Why are developments always ahead of planning? Makerere University and its partners to address Urban Expansion Planning

Makerere University, together with the Ministry of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development and the Urban Authorities Association of Uganda (UAAU) are set to undertake an urban expansion planning drive that will result in better-planned cities and urban areas in Uganda.

A national workshop on Urban Extension Planning in Uganda financed by Cities Alliance was held on Wednesday 25th April 2024, in the CEDAT Conference Hall during which participants delved into the concept, the principles and importance of urban expansion, and its fundamental stages. They also explored the best practices for Urban Expansion Plan implementation and financial strategies.

Mr. Samuel Mabala from Cities Alliance delivering his opening remarks

During the discourse, the three implementing partners explained their respective roles in the project and made clear how best to engage with various stakeholders. It was explained that a network of One Hundred member change agents drawn from the public service, the private sector, and academia was formed and that this was to propel the realization of the tasks at hand.

The network, according to UAAU’s Francis Barabanawe will offer technical support to the physical planning Initiatives of selected urban centers, undertake the mobilization for the urban expansion program in the communities, and serve as a link between the city leadership and the communities. In addition to this, this network of change agents will be tasked with the duty of initiating relevant policies as well as mobilizing resources from the city authorities and development partners.

‘We are going to establish a business model that will realize resources to support the physical planning function of the network, with the urban councils as the proposed sources of money, in addition to grants from the central Government, the private sector, and landlords, he said.

UAAU’s Francis Barabanawe

He explained the relevancy of UAAU as an agency that complements Government programs and policies implemented in urban areas.  Urban physical planning is a core mandate in town councils, cities, and municipalities. The role of UAAU he said, was to ensure that the Urban Expansion Planning program succeeds and gets rolled over from the initial 4 cities and 1 municipality to cover all the urban areas in the country, undertaken by the network comprised of certified trainers and a business model for related technical services to the cities.

The Head of the Architecture and Physical Planning department at the College of Dr. Amin Tamale Kigundu said the 21st Century is about collaboration, and that as physical planners they may not be able to solve the problems but solutions and actions can be found through such networks.  He said a fund has been set aside to support the training of city leaders and offer opportunities for the students to undertake their internships there.

While expounding on the role of Makerere University in the program, Dr. Tamale said the University was to establish a knowledge hub. The program came at the right time with the establishment of Makerere University Regional Centre for Urban Research, Governance, and Innovation located at CEDAT. He said although challenging, the idea to set up a National Urban Research Centre, where all of the people can play a part was one way through which the university was to play a core role in Research, innovation, and Outreach.  The future of our countries lies in the cities because, in the future, most of our economic activities will be concentrated in the cities, he said and emphasized the need to get prepared as a country.

He said under the Urban Expansion Program, Makerere University is to establish a knowledge-sharing hub with a physical and an online component to enable the participating project cities to continuously share what they are doing in terms of urban expansion planning. They have to continuously share articles and dialogues about what is happening. The Knowledge Hub will be hosted by the Urban Research Centre.

Dr. Amin Tamale Kigundu, The Head of the Architecture and Physical Planning department, Makerere University

Under the knowledge hub, there will be training of trainers, who will promote this new teaching. He said the urban sector is faced with urban expansion planning as one of its biggest challenges because as cities are created, they are expected to expand but with no room for expansion. He said in most cities there is the urban area and semi-rural which lacks infrastructure hence the need for planning to have the city function as one unit.

‘As Makerere, we have been training ToTs in the four Cities, whose numbers will be expanded to include the students that complete their bachelor’s to serve as facilitators in the center.  The training manuals were prepared and are available to all to learn about urban expansion planning, in addition to other literature developed by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.  He said under the knowledge hub, advisory services will be offered to the project cities, Mbale, Jinja, Arua, and Gulu. There are over 600 towns recognized by Law and the Ministry of Local Government but what was taking place was chaos with a lot of expansion, lack of infrastructure, lack of services, and an ineffective governance system. Urban expansion planning, he said was needed in Uganda because stakeholders in the sector like the National Physical Planning Board were grappling with how to make planning work in the cities. When you go to the cities, there are plans but on the ground, the impact of these plans is not seen, he noted, while emphasizing the importance of offering the needed support to ensure that the plans work.

Dr. Kigundu explained that there was a need to change the way students are trained and that through curriculum review, especially in the Master’s program the program on Urban Expansion Planning was introduced and was going through the processes but yet to be approved by the National Council for Higher Education.

As part of the knowledge Hub, the issue of governance is important because if you have to change places, you need to have committed leaders, able to work collaboratively.  He said the University came up with a new concept note on training city leaders especially the town clerks, physical planners, and the mayor on the changing trends as well as city branding and marketing. He said Makerere University was ready to take leadership in the training on City planning, management, and leadership given that the majority of people managing cities especially Mayors were young and with limited experience and no international exposure. He said 12 modules on Civic planning and management were developed, including branding and marketing, conservation of the built environment, mobility and transportation, and connectivity. He said without an efficient transport system, the cities can’t be productive, cannot create new opportunities, and cannot address issues concerning climate change. 

Dean of the School of the Built Environment, Assoc. Prof. Anthony Gidudu

In his remarks, the Dean of the School of the Built Environment, Assoc. Prof. Anthony Gidudu said the training was contributing to the mission of teaching, research, and outreach through sharing expertise. He said improving urban governance required collaborative efforts by urban planners, land surveyors, and public health officials. He called for an increased interdisciplinary grouping of members.  Regarding attracting the best brains for planning, he said there was a need to change the narrative by proactively reaching out to schools to explain what the planning program is all about.

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Story by Harriet Musinguzi, Principal Communication officer CEDAT.