The future of Planning in Africa and Developing Countries.

Fortunate Mooketsi


Since the dawn of 2007 urbanisation has took its toll on urban areas in which the number of people living in cities amounts to six billion out of the total world population. In 2050 it is estimated that 1.23 billion of this people will be in the city in which 60% of people in Africa will be city dwellers. Urbanisation is the greater challenge for planning in the world particularly Africa in which most of its countries are still developing. This however poses both an opportunity and challenge to African cites including the future of the city shapers.

This paper briefly discusses the future of planning in Africa under in the augmenting advent of urbanisation. It will denote the opportunities and challenges as a result of urbanisation including how the resolution of issues such as basic service provision such as water, health care, public transport, and housing infrastructure inadequacies and backlogs; including poverty alleviation, unemployment and pollution affect the future of planning as a profession especially in South Africa.

South Africa like any other developing countries in Africa is experiencing the negative impacts of urbanisation which results in housing backlog of 1.5 million. Housing provision issue is appreciating   exponentially at the rate of 178 000 units per year, according to Wilkinson 2014.  As a result there has been an increase in the number of informal settlements and dwellings (1.9 million) in cities, according to the census 2011. In Gauteng there is about 1.6 million people living in these informal settlements the resultant of rural urban migration and external migration in search of greener pastures. Additionally, urbanisation results in high unemployment rates (26.6% in South Africa, according to stats SA 2016), especially in urban areas in which cities like Gauteng experienced 23.6 % unemployment rates, according to Fin 24 in 2013. This in turn stimulates poverty levels which in turn leads to pressures to the existing health, water, energy (electricity), housing infrastructure (buildings) provision. Additionally, the previously disadvantaged in informal settlements are severely affected by these issues because of their illegitimacy.

To resolve these issues particularly in South Africa, a number of alternative solutions were explored egocentric to the provision of public transport, housing development and provision in order to tackle the problems in almost one solution. Using public transport to facilitate economic development, employment, housing provision to the poor and to reticth the fragmented city which was inherited from apartheid the Corridors of Freedom were introduced in 2013 to link people to employment opportunities and minimise travel costs to work through the development of integrated public transport nodal development bus rapid transport system. Additionally, this infrastructure will attract business investment along the corridors including the development of commercial office parks and low cost housing provision amongst others, at the second phasing of this programme. The results however, indicate private investment attraction at some bus stations such as the Rosebank and Sandton as being destination stations as compared to others which are gateway stations within the city of Johannesburg.

Subsidiary, the other negative result include the displacement of the poor as to make way for development to the city outskirts through the new township establishments known as mega cities exacerbating the apartheid spatial segregation patterns.

This mega city concept has however gained momentum in the resolution of the housing backlogs in the city as the second phasing of the corridors is put on hold due to its complex process such as land ownership in which appropriate land expropriation bill was enacted in parliament to facilitate the required land sales for the greater public good. Mega cities however, as mentioned above are often by the urban periphery where land is cheap and affordable for large scale housing developments.  However, these new cities are far from job opportunities, public transport as they will be newly established, services such as health care and schools.  In Brazil, mega cities such as Rio de Jenairo were in decline in 2005 accommodating only six billion people to the nearby mega city Sau Paulo (42km west of Rio) of 873 square km, 57 percent of which (500 square km), were populated between 1930 and 1962, in 2002. However, it also started declining to 10.8 million people due to crime, transport and land affordability and development issues for the poor back to the inner city.

Additionally South Africa with its volatile nature of the historical emancipation, constitutes the state with potential resistance to relocate to attract people to live in these megacities or going back to their former dwellings if proper mechanisms and incentives are not in place. These includes, the public transport linkages to employment areas such as the inner city, false promises and the development/infill of deserted buildings in the inner city which are potential breeding grounds for reoccupation by the former informal dwellers.

In conclusion, the future of planning in Africa is under pressure to respond to the ever rapid changing environment in urban areas not forgetting that in rural area challenges such as rural depopulation or decline resulting in potential “ghost areas” there are no strategies to keep people in rural areas or attract them to live there in their retirement age. Depending on the results and implementation of the resolutions strategies and initiatives of both urban and rural problems, the planning as a profession is losing its momentum. Already, not much is achieved cities are still facing housing shortages, infrastructure development and high traffic congestion, including pollution and poor basic services such as water, energy and sanitation as well as a urban sprawl. These solutions such as the mega cities exacerbate these issues especially urban sprawl and further spatial fragmentation. These can be attributed to structural challenges such as poor professional personnel and conflict of interests between officials due to lack of coordination as well as lack of commitment to complete projects such as the corridors of freedom before the initiation of other programmes in this case the mega projects. Additionally, planning operates in a very dynamic context and it struggles to keep up with the ever changing environment considering policy formulation and implementation takes time due to the procedure involved. So the nature of planning being both a procedural, political and science makes it cumbersome to implement policy as the solution to a problem is not a one size fits all, context has to be taken into consideration including the limited power planning holds, power is in politics to provide funding for projects. Often times, politicians are objective oriented and planners are at their back and call of their orders to realise their political aspirations resulting in poor planning.

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