• Though African urban centers are making progress in their efforts to achieve safety, there is room for improvement, a Durban forum set to address urban safety in Africa has said.

    Terrorism assaults carried out by Boko Haram, and Al Shabaab, the threat to albinos, xenophobic attacks, and gender-based violence remain some of the major challenges to African urban centers, the Director of Programs at UN-Habitat, Alioune Badiane, said Wednesday.

    “We abhor the revulsive attacks by Boko Haram mainly in West Africa and the Lake Chad region, the Al Shabaab in East Africa, xenophobic attacks mainly seen in Southern Africa and gender-based violence which is cross-cutting,” he said. Mr Badiane was delivering the keynote address at the official launch of the African Forum for Urban Safety (AFUS) in Durban, South Africa.

    He called on all concerned authorities and the general public to take xenophobia as a personal issue that they must addressed. “Nobody should be attacked for being different,” he said.

    “We have a long way to go before we can achieve safer cities in Africa. Rapid urbanization has undermined the urban agenda in addressing the safety concern,” he added.

    Crimes repel investors

    A recent report by Amnesty International detailed the depressing stories of people with albinism in Malawi, who live in fear of being kidnapped and killed for their body parts which are believed to cure and bring wealth.

    In April, Ikponwosa Ero an expert on albinos for the United Nation’s Human Right’s Council said that the situation in Malawi “constitutes an emergency, a crisis disturbing in its proportions.”

    The albino issue, also an act of terrorism, force the victims to live in isolation for fear of being attacked. Worst still, even in death the victims “do not rest in peace as their remains are robbed from graveyards,” she noted.

    Criminal acts and unguaranteed security in the urban cities chase investors away and keep prospective ones at bay; concerns that Mayor of Durban, James Nxumalo said are the biggest problem facing Africa’s urbanization

    “Many cities lose investors who cite crime and insecurity as reasons for not investing in our cities and towns. AFUS has come at the right time to help cities assure investors,” he said adding that his city would make sure the goals of AFUS are taken to the grassroots where the people live.

    On his part, Jean Baptiste Diouf, representing the city of Dakar, said the launch of AFUS was the culmination of some 20 years of tough negotiations. He noted that even though, there were many areas in Dakar facing acute poverty with the attendant problems of insecurity, the challenges were being addressed.

    Nairobi Deputy Governor Jonathan Mueke chaired a session on future tools, technology for data collection and monitoring. He urged cities to invest in such technologies and use the data collected for the wellbeing of the citizens.

    The Special Adviser to the South Africa’s Minister for Human Settlements, Prof Sipho Seepe, said local authorities held the key to success or failure of national government plans.

    “The formation of AFUS shows that Africans are now ready to take charge of their destiny. This is a commendable effort,” he said.

    At a press conference on the sidelines of the official launch, the Secretary-General of the United Cities and Local Governments- Africa, Elong Mbassi, asked African leaders to address insecurity and economic development to make their youths have hope in the continent.

    “Why do we leave our young people to reach such depths of hopelessness and what can our leaders do to arrest the situation?” he asked.

    Image credit: Timothy kisambira