This is no mean feat especially because it is the first time an intermediary city is holding such an event.
Marrakesh in Morocco played host to the 8th Edition in the month of November 2018.
Africities has been dubbed the ‘largest democratic gathering in Africa’ whose one of its key objectives is defining appropriate shared strategies in order to improve the living conditions of people at the local level.Africities Conference
Now, for a place that has witnessed great transformation from the skeleton plan drawn under Charles William Hobley in 1899, the great city of Kisumu has metamorphosed into its present sparkling and dazzling state.
Africities has been dubbed the ‘largest democratic gathering in Africa’ whose one of its key objectives is defining appropriate shared strategies in order to improve the living conditions of people at the local level.
Undoubtedly, it provides Kisumu an opportunity to strategically sell and position herself as a tourist destination like the Biblical delta land of Goshen- Egypt most fecund!
The five day summit themed; “The Role of Intermediary Cities of Africa in the implementation of Agenda 2030 of the United Nations and the African Union Agenda 2063’ positions Kisumu in the world map.
In addition to being the Headquarters of the great Nyanza region, Kisumu’s location next to the second freshwater lake in the world – Lake Victoria sets it way above other prominent cities in Africa.
I agree with Prof Bethwell Ogot and his tome of well-written piece on Kisumu’s rich history in his evergreen piece ‘Kisumu 1901-2001: From an inland port to first millennium city’ that the development of modern societies is inextricably linked to the process of urbanization.
Hardly had Hobley imagined that Ugowe (as Kisumu was previously called) would many years later provide a platform for dialogue on decentralization and local governance that brings dignitaries of all cadres within and without the continent.
Interestingly, Hobley could only have boasted of the hastily erected grass thatched houses he constructed in today’s Bandani and Otonglo areas.
Previously known in those early days as Ugowe, the town acquired its present name from Port Florence in 1903 from a Luo word Sumo- loosely translated as the act of seeking relief from famine.
It was in the same year that Kisumu, among other towns in Kenya, was declared township under the East Africa Township Ordinance.
Sumo also meant that it was a place of barter trade according to oral tradition.
The city has now hosted several prominent persons like English statesman Winston Churchill (who visited Kisumu in 1907) and former US President Barrack Obama.
Kisumu’s growth by leaps and bounds deserves special mention in the pages of history.
The now Oginga Odinga street (then Victoria Road) and Jomo Kenyatta Highway (then Station Road) provide a panoramic view of Winam Gulf.
Local and foreign investors
Hobley is said to be responsible for the basic layout of Kisumu. In fact, he is credited for the construction of a number of prominent buildings, notably former Provincial Commissioner’s house- today the State Lodge.
Today, the city is home to both local and foreign investors who have found a conducive environment for commerce.
Ugowe town was from the beginning an enclave for Europeans, Asians, Goans, Arabs, Waswahili, Nubians and the Baganda who also made some significant contribution to its growth.
A few European firms and Asian traders benefited from another plan drawn in May 1900 which allotted them some plots. These were people who had traveled to Kisumu to build the Uganda Railway.
A prominent city within the greater Lake Victoria basin, the city is also the headquarters of Kisumu County.
Under the leadership of Prof Anyang Nyongo, this lakeside city has witnessed massive infrastructural developments giving the city its new look with plans to have it face the lake.
The County’s Physical and Local Land Use Development Plan will also undoubtedly enrich Kisumu to become a city of choice for all.
Africities is the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa’s flagship pan-African event held every three years in one of the five regions of Africa.
Kisumu’s hospitality is unapparelled and our guests are welcome to sample the beauty of this great lakeside city.
The writer is a communications specialist