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United Nations Warns Africa to amend urban planning regulations

NAIROBI—An official of the United Nations on Thursday warned African governments to improve their urban planning regulations and policies to reflect the current development on the ground in their respective nations.

The unit leader, urban legislation unit at the UN Habitat, Robert Lewis-Lettington, said that in most African countries, the legal system is dysfunctional.

“It is unfortunate that most country’s urban planning laws are nonexistent as what exists were done in the colonial era,” Lewis-Lettington said during the launch of the book on effectiveness of planning law in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) at the ongoing first UN Habitat Assembly in Nairobi.

Lewis-Lettington disclosed that in the 18 African countries that were sampled in the region, only South Africa’s Johannesburg has realized full implementation of the required plans and that important parts of the planning system are non-functional in most of African countries.

“Most cities in this region should evaluate the number of plans required by law against the number of planners available to prepare and maintain them to increase potency of the planning system,” Lewis-Lettington added.

He said land use compliance is high at 85 percent in urban central business districts and low at 38 percent in the city peripheries of most countries.

“UN-Habitat is ready to assist countries but only with approval of the local and national governments,” he added.

The top UN official said Ugandan capital city Kampala is likely to run out of space in the next 10 years due to dense urbanization.

Lewis-Lettington belittled the low level of professional staff working on land use and urban planning capacities in most African countries.   Adding, that there is need to make the number adequate to effectively respond to local needs and priorities.

“To overcome staffing capacity constraints, cities should match their degrees of autonomy and privileges to a set of performance indicators which should include budget management performance and service delivery performance,” he added.

“It time that African countries to decide what is good and workable for them given latest development demands than rely on relic plans that were done 90 years ago,” he added

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Michael Harrington

Michael Harrington is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.
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