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Part IV Rising to the challenge

14 Towards appropriate urban development policy in emerging mega-cities in Africa
15 Urban management: The recent experience

14 Towards appropriate urban development policy in emerging mega-cities in Africa

Salah El-Shakhs


Si l'avenir des grandes villes africaines est incertain, il est sûr qu'elles vont continuer d'occuper une place dominante dans la hiérarchie nationale des établissements humains et que la croissance démographique va se poursuivre, même si elle ne se maintiendra probablement pas au même niveau que par le passé ni à celui actuellement prévu. Les principales questions qui se posent en termes de développement et de gouvernement vent notamment la surcharge des services, les problèmes socio-économiques, la détérioration de l'environnement, la demande sans cesse croissante de terres, d'infrastructures et de logements, les faiblesses de l'administration et les insuffisances de la planification. Les tentatives de surmonter les problèmes des grandes concentrations en décentralisant des industries ou au moyen d 'initiatives communautaires financées par les pouvoirs publics n'ont réussi que très partiellement. D'autres initiatives ont mieux abouti, notamment les mesures de planification et de gestion des métropoles, le soutien aux autorités locales autonomes, le programme d'urbanisation durable des agences internationales, les partenariats entre collectivités locales et les organisations non-gouvernementales, les initiatives d'aménagement de quartiers et autres actions écologiques locales. II faudrait trouver à l'avenir des réponses plus couples, fondées sur la participation, coordonnées et dépendant le moins possible de la capacité du secteur public, en déléguant suffisamment de pouvoir aux administrations locales et en favorisant la croissance urbaine le long de couloirs d'interaction intense, comme au sein des mégapoles, en freinant l'expansion horizontale contiguë de la ville, en articulant sa structure spatiale interne et en restructurant les aménagements périphériques. Planification et administration devraient donc être réorganisées pour assurer la coordination au niveau des régions en même temps que seraient consolidées l'autonomie, l'initiative et l'identité locales hors du centre ville.


This chapter considers the future of major metropolitan areas in Africa (large or mega-cities) and discusses policies and planning strategies appropriate for facing the challenges of their urban growth and development. Depending on the definitions and boundaries being used, three or four of the six principal African metropolitan areas being dealt with in this book (Cairo, Lagos, the Johannesburg metropolitan region, and Kinshasa) are or will be bona fide mega-cities according to the UN population criterion by the year 2010. The other two (Abidjan and Nairobi), though smaller, are principal cities in their systems, exhibit the same enormity of development issues, and are important players in the world system.

Concerns about the future of these large or mega-cities in Africa are unique in many respects. First, perhaps with the exception of Cairo (which, as shown by Yousry and Aboul Atta in chap. 4 in this volume, dates back to the seventh century and arguably even before), these cities are generally young and represent new frontiers of urban development in their systems. Secondly, they are expected to grow rapidly for some time to come. They are in the midst of urbanization processes that are in their early stages and have a long way to go. After all, Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world in terms of both total population and urbanization. Africa's urban population has been projected to increase by over 200 million (or to more than double) between 1980 and 2000 (Rondinelli, 1988). Thirdly, they embody the major tribal, ethnic, and regional diversities that characterize their political systems. Finally, they emerged under world colonialism and settler regimes, exhibit common experiences in political and civil development, and share burdens and hopes that are inextricably linked to Africa's unique position within the world economic and political system.

Having said that, however, it would be a gross mistake to assume that these cities are not historically, culturally, and developmentally unique, as has been made abundantly clear in the previous chapters. For example, Cairo owes its origin to the Arabs and continues to be a major player in the Middle East; Lagos has recently lost the function of national administrative capital; Johannesburg is just beginning the transition from apartheid; Nairobi and Abidjan are home to major UN institutions; and Kinshasa is still reeling from the effects of major civil conflicts. My discussion, therefore, while dealing with general patterns, processes, and policy directions, will necessarily leave out many city-specific issues and recommendations, some of which are mentioned in the city chapters. The fact that these could not be dealt with in this general discussion, however, does not make them any less important.

