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Nakuru to host Kenya urban forum conference

Nakuru will host the first edition of Kenya’s Urban Forum Conference next month with over 5,000 delegates confirming attendance.

The organizers of the conference indicated that though the event will be in-person, they will also consider a hybrid format for virtual attendees to discuss substantive matters that will arise.

Governor Susan Kihika said the conference being organized with support from the State Department for Housing and Urban Development, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and the World Bank, was aimed at promoting urbanization as a positive transformative force for people and communities and was geared towards reducing inequality, discrimination and poverty.

She further said that the event which will be held in Naivasha from June 14 to June 16 will present a forum for policy makers, various professionals and political leaders to assess Kenya’s progress towards the UN 2030 Agenda and the AU Agenda 2063, which she added calls for urgent reflections on sustainable urbanization in Africa.

“The Kenya’s Urban Forum Conference reflects the shift in Kenya to devolve services and developmental focus away from capital cities. We expect high-level leadership dialogues that speak to the strengthening of sustainable development in urban areas because by getting it right, urbanization offers a chance to bring about socio-economic benefits that can spur development, eradicate poverty and protect the environment,” said Ms Kihika.

The conference dubbed “Strategic Pathways to Inclusive and Sustainable Urbanization in Kenya”, Kihika said will have several key thematic subjects that participants will deliberate on including urban infrastructure and services, urban planning and management, urban resilience, climate change and environment, urban governance and management and the land question.

Governor Kihika said the forthcoming summit is an important opportunity for the county and national government leaders and policy makers to reflect on Kenya’s preparedness to meet the challenges associated with rising populations moving into cities adding that the focus should be on building water systems, waste management initiatives, transportation, power suppliers and efficient service delivery.

“As Kenya’s population rises, we need to develop modern, sustainable cities to accommodate everyone. We need a modern, intelligent urban design that generates secure, affordable, and resilient communities with green and culturally inspiring living conditions for us to survive and prosper,” added Ms Kihika.

Secretary of Urban and Metropolitan Development, State Department for Housing and Urban Development Engineer Benjamin Njenga who is heading the Secretariat preparing for the conference, noted that Sustainable Development Goal 11 is all about making cities and human settlements more inclusive and self-sufficient.

It is projected that 68 per cent of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050. Cities are now overwhelmed with people, pollution and poverty leading to a decrease in the quality of life.

Engineer Njenga explained that the National Urban Development Policy envisions secure, well governed, competitive and sustainable urban areas that contribute to the broader national development goals.

He advised urban managers to advocate for good governance structures, social inclusion, spatial development, urban prosperity and environmentally sustainable cities adding that they need to ensure cities and towns are safe, inclusive, sustainable and resilient and they should move from planning theory to policy implementation.

Both the United Nations (UN) and African Union recognize that African towns and cities will host more people than the continent’s rural areas in the next two decades, bringing into sharp focus the level of preparedness of the urban centres to provide for the large populations.

The two bodies indicate that such populations will need food, shelter, security, healthy environments to live in, an efficient transportation system, reliable, cost-effective and clean energy, social amenities and employment opportunities.

They will also need effective political representation and governance structures, among others.

Kenya’s Urban Forum Conference is modelled on the World Urban Forum (WUF) which is the world’s largest urban development event, the first of which was launched under the UN Human Settlements Program in 2001 to discuss ways to address the challenges of accelerated urbanization, its impact on communities’ cities, economies, climate change and policies.

The WUF Forum is held every two years, with the participation of representatives of States, the private sector, regional and international financial institutions and civil society.

By Esther Mwangi and Sam Karanja

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