Opinion: Kampala Can’t Be More Successful Than Its Inhabitants.

Tuesday December 25 2018
Kampala city pic

An aerial view of Kampala City. Fights between the city authority and the land board has seen the city council lose lots of money. FILE PHOTO

The success of an Urban Area is a direct reflection of the relative success of its people and it is close to impossible to rest the growth of an Urban Area on the shoulders of its impoverished dwellers!

Other factors holding constant, Kampala is a perfect reflection of the financial status of its inhabitants.

According to Uganda Bureau of statistics, the national poverty level increased from 19.7 per cent in the financial year 2012/13 to 21.4 per cent in 2016/2017. Whereas the poverty figures are higher for rural areas than they are for urban ones, this poverty directly reflects on the quality of our urban areas, especially the capital.

It is also important to note that the gap between the real incomes of the rural and urban poor is interestingly so narrow that there have even been cases of reverse migration, from urban to rural areas.

I’ve heard some argue that the number of vehicles in the city is an indicator that people are successful but if I may paraphrase the remarks of Enrique Penalosa, former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, a developed city is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport.

Take the example of New York. As an international financial centre, New York City is distinguished by its low ownership of personal automobiles and the highest rate of public transportation use in the United States. It is a city in which over half of all households do not own a car, and in Manhattan this figure even reaches 75%; and these are figures from five years ago!


To qualify for the award of the degree of Bachelor Of Urban And Regional Planning at Makerere University, I did research on ''The Impact Of Urban Poverty On The Implementation Of Urban Planning Policies'' and Iganga Town Council (now Municipality) was my area of study!


I concluded that for any Urban Area to even think of growth, its managers must have a clear strategy aimed at uplifting the livelihoods of its inhabitants!

Between the 18th and 19th centuries, predominantly agrarian, rural societies in Europe and America became Industrial and inevitably Urban!

This came with a surge in creativity in the areas of Manufacturing, Housing, Transportation, Communication and Banking. It obviously came with challenges too, including squalid settlements and poor sanitation which directly gave birth to strict legislation guiding Urban Planning!

This, in turn, gave birth to some of the world's greatest cities that we admire today!

The key lessons there, are, that the world's greatest cities were built around BOOMING ECONOMIC ACTIVITY and that the world's greatest cities were built around INCOME EARNERS.

A smart Urban Planner/Manager would therefore put primary emphasis on improving the livelihoods of Urban inhabitants through encouraging enterprise, a vibrant informal sector, easing the transition from informal to formal business, creating a conducive environment for ''petty'' traders, creating a symbiotic relationship between petty traders and established ones, encouraging urban agriculture and value addition, as well as a whole lot of other measures aimed at improving the livelihoods of Urban Inhabitants.

A smart Urban Planner/Manager must focus on long term interventions and planning discipline as opposed to cosmetic measures!

Some of the world's greatest cities that we admire today have been shaped by centuries of deliberate effort and we must quit thinking of turning Kampala around in one Kisanja, unless we have a budget as big as Dubai's!

So, this is where we must put our focus:

1. Eradication Of Urban Poverty.

a) Avail land- (earmark) specific places where small scale craftsmen like carpenters, metal fabricators and mechanics can do their business.

b) Create rotational street markets in various parts of the city, from Monday to Sunday, where these petty vendors can also earn a living. E.g Monday- Kamwokya, Tuesday- Wandegeya, Wednesday- Natete e.t.c!

c) Extend both employment and shopping closer to the people. Why must every public office, ministry, Supermarket be in the CBD??

2. Tackle Urban Housing.

Once the people begin to make some ''sensible'' money, think about how and where they sleep. Clearly zone out high density, medium density and low density residential areas, attract partners to invest in the various classes of Urban housing, confident that your empowered Urban citizens will comfortably afford it.

3. Urban Transport.

You can then embark on a major Urban circulation project, keeping in mind maximum functionality of roads, a clear inter-play between public and private transport as well as non motorised means of transport.

4. Urban Services And Utilities.

At this point, the assumption is that city dwellers are now financially empowered, are sleeping well and reaping the benefits of good Urban circulation, so they can afford water, electricity, sewerage, sophisticated solid waste management and sophisticated storm water drainage.

The Writer is an Urban Planner and Inclusion Activist.