The future of mega-cities

The thought that some mega-cities might be expected to grow, according to current UN projections (UN, 1993), to well over 22 million by 2010 has become a nightmare for both policy makers and planners. In absolute numbers, the large cities of the less developed countries (LDCs) are expected to house a population, by the year 2000, that is roughly equivalent to the LDCs' total 1980 urban population (0.96 compared with 1.01 billion), and more than the 1980 combined total urban population of the more developed countries (0.80 billion). Among this group, mega-cities (those with 8 million or more population) are projected to show the greatest growth by the year 2000 (218 per cent increase compared with 174 per cent for large cities of 1 million or more population as a whole). Africa's patterns of large- and mega-city growth are no exceptions.1 According to the United Nations (1993), Lagos is expected to have a population of 21.1 million by the year 2010, Cairo 13.4 million, and Kinshasa 7.9 million.

The nature of primacy

With the exception of Cairo, the mega-cities of Africa may not be considered primate on the basis of population alone. However, their dominant positions within their urban systems become clearly evident, as indicated in the previous chapters, when one considers their shares of the formal socio-economic activities (such as industry, finance, international trade, communications, transportation, social infrastructure, and so on), their privileged quality of life (in such areas as personal income, education, levels of services, and amenities among others), or their shares of decision-making power and political control in their systems (Rondinelli, 1988). Such dominant positions have inadvertently been bolstered further by the introduction of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs), because of the relatively superior competitive advantage of these cities.

Their development to dominant political and economic positions may be explained in terms of economic processes that, at least in part, can be related to developments in the world economic and political system (Gilbert and Gugler, 1992). They acquired major industrial and commercial activities and a large proliferating informal sector, which continue to make them attractive destinations. Their real or perceived employment opportunities and superior quality of life continue to lure rural migrants and migrants from small urban places. These cities support very large informal sectors of small-scale enterprises, particularly in the commercial and trade sectors, which attract migrants. Typically one-third (Abidjan) to one-half (Nairobi) of the labour force is engaged in small-scale commercial activities (Rondinelli, 1988, and chaps. 8 and 9 in this volume). Informal housing markets often constitute a major source of their housing supply (nearly half in the case of Cairo; see chaps. 4 and 11 in this volume).

Such increasing concentration and dominance, however, are inevitably accompanied by mounting problems, diseconomies, and disparities. The resulting dissatisfactions as well as opportunities spurred efforts by both the private sector and governments towards decentralization and counter-primacy measures. These took a variety of forms, ranging from administrative decentralization and strengthening local governments to radical measures such as the building of a new capital in Nigeria or the new desert cities in Egypt. As these processes pick up momentum, the real or perceived advantages of primate cities may tend to become less and less compelling, and smaller and medium-sized cities may become more and more attractive to migrants and to capital.

Uncertain futures: Where are they heading?

A recent article on mega-cities (Linden, 1993) remarks that, four decades ago, cities such as Mexico City and Cairo were relatively attractive places to live, with little traffic along their spacious, cleanly swept boulevards. Now that their populations have quadrupled and their quality of life greatly degenerated (they are held to be the first and second most polluted capitals in the world), their in-migration rates have declined, although people continue to flock to smaller cities. This trend suggests that living conditions in mega-cities can eventually become intolerable. Given the various scenarios of decentralization in response to a combination of market forces and governmental actions, it becomes questionable whether future population growth projections of mega-cities will in fact materialize. Most developing countries perceive the spatial distribution of their population and the resulting primate city patterns as unacceptable, and many governments have attempted to change such patterns through indirect national policies or explicit spatial development strategies.

Recent evidence indicates that at some point in their development, after initial periods of very rapid growth, mega-cities slow down considerably in their population growth rates. Although their populations may continue to increase in absolute terms, they grow at rates lower than those of other intermediate and smaller cities in their systems. Cairo, Calcutta, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, São Paula, and Seoul, among others, are already experiencing such processes, as have mega-cities in advanced countries before them (Renaud, 1981; Richardson, 1989). The United Nations, in fact, has had to revise its large-city population projections downwards at least three times over the past two decades.

