Constant Cap is passionate about urban resilience, inclusive mobility, and people-driven urbanism. On top of working as an Urban and Regional Planner, he is a regular commentator on planning issues facing African cities and runs the blog African City Planner. SCK asked him to share his views on County priorities.
Hi Constant! Thank you for exchanging with us.
Q: We are promoting inclusive planning in a number of small towns in Kenya. In your view, which are some key urban challenges and opportunities for smaller urban areas and towns?
A: Inclusive planning in Kenya’s smaller towns is an opportunity to create ownership of urban areas. These have primarily been seen as places for commerce but people view their real ‘homes’ as their rural village. The problem stems from historical top-down approaches towards planning and urban management that have been practiced for decades. There will be a challenge for people at various levels to appreciate the values and importance of inclusion.
It will also be necessary to discuss the errors that urban studies have ‘taught’ over the years – like not giving enough importance to walkable neighbourhoods, importance of Transit Oriented Development, and the appreciation of local cultures and traditions.
Q: The 2010 Constitution devolved the planning function; as a Planner passionate about sustainable urbanisation, what would you like to see County leadership and administration to focus on?
A: Primarily they have to appreciate what planning can do and by planning here we mean ‘good, participatory and inclusive planning.’ The Constitution gives a good framework for counties to develop CIDPs and Spatial Plans but we are yet to really see the proper use of the opportunities that these present.
Politically we have also seen legislative members wanting to be more visible by doing projects that do not necessarily align to any long term strategies. Unfortunately these are at times necessary due to failures of application of planning – planning needs to be looked at beyond just developing plans but in terms of application, monitoring and evaluation.
Q: What can cities in the region learn from urban development in Kenya?
A: We can talk about ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’. Unfortunately urban areas in Kenya developed with visible spatial divisions based on race that grew into class based divisions (Bad). The result has been the continuous enactment of policies and by-laws that do not take into consideration the realities on the ground. A good example is how we have small scale vendors who emerge along major Non-motorized Transit Corridors but are always in battles against the City Authorities (the Ugly). The Good side is the increasing voice that residents’ associations and community groups have started to develop in the city.
Q: Any other comment?
A: There is need for us to use our local situational characteristics to develop our urban solutions. We do not see matatus and bodabodas in any of our plans but they move 90% of us; most people in the city purchase mitumba (second hand) clothing but we do not have markets close to them; over 50 % of citizens walk to work but we are busy building flyovers and highways.