• Deal shows commitment to collaborative regional, urban development approaches
Nairobi and Cape Town recently signed a city-to-city cooperation agreement to enhance development collaboration.
An event hosted in Nairobi brought together Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja and Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis to mark the occasion.
"This [agreement] will allow us to remove any remaining obstacle to the free flow of people, skills and services between the two cities," Sakaja said.
On the other hand, Hill-Lewis acknowledged the common agenda in both cities centred on global competitiveness.
"Both our regions are tourism giants on the African continent, and both our cities are considered gateways to our countries' many attractions," he said.
"Nairobi and Cape Town attract a very wide range of visitors throughout the year, both cities have vibrant and well-serviced film industries, and our people are all a little sport-obsessed."
The partnerships between the East and South African cities come a few months after Kenya and South Africa agreed to a cross-border visa-free entry for up to 90 days, among other bilateral agreements.
With national airlines making daily trips between the two cities, the agreements promise to take the collaboration further.
World Population Review estimates the population of Nairobi to be over 5.3 million, while Cape Town is home to close to 4.9 million city dwellers.
While both cities offer dynamic startup and finance ecosystems, strong manufacturing bases, exceptional tourism services and are known for their cultural and sports activities, they also struggle with similar challenges.
These range from city organisation, water and sewerage management to urban settlement and development and joblessness. The new collaborative approach could go a long way towards propagating common development strategies.
Besides, the coming together of two of Africa's key cities is a significant boost to a new era of regional cooperation promoted by the two countries.
The recent Brand Finance City Index rankings had Cape Town as Africa's best city brand and the 60th best city globally. Both cities sport iconic landmarks, with Cape Town's Table Mountain an internationally recognisable brand in its own right, while Nairobi sports a national park and is a staging point for tourists headed to the iconic Maasai Mara, as well as to its palm-fringed, white-sand beaches, and to Africa's two tallest mountains, Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro. Nairobi also sports something that residents of Cape Town can only dream about: a high-speed rail connection, running to the Coast.
Hluma Ralane from the African Centre for the Study of the United States, an African think tank focused on Africa-US relations, underscores the relevance of the sister-cities paradigm in Africa.
"It covers public administration and governance, enables mayors to carve out a niche in the global economy, attracts business, talent and opportunities."
In a February summit in Cape Town, the Sister-Cities International initiative announced it sought to fast-track the establishment of 500 new sister cities across Africa in the next five years.
"In these troubled global times, both Nairobi and Cape Town will stand tall as centres of light, freedom and democracy on the African continent," Hill-Lewis said.