• The Future of Cities Forum is an annual forum that seeks innovative solution to transform cities into more livable and sustainable spaces. • The Kampala chapter of the forum is the first ever in an African city, with the previous three having taken place in 2011 in Delhi, India, Burji Arab Dubai in 2012 and Hamburg, Germany in 2013.
By Julius Barigaba | East AFRICAN
With more people increasingly moving into cities in search of employment opportunities and to escape the deepening poverty levels in rural areas, challenges of unprecedented rapid urbanisation have emerged, leaving city planners and leaders fumbling for answers.
According to the United Nation’s 2014 World Urbanisation Prospects, 54 per cent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and over the next few years, much of the urban growth will take place in countries of the developing world, particularly Africa, which today has the highest rate of urban population growth, at 4.0 per cent per year.
However, this growth comes with more problems than governments can solve—housing, infrastructure, transportation, energy, employment, and basic services like education and healthcare—heaping challenges on the already stretched urban authorities.
Closer to home, East African cities are fast running out of space for expansion, and air pollution, traffic congestion and public transport failures have increased; it is such headaches that the forthcoming Future of Cities Forum (FCF) in Kampala from October 1-3 2014 will be looking to solve.
The FCF is an annual forum that seeks innovative solution to transform cities into more livable and sustainable spaces.
The Kampala chapter of the forum is the first ever in an African city, with the previous three having taken place in 2011 in Delhi, India, Burji Arab Dubai in 2012 and Hamburg, Germany in 2013.
Some 150 mayors, city planners, urban development experts, scientists, donors, private sector representatives and civil society leaders from the world’s cities will converge in the Ugandan capital to discuss key political and service delivery challenges for future urban development, not only on a global scale, but also for the East African region.
Minister for Kampala Frank Tumwebaze says this is a time for the country gives Uganda an opportunity for Uganda to shelve the tetchy politics of the capital city, which is an opposition stronghold, and focus on building partnerships that have enabled other cities transform, turning politics into better service delivery.
“We want you to know that what Kampala Capital City Authority is striving to do is not just to be a broom of its own, but is pursuing benchmarks globally required of any emerging city…In Kampala, we have tonnes of garbage, which is a burden not only to the environment but also habitats of Kampala and we want to see how it can be turned into something useful,” Mr Tumwebaze told journalists in Kampala last week.
Yet, even as the minister calls for leaders to ditch their political differences, questions remain as to how the city, whose Mayor Erias Lukwago has been rendered dysfunctional for more than a year following impeachment last year by his council.
The impeachment process however was marred by violence and mischief as supporters of the mayor cited illegality of the special session that Mr Tumwebaze called and chaired. The session sat to pass a vote of no confidence in Mr. Lukwago, even as a court order had been issued to halt the process.
Mr. Lukwago went to court to challenge the “illegality”, and momentarily overturned his impeachment, but could not access his chambers which were sealed off by security forces.
Days later, the court of appeal overturned the decision of the lower court that had ruled in the mayor’s favour.
As the court battles go on, Kampala city has no political head, although its technical arm is fully functional.
Yet the city needs a fully functioning political wing to generate policy for the technical arm to execute its mandate to provide water and sanitation, services, address the infrastructure needs and social services for the city’s growing population.