The recent creation of cities is a new chapter for the country, Kampala having held the sole City status for a long time was relieved of the City related problematic situations like high theft, trafficking Jam among others. Justinian Niwagaba, the Commissioner for Urban Administration in the Ministry of Local Governments shared a glimpse of city outlook and what to expect from the new creations, with the District Focus and below are the excerpts.
Cities have been created, do we have requisite human resource ready to have them operational?
The requisite human resource is available because the law provides for human resources in the existing units that have been transformed to cities to become the first lot of human resources in those cities. Therefore, there is no gap. Government is finalising the human resource structures for the cities that we want. The cities we want will be able to take care of everyone irrespective of their social status.
What is the future of our cities?
The current creation of our cities is intended to create comfort of city dwellers. Cities have been taken closer to the people as opposed to the people converging in one capital city of Kampala. The creation of new cities is to decongest Kampala.
The future is to develop bypasses, open wide enough roads to accommodate enough vehicles. Most importantly, developing public transport infrastructure and facilities, as well as making it easy for people to use.
We need to make a disincentive for private vehicles to access town centres. Accessing cities when public transport facilities become very efficient, private vehicle will therefore be required to pay a fee to ensure that those who go with private continue to part way with extra resources that will enable cities manage revenue enhancement.
What is the rationale of budgeting for cities?
For now, the financing of cities has followed suit the structure of financing for municipal councils. These cities were approved way after the budget was approved. The reallocation was made by revoting from municipal votes to city votes. So, whatever is realised now, had been budgeted for earlier. The big part of capital development is financed by USMID, which informed the differences that seemed to be glaring on their allocations for the respective cities. Cities are at different levels of implementation. City A could be at a higher level than city B implying that the former receives less funds since it has already implemented activities of the project and the latter would get more funds to cope with the requirements of the project financing.
We seem to be mixing zoning segments, what are your thoughts on that?
The mix is in a two way category. There is a mix that comes after a place has been zoned for a purpose and people do wrong land use that is not appropriate. But physical planning has overtime evolved, whereby you no longer find a place zoned for one purpose. A place zoned for industrial development can at the same time have residential places where the workers will need to get accommodation and expect some social services like hospitals or schools to be delivered. The moment you allow residents then you must also allow areas of groceries and entertainment. Therefore, physical planning has evolved overtime where in some cases it allows for mixed land use in the same area.
Regarding traffic, the city is in a mess. Which policies are being implemented?
We need to look at what is available. Do we have enough infrastructure for bypasses? In a number of cities like Masaka or Mbarara, there are bypasses that have been provided for heavy trucks and any other vehicle that may not go through the town which I think is the way to go. But in other cities where bypasses have not been developed, these big vehicles mix up with small vehicles, all competing for space on the road. Going forward, we are designing roads that ought to take care of cyclists, pedestrians and persons with special needs. That is intended to answer the question of inclusiveness in towns.
Jinja road is one of the examples with designs, however, during peak traffic hours, drivers break traffic rules and drive from the pavements. We complain about boda-boda riders causing traffic yet they are competing for way with other cars in their space. I believe lack of sensitisation is one of the challenges on the table. Because even where they have been provided, underutilisation is still a challenge. I want to be optimistic that once we improve on sensitisation, we should be able to see orderliness achieved. All roads being designed under support to municipal infrastructure, have provisions for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles, which is a good move in the right direction.
What is the impact of high population growth on urban planning?
It is a gift that we must embrace. It is a positive response to government programmes such as immunisation and other socioeconomic services. In the past we had high infant mortalities but with immunisation, all that became part of history. After that population dividend came in, which will be a market for what is produced, and demand for certain services which is an opportunity. People should produce in order to satisfy that demand as well as make government think critically on how to provide employment for the young population.
However, as of now, the level of preparedness in terms of responding to the demands of the increasing population is below average. This is an area with emphasis to provide cheaper accommodation and jobs for the youth, looking at the global trends where digitalisation is trending is a point of emphasis. We look at them as an opportunity to plan better for the cities for a bigger population that is coming up.
What major achievements have we seen in Uganda that can be replicated elsewhere?
In respect to governance, if you look at the per capita, the ratio of population to leaders is high. It has made people demand for services. We have been able to have regular elections, representation of different categories of people on the governance structures and people have been able to voice their demands, which now informs government decisions in terms of planning for people’s demands.
Secondly, our decentralisation policy provides for financing of local governments irrespective of their inclination and circumstances. Each of the local governments is entitled to a share of the national budget that allows the local governments to deliver the services. And service delivery is purely handled by technocrats. Thirdly, the fact that we have created 10 cities is an indication that we are responding to natural phenomena of high populations that are living in concentrated areas. We cannot wait for these settlements to be extremely disorganised to create cities.
Apparently, we are improving on our physical planning in terms of organised settlements to be able to see Uganda move to greater heights.
What are some of the limitations you are faced with?
Mind-set change in regards to the way we manage solid waste by dumping rubbish carelessly on the roads can be improved. The way we manage public transport needs to be revised; for example, should three vehicles all leave the same home to move to town at about the same time? High cost of delivering urban public services in terms of power, water connections and roads is very costly amidst our treasury capacity. The tax payers who are not seeing direct translation of their taxes equivalent to service delivery.
Social deviance conduct is on a higher rise due to high crime rate. Urban poverty is high and extreme in town than rural areas.
Politicians have been seen to override technical urban planners. How should this be addressed?
We have laws and policies in place. Each of the players has a role to play and once we misunderstand our roles, then we get problems. Political leaders have a supervisory role while the technocrats will implement in accordance to the standards and also the new trends in the trade. However, there would be a few cases of politicians who want to become technocratic and I also cannot rule out cases of technocrats who want to be political. But these should be isolated cases and the available framework provides for clear distinction of who is supposed to do what and at what point in time.