Thank you for visiting my website. This site shares the work I have been doing throughout my early career journey so far. The consistent mission from my work has been to explore process and strategies for sustainable urban and regional development in Sub-Saharan African economies. You can watch some of my presentations and talks, read some of my published work and I trust that resonates with you. I also regularly blog in collaboration with online magazine on issues and projects I find interesting to share my insights. Welcome.
Latest Blog Posts
Behind the African Union Passport and Challenges Ahead
The 27th African Union (AU) Summit ended with a flagship launch in Kigali on 18 July 2016. The African Union passport was launched at the summit, a step seeking to facilitate the free movement of people and commodities within the continent. This launch followed a year after the signing of Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) in June 2015 combining COMESA, SADC and EAC regional communities. Rwandan President Paul Kagame (Summit host President) and Chadian President Idriss Déby (African Union Chairperson) were the first recipients of the AU diplomatic passport, a launch that set 2018 as target for completion by member states. The e-passport comprises of diplomatic passport for heads of states, passport for frequent business travellers as well as passport for the rest of the African citizens. The launch has received mixed reactions most of them regarding it as a blue-sky idea farfetched for a continent with multiplicity of challenges. Not far from the reactions, the passport launch has its root motives and has challenges lying ahead of its expectancy. About the African Union e-passport The AU e-passport proposal was raised by some member states in 2014 as a follow-up to the implementation of the Agenda 2063. This came as a remedy to Africa’s low level of visa openness. Looking at the timeline of Agenda 2063, the launch is one, which also acted as a ‘quick win’ in the implementation process. This quick win is intended to motivate and increase the commitment of member states to Agenda 2063 as it also aligns with the TFTA agreement. As the passport is a response to member states (Seychelles, Mauritius, Senegal and Rwanda) who pushed for it, a few member states do not recognise it. This illustrates the challenge the passport will face in its efforts to challenge the status quo of member states with least visa openness. Furthermore, the AU passport was an initiative to leapfrog the bureaucratic process of negotiating with member states on increasing their visa openness where currently only 13 out of 55 member states offer liberal access (allow all Africans to enter without visa or to get one on arrival). The Challenges Lying Ahead Other than the acknowledged merits of the passport which cut across economic, political, social and environmental spectrum, five critical challenges pose risk to the successful implementation of the AU e-passport. Non-compliance by Outlier-Member States One thing to remember is that regional integration in Africa builds on the cooperation to fight challenges rather than cooperation to maximise the strengths of member states. As such, this form of integration is vulnerable to member states’ economic boom, as they tend to regionally diverge during their boom and commit less to Regional Economic Communities. One example is Angola as the SADC’s reluctant trader during its oil exploration. As such, member states who realise the possibility of large waves of labour migration such as South Africa may be reluctant to adopt the AU passport. Critical to note is to look as how the AU passport proposal unfolded. The countries in the top 20 of Visa openness (Seychelles, Mauritius, Senegal and Rwanda) were the major proponents of the passport. As this resemble the status quo on visa openness, the lack of enthusiasm and fore-fronting by member states on the bottom of the continent’s visa openness renders the role of the AU passport cumbersome. Member States’ Incapacity A common lesson from AU’s 50 years of experience is that member states lack adequate capacity to implement the continent’s flagship initiatives. From the Lagos Action Plan, Monrovia Declaration the commitments have not seen much fruition since member states mainly lack capacity to implement them. AU passport is another launch to face such a drawback. Majority of member countries on the bottom of visa openness index which the passport seeks to address also lack capacity to manage effectively the administration of their own passports. Given that, the AU e-passport uses the biometric system, which only 13 countries in Africa currently offer, it poses pressure on countries with less capacity to execute effectively the initiative. This might be in turn a justification not to implement the initiative. Given the incapacity challenge, the popular reaction among African citizen has been why not directly interrogate the visa openness of the less open countries without imposing the administrative burden of a new passport. While the continent-wide system will have to rely on the trust of each member states to avoid passport fraud, the incapacity of other member states might render the whole system vulnerable to passport fraud. Lack of Marginal-Proofing As African Union has member states in different stages of development, the launch of the AU e-passport will affect member states differently. Among the most affected members are the less developed countries who have their industrialisation in infancy or in stagnation. These are the countries, which are facing high level of labour emigration and the common challenge of brain drain. The introduction of the passport if unchecked will worsen the labour emigration of these countries. In this case, marginal proofing of the initiative is crucial which could harmonise