Minister Nabakooba pledges support towards the proposed Regional Centre for Urban Research, Governance, and Innovation (MURCURGI)

The Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development is committed to ensuring that the proposed Makerere University Regional Centre for Urban Research, Governance, and Innovation (MURCURGI) is fully established.

Hon. Judith Nabakooba, the Minister for Lands Housing and Urban Development

Hon. Judith Nabakooba, the Minister for Lands Housing and Urban Development expressed the commitment of her ministry and commended the individual efforts behind the establishment of the center both by staff of the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology, Department of Architecture and Physical planning as well as the development partners that include the European Union and the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)

The Minister was officiating at the closure of a public dialogue that provided a platform for discussing issues in urban development and greening Uganda’s cities held at the CEDAT Conference Hall, Makerere University on Thursday 6th June 2024. This was yet another event organized to further the process of establishing the center.

Most people who have advanced started in a small way but are bringing ideas that are turning the world around. We thank the brains behind this innovation and the Ministry will offer all the needed support, she said while recognizing the efforts by staff for the contributions made so far and the students who demonstrated their learning experiences through the work exhibited.

Hon. Judith Nabakooba inspecting Student Projects

She encouraged the students to further their experiences by addressing the physical planning issues that need urgent attention in the county. She said the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development was aggressively pursuing physical planning, especially in the new cities to make them reach the desired levels. The students will be handy in rendering support to these ongoing efforts especially drawing plans that are not only workable but stand the test of time.  She said planning was on the agenda of the government and hence the need to build the capacity of various players, a role that can be played by the centre once fully established.

The Minister heading to the proposed Centre Office

Nabakooba noted that the emerging urban development scenario had made urban governance challenging for planning, management and governance hence the need for knowledge and skills to work effectively towards addressing them within the estimated 27% of Uganda getting urbanized.

The Minister further observed that most of the new cities were financially and situationally weak in addition to inadequate capacity among staff.  She said the center through training and research will be pivotal and instrumental in shaping urban development strategies in the coming years.  Cities as engines of growth and prosperity should ensure that no one is left behind through social equity and equal access to opportunities. Cities should be able to provide an enabling framework ensuring the inclusion of human rights and smart cities in the agenda of 2030, she noted.
For the center to run sustainably, the minister proposed investing in financial sustainability programs and reimagining approaches to building vibrant cities in Uganda with the operation and maintenance of urban structures taking center stage.  

While addressing the participants on behalf of the Vice Chancellor Makerere University Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, Assoc. Prof. Moses Musinguzi, the Principal CEDAT congratulated the Department of Architecture and Physical Planning for the innovation. We have a lot of challenges and you do not need to be an urban planner to appreciate the challenges at hand such as affordability and quality of housing with the increasing numbers of people coming to urban areas. He said in Uganda we lack organized mass urban transport and productivity is affected by the long time spent in traffic jams, in addition to challenges of water and sanitation.  He said there was a need to prepare ourselves through research in these areas and that the center was relevant but overdue.

Assoc. Prof. Moses Musinguzi, the Principal CEDAT

Prof. Musinguzi said as a University, we have a niche in education and research to establish the best solutions to the urban planning challenges by influencing change. Through the center, the university can realize its mandate of teaching, research, and knowledge transfer partnerships.  He expresses the university’s commitment to supporting the process of developing the center which he said, would help in identifying the real problems and working closely with the right agencies and government to address them.

Dr. Kiggundu Amin Tamale, the Head of the Department of Architecture and Physical Planning at CEDAT said with support from Both GGGI and the European Union, they organized public dialogues in 4 cities of Jinja, Mbale, Gulu and Arua, conducted research activities on urban greening in Uganda at the Department, and 9 research papers produced,  development and preparation of the training modules and manuals for the training of urban managers in Uganda, conducted training for urban managers in the 4 cities on issues related to city planning and urban management, and preparation of a strategic business plan, purchased training and research equipment for the urban research center including 20 laptops, 3 desktop computers and many more.

Dr. Kiggundu Amin Tamale, the Head of the Department of Architecture and Physical Planning at CEDAT

Dr. Kiggundu noted that there were signs that the future economic status of Uganda would be defined and molded in cities and not in rural areas. Drawing examples from international experience, he explained that countries that established functional and efficient cities have been able to build stable economies, create numerous jobs, deliver better public services to the citizens, and establish strong economic linkages and connections with various countries across the globe.  He said the proposed Makerere University Regional Centre for Urban Research, Governance, and Innovation aims to undertake trans-disciplinary, cutting-edge, and pioneering policy research that will enable the formulation of relevant urban policies, fill the existing gap in urban policy analysis for improved decision-making and to serve as a regional think tank and an incubator for innovative urban development ideas. The center once established, will also strengthen the capacity of towns and cities through regular training targeting city mayors, town clerks, councilors, city planners, and other key stakeholders to produce a critical mass of change agents.

Dr. Kiggundu highlighted some of the upcoming events including the Training of the Next Generation City Leaders’ Training and Mentorship programme targeting city leaders in the new 11 cities. This he said, is aimed to produce a critical mass of change agents and leaders who are committed to city transformation. MOUs will be signed between the 11 cities and Makerere University focusing on issues of urban research, training and industrial training for our students

The other one is the Fundis and Informal Contractors’ Training Initiative which will target all the Fundis in Uganda to enhance their knowledge and skills in modern building design and construction technologies.

Group photo at the opening session

Also upcoming is the engagement and Training of Real Estate Developers in the Greater Kampala Region on issues like city planning and new construction technologies.  This will focus on issues related to modern housing design, new construction technologies, city planning, and management.

Further in the pipeline are Research activities targeting intermediate cities to create new knowledge and provide up-to-date data for quantifying decision-making.

By Harriet Musinguzi