EThekwini Mayor, Cllr James Nxumalo and Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Mr Lechasa Tseoli, opened the 2nd BRICS Urbanisation Forum and 3rd Friendship Cities and Local Government Cooperation Forum at the ICC on Wednesday.
The three-day conference (27-29 November), held under the theme “Towards sustainable urbanisation”, provides a platform for member countries, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS); to discuss the challenges faced by cities due to rapid urbanisation.
The conference aims to coordinate efforts to learn from best practices and access available technologies in order to better manage and plan for the rapid rate of urbanisation in the BRICS partner countries. The discussion will focus on themes such as building productive and sustainable urban economies; livelihood survival strategies in urban environments; creating inclusive urban spaces; decentralisation of powers and functions as well as spatial and economic interfaces.
Minister Tsenoli said; “The spirit of cooperation that BRICS represent must be exploited. Our meeting here must create the opportunity for us to expand this cooperation. From our different examples we must learn how to transform governance to create a better life for all. The agenda of the next two days is designed to the finding of solutions.”
He added that it is important that our urban development plans are not done in isolation of the plans to develop rural areas, and should be linked to the country’s National Development priorities.
MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in KwaZulu-Natal, Ms Nomusa Dube-Ncube said, “Looking at the commitment of the participants thus far, we are extremely upbeat about the summit. We believe that as the province, we will benefit from the experiences that are being shared by our BRICS counterparts on urbanisation. The discussions are proving to be quite fruitful in this regard, and indeed there will be long-term positive spinoffs in terms of how we do our urban planning going forward.
Mayor Nxumalo said, “This week’s deliberations will ensure that the voices of cities are key to the overall BRICS process of contributing to a new world order that deals with urbanisation in a manner that leads to economic growth, environmental protection and sustainability. We still have challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. I believe that the BRICS Urbanisation Forum and Friendship Cities Forum will contribute to our cities agenda for sustainability and a better life for all citizens.”
City Manager, Mr Sibusiso Sithole said eThekwini’s participation in the BRICS Forum is critical as it serves as a learning and knowledge sharing platform. “People are migrating to urban areas seeking employment and better living conditions at a rate faster than which cities can deal with provision of services. This poses a serious challenge in terms of environmental resources, water and sanitation, public health, housing delivery, amongst other issues. Food security is also threatened as agricultural land is developed. By participating in this forum the Municipality will be able to form partnerships to learn and share best practice with other developing countries on how to deal with these critical issues, build stronger communities and genuinely sustainable human settlements. It also provides an ideal networking environment to promote our city as a tourist and investment destination.”
Five cities from BRICS nations – Rio de Janeiro, Saint Petersburg, Mumbai, eThekwini and Qingdao have already established a cooperation partnership to learn useful lessons about the relationship between growth, poverty reduction and urbanisation from each other. These issues pose fundamental challenges to the BRICS’ societies, especially those that still have large rural populations. The experience of the other BRICS countries is useful in highlighting the role of the government in managing the urban transition to lift people out of poverty by strengthening national economies through concentrated activity and efficient infrastructure.