the AU passport with the Commission’s industrialisation strategy to maintain the development balances. This is another case of development initiatives, which are focusing more on migration of labour than regional distribution of industries. Harmonisation of African Citizenship The launch of the AU e-passport faces the citizenship law variations across Africa. There are variations in Citizenship law across the continent where almost 50% of member states recognise dual citizenship while the rest do not, variations in the right to a nationality. Given the considerable pool of African Diaspora, the AU commission also has a responsibility to align the initiative with harmonisation of the passport to various citizenship laws and how the populace which is considered stateless or with refugee status will be addressed in the implementation of the e-passport. This extends to need for clarifications on how member states address the refugee policy which can be controversial since refugee policy has been discretion of member states. Musical Chair Syndrome The AU e-passport launch happened at the twilight of Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s chairpersonship. While the outgoing chairperson ticked it as a flagship achievement, the passport is yet to face the test of change in leadership during its two years of implementation (2016-2018).The change in the chairpersonship is going to have considerable impact on the progress of adoption of the Pan-African passport on top of the commission’s monitoring and evaluation challenges. As such, it risks becoming another flagship initiative, which will lack a follow-up in its implementation until the excitement goes away. As Africa execute its 50-year road map the Agenda 2063, the AU e-passport proves to be supportive of other pillars. Other than the recommendations to the challenges lying ahead of the passport, and learning from the Union’s 50 years of existence, it is imperative to realise that a series of small fixes to the existing system could be the continent’s next big thing.
Debunking New Urbanism in Harare
Harare is evidencing a new wave of urbanisation and urban development in the past five years, characterised as New Urbanism, but is it so? If it is, how effective is its application in Harare? The Herald of September 12, 2011 featured an article New Urbanism the way to go which explained and justified the new pattern in development as a model of best practice. Relating to recent urban development as New Urbanism in its aspiration to become a world-class city by 2025, Harare faces challenges in designing and executing New Urbanism approach. New Urbanism is an urban planning movement started in the United States after the peaking of oil, which led to the choking of suburbanisation. As a sustainable model for planning 21st-century cities, the approach is adopted globally as best practice. New urbanism has ten principles that form the pillars of urban sustainability, shown in tab below: [toggle title=”Ten Principles of New Urbanism” load=”hide”]1. Walkability: Most services within 10-minute walk of home and work 2. Connectivity: Interconnected street grid network spreads traffic and eases walking 3. Mixed-use and Diversity: A mix of shops, offices, apartments, and homes on-site, neighbourhoods and blocks,Diversity of people – of ages, income levels, cultures, and races 4. Mixed-use housing: A range of types, sizes and prices in closer proximity 5. Quality of Architecture and Urban Design: Emphasis on beauty, aesthetics, human comfort, and creating a sense of place 6. Traditional Neighbourhood Structure: Importance of quality public realm; public open space designed as civic art 7. Increased Density: More buildings, houses, shops, and services closer together for ease of walking 8. Green Transportation: A network of high-quality trains connecting places & pedestrian friendly designs 9. Sustainability: Eco-friendly technologies, respect for ecology and value of natural systems 10. Quality of Life: Taken together these add up to a high quality of life well worth living Source: CNU Charter, 2005 [/toggle] Fragmented Principles in Harare New urbanism has been adopted in cities in a comprehensive approach. Its principles are interconnected and complementary in functionality. Fragmenting the principles can create more challenges than it solves. Critical to note are the four principles of walkability, mixed use, densification, and green transportation. For example, densification without mass transit worsens traffic congestion; walkable communities without mixed use planning will increase pedestrian travel distance while mass transport system without densification causes transport inefficiency. The new urbanism principles in Harare nevertheless is fragmented in its application. As Harare seeks to address the urbanisation challenges of inner city decay, traffic congestion and urban sprawl comprehensiveness is vital in designing urban renewal projects. The current approach has led to the following challenges in New Urbanism application. Mixed-Use Development and the risk of Land-use “Downraiding” In 2014, City of Harare enacted Statutory Instrument 216 that allows commercial land uses in residential zones. Behind this was an increasing demand for commercial uses outside the Central Business District (CBD) due to rise of small to medium enterprises and decay of the inner city. As some commercial activities left CBD for office parks, other encroached the nearby residential zones including Avondale, Milton Park, Belvedere, Eastlea, Newlands and Highlands. Thus, the City of Harare expanded the CBD boundary to accommodate the expanding demand for commercial uses. Nevertheless, this was potrayed as mixed-use development in keeping with modern urban development trends. Harare CBD Expansion Given the importance of strong regulatory instruments in