages during the past 20 years but those had been largely overcome through the implementation of various reforms, which had led to an increase in quantity and improvements in quality of housing available to both urban and rural dwellers. Innovative approaches to addressing the needs of medium- and low-income families included a provident fund system for housing, funded through contributions from employers and employees; the provision of affordable accommodation to households whose income fell below a certain threshold; the establishment of a low-rent housing system targeted at poor families, largely funded through local government channels; the introduction of tax incentives to guide the decisions of both property owners and developers; the redevelopment of dilapidated housing, with the costs often shared between private occupants and the local government; and the use of funds from rural collectives to finance the construction of accommodation for rural migrants to cities.
2.5 Mr. Wang affirmed that, in general, the Government‟s actions aimed to meet the needs of
ordinary households. Market mechanisms had been allowed to play a role in the distribution of housing resources but government intervention was also needed to stabilize prices and guide citizens‟ consumption choices. Rural housing problems were also being addressed through the provision of technical assistance and village planning and as a result the living environment in rural areas had improved markedly. He concluded by affirming China‟s determination to use the present meeting to strengthen further its relationship with international agencies such as UN-Habitat and the African continent.
2.6 Ms. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-Habitat opened her address by paying tribute to those who had contributed to the establishment of AMCHUD. She recalled that in September 2005 world leaders had reaffirmed their commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Although only one of those goals referred expressly to urban poverty, it was evident that action to mitigate the effects of rapid urbanization would have a strong influence on the achievement of other goals. Africa was undergoing the fastest rate of urbanization in the world and the process could not be reversed. Chaotic urban growth, including the expansion of slums, meant that the process of urbanization was not serving as an engine for development but instead created centres of crime, poverty and insecurity, in which women and children suffered most. Promising efforts to alleviate the situation had been made in a number of African countries. South Africa, in particular, had demonstrated the housing and infrastructure improvements that could be achieved where there was sufficient political will. It was vital that African Governments ensured that urbanization issues were given high priority in policy formation both at central and local levels, as sustainable development depended on sustainable urbanization.
2.7 Ms. Tibaijuka discussed the role of the UN-Habitat Slum Upgrading Facility in promoting affordable housing for low-income households and noted that those living in slums were often keen to invest their limited savings to improve their dwellings. However, without security of tenure, they were deterred from doing so. Improved governance and capacity-building were required to address that issue and there was a particular need for local governments to engage with communities to establish clear and enforceable property rights. The existing situation, in which Governments sometimes knowingly permitted the construction of dwellings and then demanded their removal not only destroyed the investments but also breached human rights. AMCHUD should contribute to the development of thriving, inclusive cities by drafting concrete proposals followed up with adequate implementation.
2.8 Mr. Modibo Traore, Director, Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources of the African Union (AU), delivered an address on behalf of Adv. Bience Gawanas, Commissioner for Social Affairs of the AU. He outlined the AU‟s involvement in the work of AMCHUD. Sustainable
development of cities and towns was an important priority for the African Union, he said. Rapid urbanization had not been matched by a parallel growth of housing infrastructure and other facilities, resulting in slums and an associated increase in poverty, disease, crime, exclusion and powerlessness. In such circumstances, women and children were particularly vulnerable. The African Union Commission was keen to play a role in establishing sustainable development programmes and addressing slum problems in Africa.
2.9 Mr. Soita Shitanda, in his opening statement, said that the gathering of so many Ministers and other representatives from over 40 African States demonstrated the commitment of Africa to the issue of the slums that had invaded the cities of the continent. Some 72 per cent of the urban population of Africa lived in slums, compared to a world average of 32 per cent; unless significant interventions took place, the continent‟s urban slum population was estimated to double every 15 years. Since slums were often characterized by poverty, dilapidated infrastructure, inadequate sanitation, crime and homelessness, many cities were becoming increasingly dysfunctional and unmanageable. He affirmed that the financial, technical, cultural and human resources were available in Africa to upgrade slums and provide security for slum dwellers. There was, however, he noted, a need for recognition of the interdependence of urban and rural areas, which had often been viewed as mutually exclusive spheres but needed to be linked components of a holistic approach to development that included consideration of health, education, gender and other issues. Measures were required to bring sufficient economic growth to rural areas to discourage the rural-urban migration that was putting such a strain on the physical infrastructure of cities.