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Time for counties to embrace New Urban Agenda

By David Ohito | December 14th 2017
An aerial view of the upgraded Kibra Soweto East Zone A with the backdrop of yet to be upgraded Soweto Zone B in Kibera slums, Nairobi County.

Urbanisation presents grave challenges to devolved governments.

The World Bank estimates that less than 50 per cent of residents of informal settlements have access to reasonable quality of water and sanitation services. 80 per cent rely on energy sources that are harmful to their health, 60-70 per cent are unable to afford proper health services while unemployment stands at 70 per cent.

Such a picture calls for the adoption of the New UrbanAgenda in which UN Habitat envisages cities that are “participatory, promote civic engagement, engender a sense of belonging, and ownership among all inhabitants, prioritise safe, inclusive, accessible, green and quality public spaces friendly for families and foster cohesion.” The Urban Areas and Cities Act (2011) sets the frame work for governance and management of urban areas and cities which provides for participation of non-state actors as nominating agencies of board members to urban areas and cities as well as members of ad hoc committees.

While the law envisaged creation of urban management boards, its creation has been long overdue.

The National Director of Urban Development Charles Konyango says boards will help deal with malpractices among professionals and help guide counties which lack employees well equipped to deliver.

“Counties must make urban centres engines of growth and make them self-sustaining through revenue generation,” he says.

Association of Professional Societies of east Africa chair Irene Wanyoike says APSEA will be keen to ensure nominees forwarded to county boards will safeguard public interest and ensure professional standards.

Civil Society Organisations under the umbrella of Civil Societies Organization Caucus for Habitat III in collaboration with the UN-HABITAT and the Kenya Alliance of Residents Association dialogued with the national government on the status of governance in the Kenyan urban areas.

This dialogue has generated common understanding on current status and plans for Board formation with a trigger for urgent action amongst the Non-State nominating agencies.

Civil Urban Society Development Platform coordinator George Wasonga argues that “devolution and decentralisation has potential to unlock opportunities to reverse inequalities while creating opportunities for growth, employment and better living standards.”

Absence of urban boards has presented a recipe for chaos, unplanned urban areas with poor drainage, lack of access roads, pollution and mushrooming of informal settlements among others.

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