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UN urges African countries to revise urban planning laws

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The United Nations on Thursday urged African governments to revise their urban planning laws to reflect the current development on the ground.

Robert Lewis-Lettington, unit leader, urban legislation unit at the UN Habitat, said that in most African countries, legal system was not working.

“It is unfortunate that most country’s urban planning laws are non-existent 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.

He revealed that in the 18 countries that were sampled in the region, only South Africa’s Johannesburg had attained full implementation of the required plans while important parts of the planning system were non- functional in a 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.

He said that land use compliance was high at 85 percent in urban central business districts and low at 38 percent in the city peripheries.

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

He said Ugandan capital city Kampala was likely to run out of space in the next 10 years due to dense urbanization.

Lewis-Lettington decried the low level of professional staff, adding that there was need to make the number adequate to effectively respond to local needs and priorities.

The official revealed that SSA had an average of 36 professional planners in the cities with exception of Lagos, Nigeria, that had 613.

“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.

The UN official added that this would allow the legal and regulatory frameworks to adjust to changes in local capacity.

“It is time that African countries 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.

Source: GNA

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