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From: AbdouMaliq Simone
To: GKD97 Network
Date: 25 March 1997

Changing African Cities

A brief introduction to the work of the Coalition for the Development of Urban Africa, 25 March 1997

Please find the enclosed for your information. We are particularly interested in exchanges concerning processes of engagement capable of generating new urban knowledge for transformation and development.

Thank you.


Africa has rapidly become an urbanized continent, and urban life brings the region's enormous vitality and imagination together with a wide array of challenges about how to make cities work and sustainable. In some ways, these challenges are not new, as urban inclinations in Africa have existed for centuries. But as the functions and dynamics of cities everywhere change, Africans must remobilize their skills, values and understandings so that their citiesare truly engines of growth, participation and livelihood in a globalizing world.


African NGOs, researchers, community groups and urban professionals recognize that they must consolidate the perspectives and visions that have been gained through many years of experience working with diverse communities across the continent. Many effective practices for providing essential services, managing the urban environment and promoting democratic governance have come to the fore in various neighborhoods and communities. But too often these initiatives exist as isolated instances. Now, what is required is a broader implementation, a "scaling-up&$34; of policies and programs that work across cities as a whole. If African cities are to be truly urban, than a process of diverse groups, sectors and institutions, including NGOs, municipalities and the private sector, working together in concrete partnership must be instituted at all levels. Linkages among African cities, as well as between them and other urban areas of the world must be strengthened. After all, Africans from all walks of life are moving back and forth between cities within Africa and throughout the world. This movement can be a ressource, a way of building connections between communities and of strengthening the power of Africans to make their voices and ideas heard. In addition, new efforts must be made to better understand how Africans are using their cities, how they produce livelihoods and work together, how they use the city and they how they understand their lives within them.


The purpose of the coalition is to bring together people and organizations at work in Africa cities. Since cities are places where so many activities happen side-by-side, then the best way for making them work is to encourage activists and professionals involved in development, government, education, culture, and health to also work side. The Coalition sees its main responsibility as bringing about concrete activities where this kind of work can happen.

The Coalition began with Habitat II. A year before the United Nations Global Conference on Human Settlements, which took place in Istanbul in June 1996, African NGOs involved in urban work decided to organize themselves as a regional body to try to make sure that African thinking and solutions were taken seriously by the international community. This body was known as the African NGO Habitat II Caucus. During that year the Caucus conducted a widespread exchange of information among NGOs throughout the continent, developing a program of activities in all stages of the Habitat II process which emphasized critical interchanges between different groups making up the key elements of the African social fabric. At Istanbul, the success of its efforts encouraged the Caucus to call for the organization of the Coalition and an ongoing program of activities.

Today, the Coalition counts the active participation of some seventy-five organizations from across the continent.


The Coalition program is made up of three components :

1. BUILDING AFRICAN APPROACHES TO URBAN DEVELOPMENT An information resource network which promotes an exchange of views, information and opportunities among researchers, activists, local authorities, women and youth groupings, and other professionals, and which is aimed at building inter-institutional working relationships within and between African cities. The aim is to strengthen advocacy at regional and international levels and cultivate innovative approaches and methodologies.

A program of capacity building and consultation with African urban NGOs and CBOs to maximize their ability to understand the implications of Habitat II, grapple with municipal-wide issues and dynamics, scale-up and mainstream local initiatives and practices, and engage in broad-based partnerships

A regional instrument for initiating and managing ongoing dialogues with key regional and international institutions on the implementation of effective approaches to urban development and to ensure an effective voice for the different experiences of African NGOs.


Assists NGOs in different cities to carry out urban development work at the level of the city as a whole, especially in areas such as infrastructure development, governance, and the provision of urban and human services, through enabling them to focus on the development of broad-based, city-wide partnerships. The program helps NGOs conceptualize, prepare and implement such partnerships=97where local authorities, NGOs, CBOs, researchers, professional associations, local institutions and the private sector share responsibility for the design, implementation and management of the process.

Assists NGOs to conduct the consultations with different sectors and communities, the research of key urban dynamics and the assessments of key urban indicators and institutional orderings necessary in order to put together viable partnerships.

Promotes an exchange of experiences, consultations, and comparative work among NGOs involved in this work in order to strengthen the understanding of processes necessary for effective development partnerships and for building stronger economic and cultural links between African cities.


A international network of urbanists and researchers concerned with Africa which collectively is putting together :

A visioning process which looks at what African cities could be, with an emphasis on making futures based on maximizing the strengths and resources that already exist.

Conducts and emphasizes investigations on different ways diverse sectors and economies can be linked across African cities and between African cities and those of different continents.

Examines the effects of globalization on the reshaping of and new opportunities for African cities.


The Coalition draws upon the accumulated experiences and expertise of a wide range of participating NGOs, researchers and other professionals, comparing and assessing their work, its applicability to different African cities, and disseminating documentation concerning this work across the continent. While new thinking and approaches are sometimes necessary, we also believe that much has been done already, and that it is a matter of letting people know about this work and what it takes for initiatives to be successful in their cities. Therefore, we would like to hear from you about what you are doing and what your future plans are. We exist in order to identify ways of assisting you do what you want to do and putting you in contact with the resources and expertise that might enable you to get the job done.


You can reach the Coalition at the coordinating unit in Dakar. Our details are :

Coalition for the Development of Urban Africa
@The Urban Popular Economy Program (ECOPOP)
BP 3370
Dakar, Senegal
telephone : 221-253200
fax : 221-253232
email : africaucus@enda.sn

c/o Programme ECOPOP
TEL: +221 25 32 00
FAX: +221 25 32 32
Email: africaucus@enda.sn