The African Centre for Cities launched a new publication, Reforming Urban Laws in Africa: A Practical Guide. The guide, written by Stephen Berrisford and the late Patrick McAuslan, provides hands-on guidance to officials, practitioners and researchers working on the urgent task of improving, modernising and rationalising urban legislation in the Sub-Saharan region.
The guide finds that although cities are highly diverse, they tend to share a few characteristics, such as that the formal land market and land use rights are tightly constrained, resulting in high land prices in well-located enclaves. As a result, large areas of the cities are “illegally” occupied by the urban poor and these areas are growing in ways that ignore the objectives set out in official plans and policies. An example given of this is how a colonial administrator in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, when drafting a set of bylaws for building regulations did not compile new bylaws but merely copied the bylaws from England, Blackburn, swopping any mention of “Blackburn” with “Nairobi”. This resulted in Nairobi’s building regulations requiring roofs that are able to withstand six inches of snow. Although the snow-load requirements were scrapped in the 1970s, building regulations in Nairobi continue to ignore the construction requirements of the urban poor.
The guide considers how the law is written, who is involved and what information is taken into account by the drafting team and the combined effect of these factors in determining whether the law is likely to achieve its desired outputs.