The Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development, Honourable Mmusi Kgafela, led a delegation to the Tenth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF10) which was hosted by the city of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from 08 to 13 February 2020. The delegation constituted of officials from Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing Development; Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development; Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism; and Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services. The Forum was held under the theme “Cities of Opportunities – Connecting Culture and Innovation”. It was organized and convened under the auspices of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat). The Forum brought together Government Ministers, Local Government leaders, as well as the Private Sector and Civil Society to share experiences, with a view to learn from each other on innovative, inclusive and sustainable solutions to urbanization and housing challenges from across the globe.
The Forum focused the discussions on how culture can be infused with innovation and exploited to enrich and make meaningful contribution to the development of our cities and peoples. This was considered important to enhance action towards improving the livelihoods and housing situation of Batswana and the transformation agenda of Government.
Botswana took active participation in some of the side events and had an exhibition stall where the delegates demonstrated and shared information on the evolution and contribution of culture to the development of the cities and settlements, including housing development. While at the Forum, Hon. Kgafela made a presentation on “Implementing the New Urban Agenda (NUA) to drive Sustainable Change” and highlighted how the use of the “Kgotla” system for consultations as well as the preservation of cultural sites demonstrates embracing of culture and promotes inclusivity in our settlement and city development planning process. Minister Kgafela seized the opportunity to hold side meetings to discuss possible areas of partnership and collaboration that Botswana could benefit from. The Minister met the Deputy Executive Director of UN-Habitat and the Managing Director of Shelter Afrique among others. Interviews were held with some journalists where the Minister promoted Botswana as an investment and tourism destination.
The Forum culminated in the Abu Dhabi declaration which puts emphasis on harnessing the transformative force emanating from urbanization to foster sustainable, inclusive and resilient urban development. Culture was also recognized as an important ingredient to the urbanization process as it projects and protects the local identity, heritage, creativity, diversity of the cities and is a source of employment and economic development. Different constituents within the WUF10 which include international organizations, national governments, academia, governments, civil society and municipalities declared concrete actions towards publicity, monitoring, evaluation and reporting of the NUA. Botswana will utilize these learnings as it refocuses its development process and seeks to transform from a resource based economy to a knowledge based one.