mixed use planning, the loose regulation has led to land-use ‘downraiding’, where high-value land-uses (commercial) displaces the low-value land-uses (residential) for the urban periphery. These displaced residents are moving to the suburban areas creating further sprawl to the already problematic sprawl in Harare. In the end the degree of mix in the expanded CBD if remain unchecked creates more problem that it initially seek to address. This is evident for example the long-time proposed mixed use in Inner city through Local Development Plan 22 that covered the northern region of the CBD. Combined with economic turmoil the area’s residential allocation was overtaken by commercial uses and the remaining residential uses are in dilapidation. Green Transport: Mind the distance mind the mix Harare faces remarkable periodic traffic congestion challenges within its inner-city. Centralisation of commercial activities and unsustainability of the current mode of transport, commuter omnibuses are main factors to congestion. City of Harare has been embarking on proposals to address the congestion challenge by reintroducing the mass transport system of the conventional buses. There have been negotiations with an Indian company, Passenger Utility Transport Company (PUTC) to supply 500 65-seater buses worth US$58 million for the A1 Metro bus system. As one of the fundamental pillars of new urbanism, mass transit needs complement of mixed use planning and densification for it to be effective. Mixed use determines the travel patterns of the urban residents. Low mix of uses entail one-sided travel pattern as people travel to work and services all at once and conversely. Also a major cause of periodic congestion in Harare. Densification is also fundamental as density influences the efficiency of mass transport systems. Calibrated effectively, mixed-use planning and densification shortens or eliminate travel trip of urban residents. Commuter bus rank in Harare The proposal for mass transit system in Harare is happening at the peaking of urban decay of the inner city. The inner-city has been characterised by commercial uses leaving for the nearby residential suburbs a process explained earlier and interpreted as new urbanism but rather not. Some of the vacuum left by these commercial uses have been replaced by the retail sector, informal trading. In adopting mass transit system, demographic analysis is key to map out the travel behaviour and likely patterns. On the current state of the inner-city, adopting mass transit in isolation of other principles entail providing mass transit to the informal economy and the retail sector. This demography has different travel patterns compared to the formal and business sector’s travel behaviour which inner city mass transit is designed on by default. Contextualisation of the mass transit system is fundamental for green transportation projects to be effective especially in a volatile economic environment. The Challenges Densification faces Several initiatives and plans to densify Harare have not materialised the way they have been planned. Particularly attributed to the economic challenges for densification to be financially viable, the construction industry has been hit hard. Example is the redevelopment of the Kopje area. Efforts to densify the area led to the success of two high-rise buildings including Kopje Plaza and surrounded by dilapidated buildings as well as informal practices. As new urbanism is being used to revitalise the city, incentives are necessary to promoted densification as well as regulatory adjustment to facilitate densification. New urbanism=Universal Principles calibrated locally- Bill Dennis New Urbanism and Participatory Planning One of the objectives of New Urbanism to concretise the sense of community in urban neighbourhood. Citizen participation plays pivotal role in determining the concerns of the urban community. Looking at Harare, the participation side requires a shift. The earlier featured article illustrated how concerns and objections of urban residents were disregarded as the City of Harare paved way for the commercial uses in residential areas in the name of modern trends. Given that the objections that were raised indicated an imbalance in mix of uses, urban planners proceed to follow market forces and jeopardise the sense of community in these zones. Moving ahead As the city of Harare proceeds in initiatives to accommodate the increasing urban demands, comprehensiveness in design of its plans is crucial. Blueprinting best practice models requires contextualisation and New Urbanism is about context. The four principles if adopted in fragmentation can set the city on a retrogressive path as it develops. Thus, participatory planning and external shock-proofing of the development plans plays a fundamental role in determining the success of the urban development interventions. It is important to remember that while New Urbanism and Smart growth (twins separated at birth) are for the same outcome, new urbanism is conceived as private-sector and market driven. Smart growth is government policy oriented in enactment of regulatory frameworks. Harare should determine its priorities and design comprehensive approach to address the concerns of the local communities. This article was first published by Urbanizim Institute
On the Edge: Harare’s Urban Heritage and forces of Urban Informality
