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Conference highlights importance of sustainable urbanization across globe

The second session of the UN-Habitat (Human Settlements Program) Assembly has commenced in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, attracting over 5,000 representatives and ministers from many nations.

The five-day assembly was inaugurated on Monday by Kenyan President William Ruto, who emphasized the significance of enhancing UN-Habitat's capacity to support member countries in advancing sustainable urbanization.​​​​​​​

During his opening remarks, Ruto shed light on the specific challenges and opportunities faced by African nations in the realm of urbanization.

With Africa experiencing rapid urban growth, he stressed the urgent need to prioritize sustainable urban planning and development across the continent.

"Urban centers have always held the most intense concentrations of both the best and the worst human possibilities: wealth and poverty, well-being and suffering, dignity and misery," Ruto said.

Vice President of Botswana Slumber Tsogwane, for his part, said: "For Africa, if urbanization doesn't come with digital economic transformation, mindset change, and the industrialization dynamic as expected, it will be a missed opportunity."

He stressed the importance of integrating digital technologies and fostering industrial growth alongside urbanization to unlock Africa's full potential.

"Our efforts require complementary solutions that include all stakeholders. It cannot be business as usual. We need to inspire the coming generation to actively participate in shaping sustainable urbanization."

Maimunah Sharif, the executive director of UN-Habitat, echoed the call for cooperation and emphasized the importance of human rights in sustainable urbanization efforts.

"We need member states to prioritize national and local cooperation as the basis of a just transition. Let us never forget human rights and the UN Charter as the foundation for sustainable urbanization," Sharif emphasized during her address to the assembly.

Addressing the magnitude of the challenge at hand, Sharif added: "The challenge before us is enormous. the only way we can achieve positive and transformative impact on the ground is not to go at it alone but to embrace multilateral action."

The second UN-Habitat Assembly aims to build on the progress made since its inaugural session, focusing on implementing the new urban agenda and the sustainable development goals set forth by the UN.

The gathering also provides a unique opportunity for member states, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders to forge partnerships, share experiences, and shape policies that promote sustainable urbanization, according to the UN. By Andrew Wasike, Anadolu Agency

Trucks cruise along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway as they deliver cargo from the port on September 29, 2022. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG

Kenya’s goods trade surplus with Africa reached record levels in the first three months of the year driven by the fastest growth in exports for 12 years and a first fall in expenditure on imports in three years, official data shows.

Traders sold goods worth Ksh98.85 billion ($712.69 million) to African countries in the January-March 2023 period against an import bill of Ksh61.72 billion ($444.99 million), according to provisional data collated by the Central Bank of Kenya.

Earnings from exports in the period were 23.33 percent higher than the previous year, the strongest growth since 2011, while imports fell 6.02 percent year-on-year from Ksh65.67 billion ($473.47 million) in 2022.

This resulted in a merchandise trade surplus of Ksh37.14 billion ($267.77 million) for the review period, a 156.45 percent climb over the same period last year.

The widening gap in exports and imports largely helped with increased goods trade with Uganda amidst a drop with Tanzania, the data suggests.


A faster growth in exports to the continent than imports, economists say, protects job opportunities for locals and eases pressure on the shilling.

Pushing for more integration

This has come at a time President William Ruto has taken a leading role in championing the removal of trade barriers among African countries to ease the movement of goods, services and labour through the integration of regional trading blocs.

The integration is aimed at creating the world’s largest single market of about 1.4 billion people with an estimated economic output of more than $3 trillion (Ksh415.2 trillion) under the ambitious African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

The trade diplomacy adopted by Dr Ruto is a continuation of a policy initiated by his predecessor, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, who on June 8, 2018, led the country in presenting documents ratifying the proposed Comesa-East African Community- Southern African Development Community tripartite free trade area to the Comesa secretariat.

Upon the attainment of the tripartite deal which will create a market of 27 countries, Nairobi plans to lead the way in pushing for more integration with other regional blocs including the Economic Community of West African States and the Maghreb [which covers Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, but excludes Egypt].