Among the cities studied in this book, both Kinshasa and Abidjan have slowed down considerably over the past three decades from population growth rates of over 10 per cent to nearly half as much, despite major differences in their development planning, management, and quality of life. Abidjan's growth rate is currently smaller than that of small and medium-sized cities in the Côte d'Ivoire. Cities with 20,000-40,000 population are growing vigorously by receiving in-migrants from their regions, as well as children, the aged, and the unemployed who out-migrate from Abidjan (see chap. 8 in this volume). Similarly, Cairo's population growth rate declined from 4.14 per cent in 1960 to about 3.45 per cent by 1986, and its share of national industrial employment declined from 48.0 per cent in 1976 to 35.0 per cent by 1988 (see also chap. 4 in this volume).

If such trends continue, the processes and problems of concentration at both national and regional levels may eventually give way to the reverse processes and problems of deconcentration and dispersion. This is clearly contingent on active governmental efforts as well as the market processes that tend to spread development outside the mega-cities. In fact, deconcentration within the core regions (largest metropolitan or mega-city regions) would likely precede and signal the onset of a wider process of decentralization within their national urban systems (El-Shakhs, 1992).

The fact remains that no one can be certain exactly how big African mega-cities are now, or how rapidly they are expanding or going to expand in the future. However, mega-cities in the LDCs in general, and in Africa in particular, will likely continue to grow rapidly in the foreseeable future. In the process, such growth expands the city's influence and functions over a much wider region, including other cities and rural settlements and a frequently uncontrolled and unplanned periphery. This requires a redefinition of the nature and structure of future mega-cities. Current administrative and political boundaries and definitions of mega-cities in effect lose their meaning. It is equally clear that the pressures, demands, and challenges facing urban governments and planners in mega-cities, as well as their capacity to respond to them, are in large part determined by national and international forces and pressures beyond their control.

Basic issues of development and governance

The cities dealt with here, although unique, share certain problems in common. These include problems brought about by rapid population growth and spatial expansion, by overconcentration of national activities, by duality or indeed multiplicity of their social and spatial structures, and by extreme disparities. In addition, mega-city governments are faced with major additional demands brought about by virtue of these cities' positions and roles within their national urban systems and global urban networks. At the same time, mega-city governments often do not have the authority, power, or resources to deal effectively with these demands. Inefficient revenue collection practices and limitations imposed by highly centralized national governments on revenue raising strain the municipal governments' ability to keep up with urban service needs (Rondinelli, 1988). The result is an ever-widening gap between the supply of and demand for jobs as well as services and utilities, and shortages in urban land and housing, particularly for the urban poor.

Systems overload

Inevitably, rapid expansion brings with it major pressures on service and utility systems. It not only calls for a quantitative increase in supplies but, beyond a certain size, may also call for a change in the type, organization, and nature of the systems themselves. This often requires capital and technologies beyond the capacity of local governments. This is particularly true in the areas of mass transit, communications, and utilities. Rapid growth also brings pressures on the administrative and institutional ability to plan for, and control, development. It defies the governments' ability to respond in a timely fashion, because planning and development of major infrastructure projects are by their very nature time-consuming processes. In face of the rapid pace of change, many improvements become either inadequate or obsolete by the time they are finished.

Thus governments invariably end up playing a costly catch-up game. Cairo's estimated 14 million people are currently being served by infrastructure planned for 4 million at best. Effective mass transit systems that were proposed for Cairo and for Lagos in the 1950s and 1960s were finally only partially introduced in the 1980s, at several multiples of their originally estimated costs and compounded construction problems. In Lagos, the authorities cannot cope with the supply of basic household amenities such as water and electricity (Ayeni, 1981). Often, industries have to rely on inefficient and costly private generators because of the unreliable and unstable supply of electric power, thus increasing the final cost of their output. These problems have been further exacerbated by the impacts of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) introduced in 1986 (see chap. 6 in this volume).

Economic and social problems in Africa's mega-cities also result in serious environmental damage and degradation. This is one of the most alarming and uncomfortable problems of metropolitan Lagos, according to Ayeni (1981, p. 137), "because it can be seen almost everywhere." The efforts of the Waste Disposal Board, created in 1978, quickly ran into the twin obstacles of inadequate equipment, which is costly to maintain, and the relative inaccessibility of almost 60 per cent of the inhabitants of the metropolis to such refuse collection equipment. In Cairo, toxic fumes make it difficult to breathe the air along certain sections of the Autostrada because of rubbish burning. Most mega-cities also have an adverse impact on their rivers, seriously threatening water supplies; for example, the Tjiliwung in Jakarta, the Han in Seoul, the Psig in Manila, and the Hooghly in Calcutta, among others, all receive large amounts of industrial and human waste (Kasarda and Rondinelli, 1990), and the Nile River is no exception.

