Reappraising Urban Planning and Urban Sustainability in East Africa

Title: Reappraising Urban Planningand Urban Sustainability in East Africa
Authors: Shuaib Lwasa1 and Cecilia Kinuthia-Njenga2
Keywords: Urban Development, Urbanization, Regional Planning
Issue Date: 09-08-2012

In recent times, sustainable urban development has been a major challenge confronting the African region generally. This situation is further exacerbated by Africa’s rapid urbanization at an average rate of 3.3 per cent per annum between 2000-2005. A rapidly urbanizing region, projected estimates indicate that by 2025 approximately half of the African population will be urban (UN-Habitat, 2008/9).

This outstanding demographic shift on the African continent, and particularly Eastern Africa, presents current and future challenges for urban and regional planning (Lwasa, 2008; Rakodi, 1997). Furthermore, according to theUN-Habitat State of the World’s Cities Report, 2006/7, rapid urbanization in Africa has occurred in the absence of a stable economic base though recent economic experiences show averagely high GPD rates for various countries.

With chronic poverty widely prevalent, urbanization and slum formation are inextricably linked (UN-Habitat, 2007). Compounding this situation current statistics indicate that slums grew at a rate of 4.53 per cent per annum while overall urban growth rates were 4.58 per cent in the same period (UN-Habitat, 2008/9) almost leveling the urban growth is thus synonym to slum growth.

Africa urbanism is increasingly characterized by endemic poverty levels, fragmentation of the formal economy, weak institutions, declining employment and non-existent or deterioratingservice provision (Clarke, 1995; UN-Habitat, 2009). But African urbanism also presents unique positive aspects and processes of urban space definition, use and spatial development patterns in which individual ingenuity for survival innovatively utilizes urban space in a productive way. These two strands of African urbanism present opportunities but also have created daunting challenges for sustainable urban development. Sustainable urban development in Africa and East African which would ensure social service provision, sustainable economic development, housing delivery, good urban governance, guided spatial development and urban environmental management. More recently urban development is challenged by mitigation and adaptation to climate change (Lwasa, 2008; Rakodi, 1997).

The urban sustainability question in East Africa will require well designed pathways for urban development. This also raises the critical question of whether existing theories, models and practices of urban development offer solutions to the development and planning needs in the African continent and Eastern Africa in particular (Lwasa, 2008; Akatch, 1995).
This chapter critically assesses the role and impact of urban planning processes in Africa generally, and Eastern Africa in particular, with regard to addressing the scale and magnitude of current urbanization challenges. The chapter broadly outlines the global perspectives on urban planning followed by emergence and nature of urban planning in sub-Saharan Africa.

An overview of urban planning instruments follows with emphasis on current approaches being applied and their possible impact addressing the daunting urbanization challenges confronting the region. The instruments are examined in context of current urban development experiences in East Africa critiquing the predominant masterplanning and structure planning approaches. Finally, the chapter outlines leverage points for innovative planning approaches for sustainable urban development and responsiveness to the urban realities of East Africa.

Presented at: Own Thesis defence


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