Analysts have, however, cited a weak business environment characterised by elevated interest rates, high and unpredictable tax rates as well as bureaucratic red tape in many African countries as the biggest hurdles to realizing the free flow of goods on the continent.

Read: AfCFTA calls for removal of visas to ease logistics

“Cultural and language barriers also make it tough to appreciate the market opportunities,” said Ken Gichinga, chief economist at Mentoria Economics.

Trade value

Africa accounted for Ksh160.57 billion ($1.16 billion), or 19.41 percent, of Kenya’s Ksh827.20 billion ($5.96 billion) total trade value in the first quarter of the year, modestly growing from 18.27 percent in the prior year.

Uganda remained the country’s largest destination, accounting for nearly a third of goods exports to Africa.

Kenyan traders trucked goods valued at Ksh30.96 billion ($223.22 million) into Uganda in the three-month period, a 50.09 percent growth over the same period last year.

Kenya largely exports vegetable oils, fuel, pharmaceuticals, iron and steel as well as paper and paperboard to the land-locked country.

Imports from Uganda such as dairy products, eggs, sugar and wood amounted to Ksh10.62 billion ($76.57 million) in the review period, a growth of 34.20 percent year-on-year.

The CBK data shows that goods that Kenya sold to Tanzania flat-lined at Ksh14.00 billion ($100.94 million) compared with Ksh13.95 billion ($100.58 million) in the prior year, while imports contracted 32.66 percent to Ksh7.99 billion ($57.61 million).

Kenya mainly imports cereals, vegetables and wood from Tanzania, and it exports pharmaceutical products, plastics, iron, and steel to the neighbouring State.

Read: Kenya's economy booms as Tanzania softens borders

South Africa remained Kenya’s top source market on the continent, with Kenyan traders bringing in goods such as vehicles and spare parts, minerals, fuel, iron and steel as well as machinery valued at Ksh16.52 billion ($119.11 million) in the review period.

The value of exports from Africa’s foremost economy was 6.85 percent lower than Ksh17.73 billion ($127.83 million) a year earlier.

South Africa was followed by Egypt which exported goods such as plastics and sugar worth Ksh11.57 billion (83.42 million) in the three-month period, a marginal 3.06 percent growth over Ksh11.23 billion ($80.97 million) the year before.

Africa’s under-developed transport networks have been blamed for raising the cost of goods and services by as much as 40 percent, rendering intra-African trade uncompetitive compared with trade with developed continents such as Europe.

For example, the first consignment of Kenya’s value-added tea to Ghana which left the country last October reached Port of Tema in February this year, underlining the infrastructural, security and tariff hurdles hampering intra-African trade.

“This is why we must take such barriers as weak transport and logistics capacity, customs-related delays, rules of origin, import bans and export restrictions, quotas and levies, technical barriers, import permits and licenses, very seriously because they ultimately reverse all the depths we try to make towards a free trade area,” Dr Ruto told Africa’s trade ministries’ officials and private sector leaders in Nairobi on May 29.

“They may look small, incremental but their sum total amounts to a reversal of what we are trying to achieve.” Business Daily


Residents of Nansana Municipality have cited the delayed conclusion of cases, travelling long distances and failure to reclaim bail money as some challenges faced as they seek justice in courts of law.

They revealed these before principal judge Dr Flavian Zeija who was officiating at the Nabweru Chief Magistrate's court open day. During the open day, the judiciary visits communities to get feedback about their services and challenges faced by the court users in relation to the dispensation of justice.

The locals further told Zeija that they donated land for the construction of Nabweru Chief Magistrates court but when its operations started, the court instead started hearing cases from Nansana Municipality. And when Nansana Grade One Magistrate's court was established, there was confusion on which court should hear cases from the three divisions.

Besides the Nabweru and Nansana courts, sometimes residents are informed that their cases will be heard from Wakiso Magistrate's court which is far from them. Dr Zeija said that plans are underway to re-gazette all the magisterial areas in the country such that court users will no longer have to travel or trek longer distances to seek justice.

