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African Mayors at UN World Urban Forum in Vancouver, BC, Canada look to Tourism as a Job Generator

by Jerry W. Bird, Editor

What a memorable week for tourism in Africa

. After 30 years UN Habitat returns to its launching pad - the seaport city of Vancouver, British Columbia Canada. The crowd is estimated at 10,000 plus and it certainly seems so, judging by the heavy attendance at many sessions. At the time of writing, we have had the pleasure of taking two groups of mayors representing different African countries on tours of Vancouver and the University of British Columbia. It's one way for us to repay the wonderful hospitality we have enjoyed in eleven years with the Africa Travel Association as its media voice in North America and Worldwide.

With some 10.000 participants from over 100 countries, the Third Session of the World Urban Forum paved the way for a new drive forward on the international urban agenda in a world of rapidly growing cities. Just as the Habitat I Conference in Vancouver in 1976 placed local community concerns on the international agenda and highlighted the critical importance of inclusiveness, the Forum in Vancouver, 30 years later, lived up to its promise of moving ideas to action. It symbolized inclusiveness, with balanced participation from public, private and civil society sector"

The twin goals of Habitat are "Adequate shelter for all" and "sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world. "The “Global Village” is well represented, this week - with Africa making a particularly strong showing. As publishers of Africa Travel Magazine and related travel business media features, we were extremely pleased and honored to be able to to network with so many of our African colleagues. We will introduce key African delegates and speakers to you via radio interviews and photos as this important feature unfolds. Our editors encountered another big surprise on arrival at the Expo Media Center, where many African print and broadcast media were present, giving us ample opportunity to exchange views and share ideas. Many delegates requested complimentary copies of Africa Travel magazine. These issues from our archives cover a wide range of African destinations and topics.

The impact of Urban Development on African Tourism goes without saying - and this event, along with Globe 2006 World's Largest Enviro-Business Expo, also in Vancouver, open up a broad avenue for our editorial group. The week started off with a keynote address by Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada (left), followed by Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan, and BC Premier Gordon Campbell.

Africans have made a strong showing at this world class event, as they have at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. On day four we attended the Mayors Roundtable at Simon Fraser University's downtown campus, and later at the World Mayors Reception we had a brief dialogue with host Mayor Sam Sullivan, who has a high profile worldwide and will host the Winter Olympics in 2010. We finished off an outstanding day at a special evening event hosted by Kenya, networking with dignitaries from cities and the federal scene.

AFRICANS ON VIDEO: Comments from the African delegates are available in Video Clips thanks to Sustainability Corner, which operated from a broadcast stage at the entrance to the Expo. Not only did our editor get an opportunity to introduce Africa Travel Magazine to the world, we were provided with interviews from a wide cross section of Africans from Cabinet Ministers to professionals of all stripes.

Rose  Molokoane: South African Homeless People's Federation anchored a panel on this vital topic, which attracted many members of the world press, most especially Africa Travel Magazine. A leading world figure on Rose's panel was Mr. Jockin Arputham is President of the National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) of India. This organization is one of the largest urban poor organizations and social movements in the world. He is also President of Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI), an umbrella group formed by urban poor and homeless federations from many different nations - as they support each other and learn from each other. Having worked for more than 40 years in slums and shanty towns, building representative organizations and demonstrating what slum-dwellers' own organizations are capable of, he has shown what powerful partners slum dwellers can be for governments and international agencies. Mr. Arputham set up NSDF in India which developed to become a mass movement with hundreds of thousands of slum dwellers as members. Mr. Arpurtham is also an active Member of the UN Advisory Group on Forced Evictions. In 2000, he received the Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia's version of the Nobel Prize.


Mayors, such as Patricia Applagyei (left) of Kumasi, Ghana';s second largest city, are among our favorite people, not just the friendly Africans we met at the UN World Urban Forum, but as publishers we've had a dialogue with mayors in our own province for decades by covering the annual Union of BC Municipalities Expo. Former mayor Russ Helburg of Port Hardy was of great help for years and was featured in our first airport magazine in the early 90s. Not long ago I was keynote speaker at a Trans Canada Highway Association 59th Anniversary Conference and mayors in my audience came from half of Canada, some 2,000 km from Lake Manitoba to the :Pacific. They were a very appreciative audience. Small wonder we love dealing with mayors. Patricia was featured on a cover page of the Vancouver Sun Newspaper following the forum. We stayed in Kumasi earlier this year during our tour of Ghana and were greatly impressed by its outstanding potential for tourism development. Rose, who is an avid gardener and lover of beauty, along with David, her colleague from Tema, near Accra, joined Muguette and I for a tour of the University of British Columbia campus, with stops at the Memorial Gardens and the UBC Museum of Anthropology.

The Mayors' Roundtable was co chaired by Smagaliso Mkhatshwa of South Africa. Cities represented on the panel were Kampala, Dar es Salaam, Casablanca, Tunis, Windhoek, Ouagadougou and communities in Senegal, Madagascar, Namibia, Burkina Faso and Benin, among others.

Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka of Tanzania (left), Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN-HABITAT, highest ranking African woman in the United Nations, gave an outline of the program';s purpose. "As the international community celebrates Vancouver + 30, it should also reflect on the important lessons learned in urban development and the need to reduce inequalities within cities. Cities present an unparalleled opportunity for the simultaneous attainment of most, if not all, of the internationally agreed development goals. Interventions in, for example, poor water and sanitation, have immediate positive knock-on effects in terms of improved health, nutrition, disease prevention and the environment. However, unless such concerted action is taken to redress urban inequalities, cities may well become the predominant sites of deprivation, social exclusion and instability worldwide."

Secretary General of the United Nations

The Holding of this Third Session of the World Urban Forum in Vancouver has historic resonance for the United Nations. It was in this great city that the Agency we now know as UN-Habitat was born. It was here, 30 years ago, that the idea of creating a body to deal with where we live and how we live was first brought into the international limelight. Over the past three decades, our world has become more urbanized, congested and polluted, and less equitable. Satellite images reveal the huge and growing "footprints" of cities: their sprawl into plains, forest and wetlands; their fooling of rivers, lakes and coastlines with waste; their filling the air with smoke and smog. Cities which are now home to half of humankind, are among the greatest users of natural resources and major emitters of greenhouse gases.

Another picture of cities, less visible from space but no less real, is that of poverty and deprivation. More than half the urban population of the developing world lives in slums. with little or no access to decent housing, clean water, basic sanitation, regular jobs or steady income. The despair is such that families are forced to choose between sending their children to school or using them to fetch water, and between feeding their children or saving their meager funds to buy much-needed medicines.

In our interdependent world, opportunity and deprivation are inter linked. The consequences of over-consumption and pollution, hunger and deprivation, crime and insecurity know no borders. If not handled well, they can generate intolerance, migration, and even instability and extremism. On the other hand, cities are also leading incubators of knowledge, birthplaces of technological innovation, and repositories of cultural riches. Their density can make them efficient places for living, consuming and producing.

This forum is well placed to address the challenges facing cities and to advance the cause of sustainable urban development. We have ideas and best practices to guide us, including participatory planning, "green" architecture, cooperative housing finance and successful instances of inner city revival. Together, we must scale up our efforts, and make our urban planet more just, equitable and sustainable for all its inhabitants. In that hopeful spirit, please accept my best wishes for the success of your important deliberations.

Governments (all levels) - 1,497
Parliamentarians - 63
Local Authorities - 1,534
Professionals and Research - 1,442
Non Gov't Organizations - 2,289
Private Sector- 1,187
Foundations - 95
Media- 346
Inter- Governmental - 31
United Nations - 379
Other Participants - 753
Canada Secretariat- 73
Total participants - 9,689


The conference speaker list included many high profile Africans. Here are just some of the people who shared their expertise and experience with participants at WUF3:

Contact numbers and some biographies available.

Ali   Mohamed Shein: Vice President, Government of Tanzania

Harriette  Amissah Arthur, Director, KITE, Ghana

Mary  Balikungeri: Rwanda Women's Network, Rwanda

Tasneem  Essop: Minister of Environment, Planning and Economic Development, Government of the Western Cape, South Africa

Eric   Falt: Director of the Division of Communications & Public Information, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Kenya

Bhekokwakhe  Hamilton Cele: Transport Safety and Community Liaison Officer, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Lamine  Mbassa: Director of Economic and Financial Affairs, Communauté Urbaine de Douala (CUD), Cameroon

Jean-Pierre  Mbassi: Secretary General, United Cities & Local Governments Africa

Smangaliso   Mkhatshwa : Councillor of Tshwane, South Africa

Abbès   Mohsen: Mayor of Tunis, Tunisia; President of the Féderation Nationale des Villes Tunisiennes, Tunisia

Rose  Molokoane: South African Homeless People's Federation, South Africa

Maria  Mutagamba: Minister of State for Urban Employment & Poverty Alleviation, Government of Uganda, Uganda

John  Pombe Magufuli : Minister of Housing, Lands and Human Settlements, Government of Tanzania, Co-Chair WUF 3

Lindiwe  Sisulu: Minister of Housing, Government of South Africa

 Examples of urban sustainability were just outside the doors of WUF3. Delegates saw how a waste water treatment plant works or cycle around the University of British Columbia campus. Free guided tours took them off the tourist track to see why Vancouver is one of the most sustainable cities on the planet.

WORLD MAYOR AWARDS- AFRICA; Finalistgs 2006:  Mayor of Antananarivo, Madagascar; Johannesburg, South Africa; Maputo, Mozambique; Tunis, Tunisia

Under the current local government reforms in Africa, Mayors and Councillors are key actors in establishing strong and sustainable local governments. They have a dual role of democratising local government and fostering local development. They represent the citizens and are supposed to provide both political and economic leadership; have an appreciable level of civic knowledge with the ability to manage public affairs; and create an environment for maintenance of peace and security in their jurisdiction. However, until the late 1980s, it was never conceived that representation of ordinary people requires a mayor or a councillor to have extraordinary skills. This was possibly due to the fact that their engagement was on a part time basis and for a fixed term of one or two years. Many elected officials come to local authorities without prior management skills or knowledge of local government systems, or knowledge of national priorities and goals.

MAYOR'S OUVERHAUL OF ADDIS ABABA: Executive Mayor Arkebe Oqubay



UN WUF3 Newsletter