Public Dialogue on Unlocking Metropolitan Planning and Governance: Challenges and Opportunities in the Context of Uganda’s Urbanization Trends

The Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development under its initiative of the Uganda National Urban Forum hosted a public dialogue in Kampala on the 21st of July, 2019. The forum brought together various stakeholders in the urban sector to discuss issues pertaining to urban development. The dialogue defined the urbanization sector in Uganda and drew on experiences and statistics of cities in the world based on UN Habitat and World Bank studies. At the dialogue, participants discussed the existing urban challenges that necessitate better Metropolitan planning. These include urban sprawl, congestion, interconnectivity, patterns of commuting that challenge economic development, proliferation of informal settlements, poor housing, strained social services, and the difficulty of defining the jurisdictional boundaries of interconnected urban areas.

According to Uganda’s National urban policy, metropolitan areas include one or more urban areas – including satellite cities, towns and rural areas – that are socio-economically tied to the urban core. These regions are typically measured by commuting patterns. The functional linkages of metropolitan regions extend beyond administrative and political boundaries and usually include a number of local governments, peri-urban and rural lands as well as neighboring cities.

Metropolitan regions are becoming an increasingly important unit for planning and development. With continued urbanization around the world, cities are becoming more economically interdependent with their surrounding settlements and hinterlands, creating metropolitan regions with a single economy and labour market, a community with common interests and benefits of joint actions in various sectors. Metropolitan regions are defined by their spatial dimensions, based upon the functional relationships of resource cycles, regional economic systems and formal as well as informal settlement structures. The economic links between the core and the periphery may become so close that one part cannot succeed without the other, and thus they are perceived and behave as a single entity.

Many metropolitan areas are struggling with fragmentation, inequity, spillovers, and dysfunctional governance systems. The provision of public services such as public transport, drainage, sewage collection, waste disposal, emergency services etc. is often fragmented and not addressed at the appropriate territorial level, resulting in higher operation and maintenance costs and financing challenges as local governments fail to capitalize on economies of scale. Additionally, different areas within the metropolitan area receive services of varying quality resulting from the different income levels and tax bases of the respective local governments.

The dialogue reviewed the case of Kampala Capital City Authority, Mukono, Wakiso, and Mpigi local authorities. It was noted that it is difficult to detach the functional relationships between these local authorities, as they have shared linkages in commerce, labour, job creation, social services, and infrastructure provision. The interlinked functions of these entities highlighted the urgent need to operationalize the Greater Kampala Metropolitan Area (GKMA). This Metropolitan planning approach has been promoted in a series of policies in Uganda, including Local Government Integrated Planning guidelines, the National Urban Policy, the draft National Physical Development Plan report and the National Planning Authority’s Economic Development strategy.

The dialogue also raised the need for formal and informal institutional arrangements to coordinate development, to undertake joint functions for more efficient and equitable service provision, for cost sharing, for effective and efficient use of scare resources, and for supplementing individual local government efforts. A number of opportunities were identified for operationalizing a metropolitan governance framework for the Greater Kampala Metropolitan region including:

  • The presence of the GKMA Physical Development Framework which gives an entry point in terms of transboundary planning and focus;
  • The availability of guiding regulatory and policy frameworks; Urban Policy in place, KCCA Act, 2010, Local Government Act and Physical Planning Act which are all undergoing reviews to harmonize the ambiguities therein.
  • A GKMA Technical Working group which is already in place
  • The implementation of the Greater Kampala Economic Development Strategy and the Draft Master Plan for Nakigalala Satellite City.
  • The National Physical Development Plan almost complete, which gives direction in terms of the proposed metropolis.

The dialogue also considered a number of challenges that could hamper the operationalization of this Metropolitan governance framework:

  • Contradictions or gaps in the legal framework, for example the Kampala Capital City Act of 2010 and the Local Government Act, Cap 243.
  • Limited understanding of the metropolitan governance and planning frameworks by both the political leadership and the technocrats at various levels of government.
  • Lack of a clear coordination structure for metropolitan governance in the country.
  • The outdated physical planning approach of not focusing on transboundary characteristics but rather administrative boundaries among others.

Emerging issues and lessons identified from panelists’ presentations included the following points:

  • There is need for deeper understanding of urbanization trends, the dynamics of metropolitan planning and on innovative opportunities in metropolitan coordination and governance, and acceptance across various stakeholders.
  • There is need for stakeholders to embrace the idea of metropolitan areas and foster metropolitan planning and governance models. Within this, it was also observed that the adoption of metropolitan governance could involve processes that are either democratic, or non-democratic or quasi-democratic.
  • From the civil society side, it was noted that communities have big potential to drive their development initiatives, and are able to self-organize and participate effectively in governance and transparency initiatives.
  • It was also noted that there is need to prioritize and foster platforms for engagement such as the Municipal Development Forums.
  • Civil society also stressed the need to enforce participatory planning for ownership and adequate human settlements within the metropolitan areas.
  • The political wing shared their mandate as aimed at ensuring people are represented and the metropolitan governance is transparent fair and inclusive. It was noted that unfortunately metropolitan planning and governance tends to be politicized rather than dealing with the actual issues on ground.
  • A call was made to leverage existing and ongoing informal processes of metropolitan economic integration and planning, and to use them to inform planning and design of future metropolitan frameworks in Uganda.

As a way forward, the Ministry of Lands Housing and Urban Development took on the following issues and action points:

  • Review the framework to support collective decision making, participatory planning, and inclusive economic development for the metropolitan areas.
  • Conduct comprehensive stakeholder mapping and community sensitization and awareness creation.
  • Integration of diverse categories of people in planning and metropolitan governance.
  • Enhance institutional frameworks and laws to better facilitate metropolitan planning and governance in terms of jurisdiction and economic boundaries.
  • Amend the Physical Planning Act with a view to strengthen its enforcement.

The meeting concluded with a call for all stakeholders to actively participate in the Uganda National Urban Forum as a platform for deliberation on national level issues that can strengthen systematic physical planning and urban development in Uganda.


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