As of last year, Uganda's total case backlog stood at 50,592 cases (30.11 per cent) against 168,007 pending ones. Zeija also said that they plan to amend the laws governing magistrates court such that their mandate or powers are expanded from hearing cases whose value is not more than Shs 50 million to cases with much value. He has also cautioned judicial officers against being rude when handling litigants.

At the same event, different players in the justice system including Uganda Law Society, Uganda Police Force, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Uganda Prisons Services explained to the community about their different roles as institutions and what the public should expect from them.

Simon Peter Siima, the assistant OC of Luzira Upper Prison said that they receive complaints from the public about prisoners who have been released before completion of their respective sentences.

Siima said that every person convicted and sentenced to serve a jail term in prison is entitled to remission which is a third of the punishment imposed by the courts. He explained that if the prisoner conducts himself in a good manner, they can have their sentences reduced.

Musa Mulangira Kanakulya and Expedito Kizito Salongo the local council leaders in the area decried the low pay, saying that they earn only Shs 10,000 and that lawyers normally come and execute agreements with their area residents without their involvement, especially in land transactions.

However, Zeija said that issues of low payments should be addressed to the resident district commissioner. He further said that matters to do with lawyers should be addressed by the Law Council which is charged with regulating the conduct of advocates. - Judith Kukunda, The Observer

Uganda’s Acting Ambassador to Somalia, Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Nathan Mugisha, noted that the Uganda troops remain firm in their resolve to fulfill the ATMIS mandate despite last week’s attack on their base

The SRCC and Head of the African Union Transmission Mission (ATMIS) Ambassador Mohamed El-Amine Souef, together with Uganda’s Acting Ambassador to Somalia, Maj. Gen. (Rtd.) Nathan Mugisha, and the ATMIS Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Sam Okiding have visited soldiers recovering at the Level II Hospital following the recent attack on the Buulo Mareer Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Lower Shabelle region.  

“Their conditions are improving, and moral is high. We take this opportunity to express both our sympathy and solidarity, and to also condole with the government and people of Uganda for the loss of lives last week,” said Ambassador Souef.

We will continue with the Somalia stabilisation processes, supporting the Federal Government, the Somali National Army, and the people. The officials were briefed on the recovery status of the soldiers by the Commanding Officer of the Level II Hospital, Lt. Col. Dr. Godfrey Ssemakula Ngobya. Those in need of specialised care have already been airlifted to hospitals outside Somalia. 

Uganda’s Acting Ambassador to Somalia, Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Nathan Mugisha, noted that the Uganda troops remain firm in their resolve to fulfill the ATMIS mandate despite last week’s attack on their base. 

“We are containing the situation, reassessing, and proceeding as scheduled. The incident will not distract us. We will continue with the Somalia stabilisation processes, supporting the Federal Government, the Somali National Army, and the people so that they can have stability, economic development, and transformation,” Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Mugisha said. Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).

Ibrahim Byomugabe points to the ruins of the Ten Commandments of God Church. Cross-Cultural Foundation honours institutions that protect Christian heritage. PHOTO | ELIUD MAUMO | NMG

Ankole Diocese has been honoured at the 2023 National Cultural Heritage Awards for establishing the East African Revival Museum in Mbarara District, western Uganda.

The diocese which is part of the province of Church of Uganda took the top prize for launching the African Revival Museum — that preserves the country's Christian heritage — in 2016.

Ankole received the Tangible Cultural Heritage prize during the fifth National Cultural Heritage Awards ceremony held at the Ham Mukasa Historical Residence in Kampala on May 25, 2023.

The first and second runners-up in the Tangible Cultural Heritage category were Hana Longole, the proprietor of the Ateker Cultural Centre, and the College of Health Sciences at Makerere University respectively. On top of a plaque, each winner received a cash prize worth Ushs2.5 million ($668).

Longole was recognised for her lead role in the establishment and management of the not-for-profit centre in Moroto District, eastern Uganda. The centre preserves the culture of the Ateker communities— Karamoja of Uganda, Turkana (Kenya), Toposa and Joe (South Sudan), Nyangatom (south Ethiopia), and other pastoralist groups in Africa.

The centre focuses on cross-border engagement, promotion of community museums and heritage homes. By BAMUTURAKI MUSINGUZI, The East African

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