By Jeckonia Otieno
Africa did not go wrong. The problem started when much of Europe and America failed to plan for people and instead started concentrating on planning for how people would move from one place to another. Africa then, instead of making a clean break, followed suit and most of the cities got it all wrong, hence the mess we now see. Many cities, instead of planning for people, have concentrated on planning for cars and how the cars will get space to move people from one place to the other. This has in turn meant that more infrastructural development is seen but it does not have a significant impact on the larger population. You find beautiful roads, which are clogged with cars yet there is a huge number of people who have to walk to work. This number is usually stuck in traffic jams, which in turn wastes man hours.
2. What is the main problem that needs to be addressed?
Segregation of land use is the biggest problem that face many cities, African cities included. We have created cities where there are extremes of social groups. These groups rarely mingle and one has no business with the other. The high-income group is not bothered about what happens at the bottom of the food chain.
3. What would you propose instead of segregation?
As opposed to segregation, the idea of mixed land use could be the solution to all these planning problems. Mixed land use means planning urban areas in such a way that people do not have to travel a long distance to go to work or to school or to play and relax. All these things can be done in the same area.
4. How will this solve the segregation problem?
In this case, there is planning for people. When you plan for people then there is social integration where all social classes share the same neighbourhood.
When this happens we would not see extremes of both sides — either very upmarket estates or slums — but a well planned location where one economic activity affects the other and they end up synergising because, after all, they need each other.
5. Wouldn’t slum upgrading be a better solution?
Slum upgrading will still mean that there is just one group of people from the same class living in the same area and this would not bring any sense of social responsibility to those outside that class.