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How to make planning law work for Africa

As competition for land intensifies in Africa's rapidly growing towns and cities, planning laws assume a fundamental importance. They determine how urban growth is managed and directed. In most countries outdated, inappropriate, and unintegrated laws are exacerbating urban dysfunction.

The reform of planning law is frequently advocated as a necessary step for better management of urbanisation in Africa. But reform initiatives consistently founder. This is inevitable, given the approaches adopted. The promotion of "one-size-fits-all" and "model" planning laws from outside the continent has not served Africa well. Invariably, it has created further legal uncertainty and a series of unanticipated, often pernicious consequences. This Counterpoint argues that more progressive, realistic urban planning in Africa will require a radically different approach to planning law reform. This is essential for sustainable and equitable urban development in Africa. Read more.

Africa's urban planning

With urbanisation becoming a rising topic on the research agenda it is interesting to see how new models for urban planning, and laws, are being constructed. Recently, an event by the African Research Institute raised such ideas. The speakers introduced how the contextual diversity across Africa required exploration, and consultants need to focus on adapting a checklist of rule making, rather than make the rules, in planning Africa's emerging cities. Current African cities were presented as 'un-planned', or in need of a re-visioned approach to become inclusive and equitable. Urban planning was the solution — a means of enabling tax reform, effective management, and equal rights to the city. However, urban planning law needed to be re-written to work for 'African cities'. Read more.

Who will plan Africa's cities?

Vanessa Watson and Babatunde Agbola

Africa's cities are growing — and changing — rapidly. Without appropriate planning, they will become increasingly chaotic, inefficient and unsustainable. In many countries, planning legislation dates back to the colonial era. It is ill-equipped to deal with contemporary urban problems. A shortage of urban planning and management professionals trained to respond to urban complexity with progressive pro-poor approaches exacerbates urban dysfunction. Read more.

An open Mumbai is a better Mumbai

I had the good fortune of walking along the Bandra waterfront in Mumbai last week with architect-activist P.K. Das, environmental journalist and neighborhood leader Darryl D'Monte, and Bandra Fort steward Arup Sarbadhikary. They were showing me some of the fruits of a long-standing effort to create more open space in Mumbai, where people can enjoy the outdoors and one of Mumbai's assets: its coastline. Read more.

Innovación urbana en Cali y Bogotá

Colombia ha experimentado una transformación extraordinaria desde la entrada del nuevo siglo. Los conflictos armados que se iniciaron a mediados del siglo pasado, y que se vieron agravados con la irrupción del narcotráfico y de grupos criminales organizados, generaron una ola de desplazados de las zonas rurales que buscaron refugio en las ciudades, y que se sumó a la migración natural que se observó el en resto del hemisferio. Las ciudades no pudieron absorber un crecimiento tan rápido, y sufrieron un deterioro acelerado en sus condiciones de vida, que se pudo percibir especialmente en ciudades medianas, como Cali, que disfrutaban de una alta calidad de vida antes de que se iniciaran los conflictos. Bogotá, como capital y mayor ciudad del país, atrajo el número mas elevado de desplazados, que se agolpaban desordenadamente en los barrios del sur. Ambas ciudades se convirtieron también en objetivo de los ataques de los grupos armados, y vivían en permanente jaque y aislamiento. Leer más.

Urban innovation in Cali and Bogotá

Colombia has undergone a remarkable transformation in the past fifteen years. The armed conflict that arose in the mid-twentieth century, aggravated by organized crime and drug trafficking, generated a massive wave of displaced people seeking refuge in the cities. This flow was in addition to the regular flow of immigrants from rural to urban areas that took place in Latin America as a whole during the same period. Colombian cities were unable to assimilate such rapid growth, and suffered a significant deterioration in living conditions. This was particularly so in medium-sized cities, such as Cali, which had relatively high living standards before the conflict erupted. Bogotá, as the capital and most populated city in Colombia, attracted the largest number of displaced people, giving rise to large slums in the south. Both cities became the target of attacks from armed groups, and became isolated under the fear of constant threat. Read more.

Rapper 'Vocal Slender' thinks the Lagos government can make a difference in Olusosun rubbish dump

"Welcome to Lagos" was a 2010 BBC documentary that introduced Vocal Slender to the world. Vocal – real name Eric Obuh – was a rapper by night, and a scavenger, at the Olusosun rubbish dump, by day. Read more.

Mafalala is the capital of Maputo — a story about city identity, cultural heritage and poverty alleviation

"Mafalala is the capital of Maputo," Ivan told me the first time we met in Mafalala, Maputo's oldest township. As in many other informal settlements, the population of Mafalala (21,000 inhabitants) lives in severely disadvantaged conditions, with insufficient and inadequate basic services and infrastructure, inadequate houses and social services, acute security and health problems, and high unemployment levels. Mafalala is, however, also a place of national pride and collective identity, with a rich history infused with the struggle for independence, a landscape marked by colorful historic corrugated iron and wood houses, and a multicultural population that live together in mutual respect for each others' traditions. Read more.

Networks of resilience, resilient networks

Everyone thinks resilience is a good idea. The problem is figuring out what we actually mean when we say it. That is, how do we take urban resilience beyond the realm of metaphor and into the realm of everyday planning and decision-making — the stuff with which we can build cities? Read more.

La importancia de un crecimiento económico sostenido e incluyente

La Revolución Mexicana no fue sólo el primer gran movimiento social del Siglo XX; fue el primero protagonizado por un país pobre, injusto e insatisfecho. Fue, por ello mismo, un movimiento para alcanzar la prosperidad, la justicia y la satisfacción. Fue también, el primer movimiento del siglo que supo aunar los derechos individuales y los derechos sociales. Leer más.