“What has worked yesterday, might not work today,” said Jeff Radebe, South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency responsible for planning, as he opened the five-day meeting.
Radebe warned that if development does not match population growth, future cities will face more crumbling infrastructure and social unrest.
Another key topic for the meeting is climate change. Among the delegates was Deputy Mayor of Paris Patrick Klugman, who described the French capital as “arguably the most African city outside of Africa” because of its high population of African immigrants.
Speaking ahead of the climate talks, scheduled to begin in Paris on Monday, Klugman said environmental sustainability is key to building future African metropolises.
In the wake of attacks in Paris and Mali’s capital Bamako, urban security is also on the agenda. Citizens isolated by poverty are vulnerable to extremism, said Khalifa Ababacar Sall, mayor of Senegal’s capital Dakar.
“What the international community forgets is that these people are the first victims,” Sall said. “To combat this, we could provide better education, better social development.”
Today, more than 400 million Africans live in cities, according to the African Development Bank. Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Kenya’s capital Nairobi and the Congolese capital Kinshasa are Africa’s fastest growing cities, it said.
The meeting has been held in various African cities every three years since it was launched in 1998 in Abidjan, the largest city of Ivory Coast.