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County towns need new guidelines to plan better for growth

EDITORIAL
By - Editorial | Aug 6th 2013 | 2 min read

When the Narc government assumed the country’s leadership in 2003, it launched the Economic Recovery Strategy for Wealth and Employment Creation (ERS) 2003-2007 which saw the economy grow from a miserable 0.6 percent in 2002 to the 7.0 percent mark reported in 2007.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita grew from $377 (2002) to $570 (2007) in the same period. It is notable that a significant concentration of the economic growth was generated in the cities and urban areas, with Nairobi contributing the bulk of this at about 60 per cent.

This growth pattern inspired the government to look at a more long-term development focus that would move the country from a low-income to a middle-income one comparable to the East Asian Newly Industrialised Countries (NICS). This long-term perspective to national planning, which is a marked departure from the conventional five-year planning cycle adopted since independence, yielded the Kenya Vision 2030. The period of the coalition government (2008 – 2013) served as the first five-year development cycle of Vision 2030.

Today, each county headquarter enjoys some semblance of urbanity. Unfortunately, all of them, including Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret, Nakuru, Kisii, Nyeri are unplanned and are faced with poorly planned spaces, mushrooming slums and shortage of water, housing, office space and even land for further investments.

The result is that for a road to be expanded to serve residents better, for example, houses must be brought down and billions of shillings spent to compensate real estate developers. This unnecessarily increases the cost of these infrastructure developments. That is money lost that could have been better used to pay teachers, police officers and nurses higher salaries. As the country takes on the implementation of the second Medium Term Plan 2013 – 2017, there is need to re-think its development priorities. While projections indicate that more than half of Kenyans will be resident in urban areas by the time Vision 2030 is actualised, it appears that at least Nairobi County, is waking up to the realisation that it needs a bold master plan for development.

There is need for the towns that were granted urban status under the now defunct Local Government Act Cap 265 — and will now be subjected to the provisions of the Urban Areas and Cities Act of 2011 as read with other relevant devolution laws — to follow Nairobi’s example. This reclassification alone does not provide respite to the many inadequacies that characterise our towns, ranging from poor basic services and inferior infrastructure to a lack of social amenities and housing.

In an editorial on July 25 2012, this newspaper questioned the delay in approval of the National Urban Development Policy. This should be an immediate challenge to the newly established Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development through determination of appropriate policy guidelines.

Since both the Lands and Housing Policies are in place, can the missing link of the urban development policy be filled to give hope to Kenyans that they will not suffer urban squalor and other ills associated with unplanned development come Vision 2030?

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