Historic buildings in Harare that shape the city’s urban heritage are on the verge of collapse. Efforts to prevent further demolitions and alterations have been initiated but are these efforts going to hold back the forces of informality? In 2015, the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) and the City of Harare (CoH) launched the Historic Building Plaque Project. This was a project to setup plagues on historic buildings marking them for protection from any alteration or demolitions. This project came after alarming demolitions and alterations of historic building in Harare without consent of the regulatory authorities. Historic buildings in Zimbabwe are protected under the Building Preservation Order (BPO), which prevents them from demolition or architectural alteration for their awarded architectural merit. The buildings awarded architectural merit have survived more than 50years and some dates from 1910. Flagship buildings include Market Hall, The Ranch House College, Queen’s Hotel, Parliament of Zimbabwe, Mashonganyika Building and Cecil House. Most buildings are located along Robert Mugabe Road and the rest scattered around the city. The NMMZ Act Chapter 25:11 and the Regional Town and Country Planning (RTCP) Act Chapter 29:12 stipulate protection of all historic buildings by law. The Acts requires owners to notify NMMZ and CoH at least 14 days before the work starts on protected buildings. Building Preservation in age of Informality There is a remarkable variation in historic building preservation in Harare. From prestigiously preserved Cecil House in Northern region of the Central Business District (CBD) to the dilapidating Corner House and White House building in the Southern region of the CBD. Fereday and Sons Building Most buildings along Robert Mugabe Road have been subject to uses not compatible with age of the buildings, which has led to structural damage and decay. Most of these buildings are used for retailing, hardware stores and as office space for small to medium enterprises. Other than general decay of location these buildings, historic buildings also succumb from low value caused by restrictive zoning ordinance on building heights. They also lack improvements in ablution facilities to cater for current uses. The Market Hall is one of the oldest civic structure, which was used for council offices, motor spares and warehouse. This was later turned into a people’s market in 1900s and now a flea market as Gulf bazaar. Nevertheless, Manica Cycle building (corner Robert Mugabe Road and Sam Nujoma Avenue) is one of the most successful preservation projects in that region. It was integrated into a redevelopment, Steir Kinekor without architectural alteration. Other buildings include Standard Bank buildings and Meikles shop which maintained their original use and tenants. Manica Cycle Building integrated into Steir Kinekor On the Northern, side of the CBD is the existence of well-preserved and sustainably occupied historic buildings. Flagship among them are Cecil House, Mashonganyika building (Supreme Court), Munhumutapa building, Parliament building, and St Mary Cathedral building. Most of these buildings are occupied by functionally compatible uses, and have sustainable occupancy that matches ablution capacity. Financial capability to maintain the character of the buildings is major influence to the differences. Financially less capable owners and/tenants in the Southern part struggle to maintain the buildings. Such disparities illustrate the divide in how historic buildings are being preserved and underlying challenges leading to dilapidation of buildings in other parts of the city. Cecil House in Harare Efforts to address these dilapidation and demolition problems have been oriented towards regulatory tightening as preservation methods are outdated and legislation is inadequate. Efforts to preserve the buildings also rose as renovation of some buildings was including compartmentalisation without consent of the Local Planning Authorities at the damage of architectural preservation. Smart growth adoption and rise of small to medium enterprises that increased the demand for commercial space are major factors to urban heritage dilapidation. Rethinking Heritage Preservation in Transition Disparities in historic buildings preservation in Harare are evident. The properly maintained and sustainably occupied buildings on the Northern side of CBD buildings. On the other hand are dilapidating buildings in Southern region as tenants lack adequate funds to effectively preserve them as well as incapacity of ablution facilities for overcrowded uses. Harare adopted preservation regulatory instruments of cities in developed economies, which are now experiencing stable urban development. Harare is in transition characterised by informality. Given the disparities of the state of the historic buildings segmenting the Building Preservation Order application, can be an effective way of saving the historic buildings which are on the brink of collapse. Integration, as evidenced by success of Manica cycle building could be an alternative comprehensive measure to restore the historic buildings in dilapidation along Robert Mugabe Road. In this way, Historic buildings will be the drivers of urban renewal in the sections of the city succumbing to urban decay thereby playing vital role in shaping the urban fabric. This could also change the perception of country-orientated heritage tourism in Zimbabwe, as urban heritage tourism blossom from these historic buildings integration projects. Political barriers of regarding historic buildings as colonial legacies can be a deterrent to the preservation projects, which mostly lack enough funding and human capital to inspect and enforce legislation. Fore fronting historic buildings as vantage points for urban renewal through integration, projects can prove to be effective way of incentivising historic buildings preservations in the decaying regions. The Historic Building Plaque Project may prove to be a successful initiative as an informative initiative. Preservation goes beyond awareness. The economic challenges of funding preservation by incapable tenants requires economic intervention other than legislation and awareness. This article was first published by Urbanizim Institute