Main Article Content

Planning innovation for better urban communities in sub-Saharan Africa: The education challenge and potential responses

S Lwasa


Cities in the sub-Saharan Africa region present challenges to the urban and regional planning profession, city managers, leaders, educationists and dwellers (Rakodi, 1997, 2001; McGill, 1988; Diaw, Nnkya & Watson, 2002). This is at a time when Africa is urbanising faster than any other region (UN-Habitat, 2008), calling for a rethinking of planning to
respond to existing needs. Although the current urbanisation level is at 39.1% (UN-Habitat, 2008), it is projected to increase to over 50% by 2025. This outstanding demographic shift on the African continent and particularly in the sub-Saharan region presents current and future urban challenges. In addition to the future challenges, the unresolved question
as to whether existing and much utilised models of urban development offer solutions to the planning needs in the region should be investigated, although it is important to recognise the failures of locally designed initiatives. The models have been critiqued widely (Brockerhoff, 2000; Arimah & Adeagbo, 2000) and this is not the focus of this article. However,
it is necessary to recognise that the planning profession has relied on these models through the planning education system. Notwithstanding the challenges of resources, leadership, and political dispensations, planning education systems have played a role in influencing and shaping urban development in the region. Although planning models have been
critiqued, planning education systems have received less attention in respect of their role in influencing the development pathways of cities in sub-Saharan Africa. Likewise, planning education systems have not adequately been viewed as points of entry in planning innovation for new urban Africa. Drawing from experiences of cities in the region, two urban development processes can be discerned: first, the explosion of some cities particularly former colonial administrative or economic hubs and, second, the fast growth of secondary cities. There are also many small rural trading centres and ‘hamlets’ with densities comparable to neighbourhoods of the large-cities. The latter, conceptualised in this article as urbanisation by implosion, is not properly accounted for in the national
statistical reports. Several drivers are responsible for this urbanisation, including population dynamics, legislative designation, and increasing densities in rural trading centres. The challenges of social service provision, sustainable economic development, housing delivery, urban governance, spatial development guidance and urban environmental
management are yet to be thoroughly analysed and rethought in planning education in the context of addressing the existing needs. This article examines the planning education system and how it has influenced the nature and shape of cities in sub-Saharan Africa, the outcome of which may not have substantively responded to existing needs. This article
will also identify possible points of innovation in planning education that may create a difference in addressing the existing needs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2415-0495
print ISSN: 1012-280X