Cities are important and a measure of development. They can be the engine of economic growth, innovation and places of science and health. Promoting the role of cities to development should be a fulcrum for inter-regional policy discourse. Cities are the transit for international travels, embracing people of different cultures and hubs for technology innovation. Therefore, there is a need for Africans to prioritize urbanization to transform economies for trade and tourism.
Africa’s urbanization has not been unique when compared to developed countries in Europe. There’s a slower pace to infrastructure development and urbanization than the global average. This obvious difference in urbanization has had implications for service delivery, trade, business and aviation.
The activation of the city-city diplomacy for the unique European cities to support Africa’s infrastructure priorities of health, transport, security, education and technology is key to deepening integration.
It is imperative to note that the first place everyone is willing and yearning to make a living are the cities. Inter-regional integration and urban cooperation between the European Union and African cities rarely become a priority.
Most EU aid to Africa are for infrastructure and economic recovery programs. The missing link of connecting Africa’s urban and commercial centres to EU city infrastructures continues to reduce the intentions of investments into failed government programmes.
The International Urban Cooperation (IUC) seems to be creating a good integration with countries in Asia, Latin America, Caribbean and North America. The African countries are missing in the three-year urban diplomacy programme. Not even South Africa or Egypt made it on the list.
It is also imperative for the EU to equally build its external relations with African cities through the three pillars of “city-city cooperation on sustainable urban development, sub-national action under the global Covenant of Mayor Initiative and the inter-regional cooperation on innovation for local and regional development.
It will be a more appropriate strategy to prioritize Africa’s urban development as part of inter-regional integration agenda. Africa lacks behind in urban development and city planning that promote ease of doing business.
Because of this, the African Union has prioritized the integrated high-speed train network to help connect African cities to facilitate the movement of goods and people across borders as part of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). This is to be achieved in the ten-year implementation plan of the Agenda 2063 of Africa.
The Infrastructure Trust Fund (ITF), which was set up in 2007, had evolved without inclusive urban diplomacy between Africa and Europe. Since the establishment of the ITF what is also often called EU - AITF in 2007, over 123 grant operations have been approved in sub-Saharan Africa, in four sectors of activity including energy, water, transport and ICT.
These investments by the EU into basic developmental needs have failed to promote urban development or conscious urbanizations as part of giving facelift of African cities for regional impact.
Inter-regional city relationship with Africa has also not been on the dialogue table of infrastructure development. The significance of Africa’s infrastructure needs has always tone the line of education, health, energy and governance.
The EU and its allies should engage the private sector and multinational corporations to play an active role in infrastructure services and urban-driven policies to transform cities for global cooperation.
The Private sector can mobilize investments to bridge the urban infrastructure gap through an initiative to be called Private Sector Urban Transformation Fund.
The African Union (AU) must also initiate urban competitive metrics to make African countries prioritize urban diplomacy. As countries in Africa have embraced the AfFCTA, the EU would like to deepen its trade relationship and city to city diplomacy should lead the agenda as part of infrastructure development on the continent.
Each EU country should adopt a city in Africa and shape its development to stimulate growth, business and trade.
The recognition that Africa could benefit from EU experience in terms of a methodology (such as that from the Trans-European Networks -TENS) for identifying priority projects and the principles for consensus-building on the harmonisation of regulatory frameworks.is important .
A desire for coherence between investments at continental and regional level and national strategies for the development of infrastructure and combating poverty should be discussed at the Africa-Europe Summits.
Again, National governments have a role to play. It is essential for the Government To establish adequate policy and regulatory frameworks and contractual arrangements, and for the ultimate responsibility to meet the population's basic needs. It involves establishing the appropriate institutions, including the relevant regulatory bodies.
Author: Peter Bismark is into private sector policy research and an international conflict analyst. His interest includes Africa's economic prosperity and Inter - regional integration.
Photo credit: Council on foreign relations