African countries need to reform their urban planning laws: UN Habitat

UN urges Africa to revise urban planning laws
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NAIROBI: United Nations has urged the various African governments to revise their existing urban planning laws so that they adequately reflect the development on ground.

“It is unfortunate that most country’s urban planning laws are non-existent as what exists were done in the colonial era,” said Robert Lewis-Lettington, Unit leader, Urban legislation at the UN habitat. He also highlighted that most African countries do not have a strong urban planning system in place, revealing the fact that land use compliance is high at 85 per cent in urban central business districts and low at 38 per cent in the city peripheries. “UN-Habitat is ready to assist countries but only with approval of the local and national governments,” he added.

After sampling 18 countries in the region, only South Africa’s Johannesburg has attained full implementation of the required plans while important parts of the planning system are non-functional in the majority of the 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,” said Lewis-Lettington.

The inspection revealed a severe shortage of professional city planners in most of Africa. On an average, 36 professional planners are employed in the African cities with the exception of Lagos, Nigeria, where 613 are employed. “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,” the UN representative suggested at the ongoing first UN Habitat Assembly in Nairobi.

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