AfDB 2008 Annual Meetings Round Table and Seminars
Tackling Urban Growth and Poverty
Maputo, Mozambique, 13 May 2008 – The stark contradictions between economic growth and inequality most evident in sprawling slums around major African cities call for innovative thinking and strategic planning on improved economic governance, town planning and improving living conditions among the continent’s urban poor, the central theme of a Ministerial Round Table and High level Seminars which began on Tuesday in Maputo.
Opening the discussions, Mozambique’s Prime Minister, Luisa Dias Diogo, emphasized the importance of urban infrastructure both as a way of improving the living environment of millions of people emigrating to the towns as well as overall economic development and poverty reduction.
Mrs. Diogo commended the AfDB for its support to Mozambique, a successful fragile state that overcame three decades of civil strife to emerge as one of the best performing economies in Africa in the past couple of years.
The Round Table on the themes: "Fostering Shared Growth: Urbanization, Inequality and Poverty in Africa" is one of a series of high-level discussions on major challenges facing Africa ahead of the 14-15 Annual Meetings hosted by Mozambique and attended by governors (finance and economic development ministers), of the 77 member countries of the Bank Group.
In his speech at the plenary session, AfDB President, Donald Kaberuka, highlighted the difference between urban and rural poverty, explaining that while majority of Africans living below the poverty datum were rural dwellers, the living conditions of the urban poor were dire and remained a major challenge to development and urbanization, as demonstrated by recent food riots in some African cities and beyond.
"Our determination to fight poverty everywhere must be, and is an inclusive one. It targets all those who are part of the "bottom million" and these include the urban poor," Mr. Kaberuka said, noting that internal migration to urban areas would increase rather than decrease.
He said that as many as 360 million Africans were currently living in urban areas, with Sub-Saharan Africa recording the highest rate. He cited UN Habitat studies indicating that 72% of Africa’s poor also depend on the informal economy for their livelihood.
"Their numbers are often underestimated as they are not adequately captured by the "less than a dollar a day concept", Mr. Kaberuka said, noting that such illegal settlements were not recognized by authorities and as such, were deprived of public services.
He said the discussions were being held at an auspicious time as it would help to define the Bank Group’s role as well as highlight the link between urban poor and the overall problem of poverty. "The African Development Bank is developing a policy approach to the issues. We have no recipes and this reflection comes at the right time, the AfDB President said, emphasizing, "We would like to be a catalyst in the process, accelerating the conditions for this to happen".
The ECA Executive Secretary, Abdoulie Janneh, co-organizer of the event, for his part, noted that several studies undertaken by the institution had highlighted the challenges posed by "urbanization with infrastructure" and how this could be overcome with the appropriate mix of options and political will. Apart from the Bank Group’s governors, the Round table has attracted a wide audience, including high-level dignitaries from Africa and other regions of the world, development experts from multilateral, bilateral, non governmental organizations, civil societies, private sector and the academia.