Mega-cities are also experiencing explosive increases in demands for shelter and physical and social infrastructure and in urban land costs. Cairo's housing needs for a 20-year period (1980-2000) were estimated at 3.6 million units. The cost of land in certain favourable locations (for example the Nile front) has increased 2,000-fold over the past two decades, and consequently housing costs have skyrocketed. Unacceptable densities and unmanageable patterns of growth often result in overcrowded housing, insanitary conditions, extremely long and cumbersome journeys to work, loss of agricultural land and of open space, and haphazard peripheral development, among others.

Integration and disintegration

Paradoxically, as mega-cities grow and consolidate their power and functional unity (as the premier socio-economic and political entities within their systems), administrative weaknesses and fragmentation within their government systems and among their subdivisions begin to intensify. Kinshasa provides a classic example of a fragmented metropolis that was never really united (see chap. 7 in this volume). Glaring dysfunctions, disparities, and inequalities among these cities' constituent communities have also tended to increase in recent years, as discussed by Aina in chapter 12 in this volume. The traditional political and administrative arrangements, which might have been appropriate for the smaller colonial cities they once were, clearly do not fit the more complex new phenomena of rapid expansion and post-colonial political adjustments.

It appears that, when African cities grew, they not only developed major diseconomies of urbanization but also became the loci for intensifying social and political problems within their societies. Not the least of these are deterioration in order and control, unemployment, urban poverty, squatters, and homelessness. It is estimated that 21 per cent of Cairo's population falls within the two lowest income categories of the "poor" and the "destitute," both of which are below acceptable poverty levels (Ibrahim, 1982). In South Africa, as described by Beavon for Johannesburg in chapter 5 in this volume, apartheid historically split functionally homogeneous urban areas into separate administrative jurisdictions on the basis of race. The resulting extreme disparities in income and expenditure, and in the level and quality of services, are likely to persist for some time in the future. In African cities, class has replaced race as the mechanism for segregation and maintenance of inequality (Gilbert and Gugler, 1992; Saff, 1994) and this is likely to happen in the cities of South Africa too.

Ineffective planning and/or governance

It is not surprising that mega-cities frequently receive a disproportionate share of government attention and planning activities. It is not clear, however, that such planning processes take full account of: (a) the socio-economic and political context within which planning activities occur, (b) the capacity of the state bureaucracies to plan and implement, or (c) the uncertainties and dynamics of the long-range processes of restructuring within regions and urban settlement systems (Rakodi, 1992; El-Shakhs, 1992).

As the previous chapters make clear, existing urban planning structures and processes in Africa are generally inadequate to deal with the scale of the urban problems confronting mega-cities. Part of this has to do with shortages of adequate fiscal resources and trained urban planners, and rigid, unresponsive bureaucratic planning delivery systems. In Kinshasa, as Piermay shows (chap. 7), the state apparatus and the city's managerial structures have all but collapsed. In Lagos, the Lagos State government has taken over many of the functions of local governments because of their inability to satisfy such basic needs as water supply and waste disposal (Onibokun and Agbola, 1994). The Langata community started the Green Belt tree planting and environmental clean-up movement in Nairobi because of the city authority's inability to undertake such functions (M'Rabu et al., 1990).

Existing planning processes are often adapted from models developed outside of Africa. This leads to over-complex planning processes, driven in a top-down manner by the state planning bureaucracy. Thus plans are developed with little or no local input or consultation. Further, even if these models were in themselves adequate as planning exercises, their implementation is generally beyond the resources and delivery capacity of the existing planning structures. Governments' ability to enforce rules and regulations is generally very weak in Africa, particularly when they relate to unrealistic standards or activities that go against the grain of market forces (Richardson, 1980). Plans are often not respected even by those government bureaucrats and politicians who approved them in the first place (El-Shakhs, 1994). In addition, projects are frequently abandoned or radically changed before they are given a chance to mature. Much of the problem lies in the often undemocratic nature of the state itself. This leads to favouritism, nepotism, biased allocation of resources, distorted priorities, and stifling of local initiative and innovation.

