Ministers for Housing and Urban Development on the continent  will from today lead deliberations that will chart a sustainable path for Africa’s urban future in the Federal Capital Abuja, at the Africa Regional Preparatory Conference for the forthcoming United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III).

The Habitat III conference, scheduled to hold in Quito, Ecuador in October this year, will be next in the 20-year cycle of global summits convened to address the growing challenges arising from unprecedented urbanisation, notably in Africa and other developing regions of the world.

The Abuja Regional Preparatory Conference will be the second in the series of regional summits expected to harvest regional priorities that will ultimately form the new global urban agenda. The first in the series of regional summits, the Habitat III Asia-Pacific Regional Meeting, was held in October last year in Jakarta, Republic of Indonesia.

Today, half of the world’s population is living in cities, compared with less than five percent a century ago, with projections indicating that by 2050 as many as 6.4 billion people, or 70% of the world’s total population will be living in urban centres. With 95% of this expansion expected to take place in developing countries – mostly in Asia and Africa – there has emerged a leadership imperative to address the challenges of rapid urbanization in a sustainable way.

While Africa is the least urbanized region today with an urban population of just under 40%, it is the fastest urbanizing with a 4.5% rate. It is projected that in less than eight years, the urban population of Africa will be larger than the total population of Europe and larger than the urban population of Latin America and the Caribbean combined. UN between 2010 and 2050, the number of Africa’s urban dwellers will increase from 400 million to 1.26 billion – greater than the current total population of the continent and nearly a quarter of the world’s projected urban population.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s national population growth, estimated at about 3.2 per cent, has been characterised by an even higher growth rate in the urban population, which at 3.97%, has seen the proportion of urban dwellers rising from 10.6% of total population in 1953 to 19.1% in 1963, 35.7% in 1991 and 48.2% in 2006. The 2006 National Population Census projected the urban population in Nigeria at 50 per cent of total population by 2015, a figure expected to rise to 60% by 2025. Currently, than 1000 cities boast of populations of 20,000 and above, while no fewer than 19 cities have at least one million residents.

In order to ensure an effective African representation in the evolving urban agenda, the Federal Government had supported the articulation of a credible Africa Common Position (CAP) by funding the Africa Urban Agenda (AUA) Programme in UN-Habitat, which was inaugurated in 2014, to the tune of $3million. The AUP was conceived as a means of enhancing engagement between state and non-state actors and building consensus around identified housing and urban development priorities towards amplifying Africa’s voice at the global level towards HABITAT III.

The Abuja meeting, which will be hosted by the Minister for Power, Works and Housing Babatunde Raji Fashola, commences with no fewer than 15 Pre-events on Monday, February 22, which will followed by an Expert Group Meeting on Wednesday February 23 and culminate in the high-level Ministerial segment from February 24 to 26 at the International Conference Centre in the Federal Capital. The meeting, besides deliberating on the best ways to consolidate Africa’s Position on Habitat III, will also present an opportunity to articulate the continent’s common position on the 2030 Development Agenda and the Africa Agenda 2063 Vision.

Other dignitaries expected at the summit include the UN Under-Secretary General and UN-Habitat Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos; Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin; Executive Secretary of the United Nations Econommic Commission for Africa, Dr Carlos Lopez; President of the African Development Bank Group, Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina; Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H. E. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma; and, the Commissioner for Political Affairs at the Africa Union Commission, Dr. Aisha Laraba abdullahi.