The developmental role of local governments in urban communities will be high on the agenda at the 7th edition of the Africities Summit, which gets under way at the Sandton Convention Centre on Sunday, 29 November.

‘We have pulled out all the stops to ensure a warm Jozi welcome’Joburg has pulled out all the stops to ensure a ‘warm Jozi welcome’ for its Africities Summit guests and visitors, Mayor Parks Tau told the briefing. (Photo by Elias Nkabinde)Urban safety, eco-mobility, public transport, green buildings and skills development are among the topics that will be discussed under the Summit theme, “Shaping the future of Africa with the people: the contribution of African local authorities to agenda 2063 of the African union”.

More than 5 000 delegates from across the continent and the diaspora are expected in Johannesburg for the five-day gathering, including Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and former presidents Thabo Mbeki (South Africa), Jakaya Kikwete (Tanzania), Jerry Rawlings (Ghana) and Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria).

“More than ever before, African cities are at the forefront of rapidly accelerating change,” Executive Mayor Parks Tau said at a media briefing in Sandton on Monday, 23 November.

“Africa’s prospects in 2015 are remarkably different from what they were in 2000. African economies have grown at rates rivalling those of East Asia – averaging six per cent in 2013,” Mayor Tau said, adding that this growth was driven by a combination of natural resources, a vibrant services sector, rising private investment, increased exports and improved agricultural production.

Tau said the Africities Summit would bring the local authorities from across the continent together to exchange ideas on how best to improve development within government.

This year’s Summit had two major objectives, he said: to define shared strategies for improving people’s living conditions at local level, and to contribute to African integration at grassroots level, in line with the AU’s Agenda 2063.

“Agenda 2063 outlines a clear vision for Africa, which is rooted in a sober understanding of the lessons of the past,” Mayor Tau said. “This includes the changing position and role of Africa in a rapidly changing international system, and how far we still need to go to meet the needs of all African people.”

Among other things, the Summit will also push for the ratification of the African Charter on Values and Principles of Decentralisation, Local Governance and Local Development, which was adopted by AU heads of state and government in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in June 2014.

Delegates will also discuss the positions of African local governments on various issues, include the AU’s Agenda 2063, UN-Habitat’s African Urban Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals outlined in the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the agenda for the UN Climate Conference (COP 21) taking place in Paris from 30 November to 11 December.

“We have pulled out all the stops to ensure a warm Jozi welcome awaits the thousands of representatives of Africa’s 15 000 local government authorities expected to descend on our city,” Tau said.

The City of Joburg will be hosting the Summit together with the United Cities and Local Government of Africa (UCLGA) and the South African Local Government Association (Salga). Mayor Tau was accompanied at Monday’s briefing by UCLGA Secretary-General Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi and Salga Deputy Chairman Mpho Nawa.