10 April 2014

Africa: ARI Partners and Friends At the World Urban Forum


With the 7th World Urban Forum taking place this week, we draw attention to the work of a number of our partners who are (and some who are not) in Medellín, Colombia.

Stephen Berrisford of the African Centre for Cities is talking on a panel entitled "The urban legal guide: growing a dialogue between Latin American and African countries".

The role of law in the creation of equitable, sustainable cities was highlighted in a report written by Stephen Berrisford and published by Africa Research Institute (ARI). Video highlights and a recording of the of this publication are available on our website.

In How to make planning law work for Africa, Stephen argues that the promotion of "one-size-fits-all" planning laws, often inspired by thinking from outside the continent, has not served Africa well.

Rather, he claims, it has created further legal uncertainty and a series of unanticipated and often pernicious consequences. A radical re-thinking of our approach to law reform is called for, especially in light of intensifying competition for land and the rapid growth of towns and cities in sub-Saharan Africa.

Peter Ngau, director of the Centre for Urban Research and Innovations in Nairobi, is also taking part in the panel discussion examining the dialogue between Latin America and Africa.

In December 2013, Africa Research Institute published a report by Peter which examined the role of urban and regional planning in Kenya. For Town and Country:

A new approach to urban planning in Kenya, highlights the revitalisation of planning education that is taking place in Kenya and East Africa more widely.

It also calls on those in the planning profession to take a leading role in the promotion of more progressive approaches that prioritise the needs and economic potential of the urban poor. Video highlights and a recording of the launch of this publication are also available on our website.

Nancy Odendaal of the African Centre for Cities is also at WUF representing the Association of African Planning Schools (AAPS).

In 2013, Africa Research Institute worked with Vanessa Watson and Babatunde Agbola - co-chairs of AAPS - to produce Who will plan Africa's cities? The report highlights the central role that planning education has in equipping planners with the appropriate tools to be able to respond to Africa's rapidly changing urban contexts.

They consider planning to be one of the most important tools that governments have at their disposal for managing rapid urban expansion and call for the adoption of pro-poor approaches by urban planning professionals.

During a visit to Kenya in 2013, we interviewed Irene Karanja the executive director of Muungano Support Trust (MUST). MUST is a federation of slum-dwellers which aims to articulate the needs of the urban poor.

Irene spoke to us about the use of saving schemes as way of mobilising urban poor communities well as providing essential financial services to communities typically excluded from formal financial institutions.

She also spoke about the increasing participation of slum-dwellers in gathering data in informal settlements, enabling their insights and knowledge to inform primary research on informality and urban spaces.

At WUF, Irene is speaking at a number of events including "Putting Poor People at the Centre of Strategies for Urban Development", organised by Next City and Shack/Slum Dwellers International.

And finally, our partners from ASSOAL in Cameroon would also have been at WUF7 were it not for difficulties in obtaining visas in time.

Their networking scheduled for inclusion in the programme was to focus on the theme of "Scaling Participatory Budgeting", a process which involves local authorities and the inhabitants of a municipality, or some other administrative unit, co-operating in determining the allocation of public money.

ARI has been working with ASSOAL to produce a report on participatory budgeting in Yaoundé entitled The Booklovers, the Mayor and the Citizens which will be published later this month.

- Hannah Gibson, Policy Researcher at Africa Research Institute.

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