What happened last month?
WEBINAR: Where the two meet: lessons from the planned and unplanned city.
“We need to have more and deeper dialogue to understand the knowledge of informality and analyse what is working and not working.” Duván Hernán López, President, Recycling the City Network (RECNET) and NATURA Informality Working Group Lead
Africa’s urban transition is at a critical point. It is estimated that cities in Africa will house an additional 950 million people by the year 2050. This speaks to the fact that Africa is experiencing the fastest urban growth rate in the world. Urban informality in African cities poses a unique scenario and a significant challenge for how urban development actors must respond and adapt to rapid urban growth. First, we must build greater understanding of people’s everyday lives in informal contexts, and understand the motivations and realities that lead to this urban strategy. This understanding can contribute informed decisions and innovations in urban planning and public administration systems, that incorporate or shape, rather than directly challenge informal ways of being. The negotiation between planning and unplanned development, between actors in planned and unplanned contexts is an inspiring space that is shaping African cities into the future. Equipping urban officials and practitioners to hold this space between the planned and unplanned city, can go a long way in ensuring that future African cities are just, equal and accessible to all.
This session brought together perspectives from various practitioners in the urban development field including Duván Hernán López, President, Recycling the City Network (RECNET) and NATURA Informality Working Group Lead, Joseph Muturi, Chair of the SDI Management Board and National Co-ordinator, Muungano wa Wanavijiji, Kenyan Slum Dwellers Federation, Diana Mitlin, Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester and Associate Researcher at IIED, Charles Mariki, Principle Town Planner for the President’s Office – Regional and Local Governments, Tanzania, and Kevin Mutia, Professional officer at ICLEI Africa. It showcased how voices and perspectives from research and academia, urban planning practice, national and local government as well as community development offer a spectrum of understandings and visions of cities, and are therefore necessary for shaping inclusive urban planning practices. Ideas from various stakeholders including people living in informal settlements and unplanned areas need to be amplified and documented as part of any master planning and development process.
In contexts such as Tanzania, where only 25% of cities are planned and the majority of people live in unplanned areas, local governments and other actors have an opportunity to bridge the divide and address informality at this scale by incorporating stakeholders in the planning process. We need to try to understand how planning control activities can be devolved to local level. It is comfortable to work in silos but by working in intersectoral manners and across developmental sectors, we can realise better implementation of development plans. Developing a transdisciplinary approach for engaging with informality allows for better synthesis of social, economic, governance and environmental aspects.
Key take-aways from the session are that:
• Amplifying different stakeholder voices, particularly those that demystify the way of being in informal settlements and economies, is vital for bridging the divide between planners and those who engage in unplanned development
• Better understanding, by government and planning practitioners, of daily life in the informal sector can support development of city visions that are actually inclusive
• Political buy-in is a vital facilitator of change, and must be consistently sought and demanded
• Taking stock of small wins by different actors allows us to see systems change, however slow it may feel
• We must celebrate these wins, and expand and spread these approaches