This is compounded by the lack of objective and reliable statistics and projections. In Lagos, for example, as Abiodun notes in chapter 6, there has not been a reliable headcount since 1963 because the census is too politicized (see also Onibokun, 1989). Chaotic conditions and the collapse of the state in Zaire make it impossible to find any dependable data since 1984. Similarly, in the mid-1960s, the Greater Cairo Planning Commission's 25-year population projections were dismissed by political leaders as exaggerated and politically inflammatory, and therefore could not be used as a basis for planning and infrastructure development (El-Shakhs, 1971). Such projections were partly based on the assumption that the government was unable to take effective measures towards decentralization, and proved to be close to target 25 years later. Finally, exogenous factors, including climatic variability (drought), oil price fluctuations, fluctuations in the world economy, and external pressures to cut services and urban subsidies, have also contributed to the severity of urban problems, particularly in mega-cities (White, 1989).

Innovative solutions: What seems to work?

Major demographic and spatial shifts in population and economic activities are likely to continue indefinitely to shape and reshape our cities and our urban systems. An effective response thus requires a better understanding of these long-range shifts, of market forces and activity, and of the capacity to influence them through public policy. An essential aspect of such policies is a continuous national effort to equalize the levels and burdens of social welfare and of urban services and amenities. This would pave the way for flexible and timely responses to change, hasten the processes of spatial and social transition, and avoid going against the tide by reinforcing the status quo.

For instance, policies of continuing to overbuild and concentrate activities and improvements in mega-cities, within their currently defined boundaries and particularly in their centres, is a short-range response to the systematic overload on their infrastructure and supply of productive employment. It is not surprising that mega-cities because of what they are, frequently receive a disproportionate share of government attention, resources, and planning activities. Such a shortsighted and biased response creates rigidities that would inhibit decentralization processes. This in turn would hinder moves towards localization and wider participation in the region and democratization nationally.

Governments in LDCs have generally been dissatisfied with the trends and consequences of concentration and have sought to address these issues. A number of efforts have been attempted, including industrial decentralization, privatization, and community self-help programmes, among others. Their success, however, seems to have been very limited (White, 1989). Several reasons have been given for this outcome, among them:

(a) Government's direct involvement or interference in local and community initiatives, which become looked upon as government programmes that are to be forcefully obeyed, ignored, or met with apathy as irrelevant. For example, the Monthly Environmental Sanitation exercise in Lagos (introduced in 1983 and reemphasized recently), where residents are to have three hours of released time on the last Saturday of each month to clean up their neighbourhoods thoroughly, turned out to be no more than an excuse for some extra free time (Onibokun and Agbola, 1994).

(b) Contradictions between government policies, some of which aim at decentralization of population and activities, while others simultaneously reinforce the concentration of economic and political power at the centre. For example, Sadat City (part of the New Desert Cities programme in Egypt) suffered from such contradictions, when the Ministry of Development and New Communities, which promoted and built the city to absorb some of the national capital functions, spearheaded by the ministry itself, opted to stay in Cairo instead. The city was thus perceived as a dumping ground for those not important or powerful enough to stay in the capital, a reaction that has adversely affected the New Desert Cities programme (El-Shakhs, 1994).

Some examples of successful initiatives

Networking for metropolitan planning and development

Urban management has to be intergovernmental in nature, and metropolitan regions are often plagued with fragmentation. Networking between the proliferating number of existing organizations and institutions is important for providing information flows between activity clusters. Networking should also include non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and volunteer groups. This proves to be less threatening to existing agencies and institutions and may stand a better chance of influencing or guiding development than their replacement. Examples from Asia as well as Africa can be illuminating. The experiences of Calcutta's Metropolitan Planning Organization and of the Greater Cairo Planning Commission provide good examples of such initiatives.

For years, the Calcutta metropolitan region was plagued with factionalism, fragmentation, and conflicts of interest among various levels of administration. There was no legal or administrative recognition of a growing metro area of some 6 million people until the creation of the Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Organization (CMPO) in 1961. It was set up by the state government, in reaction to a major health crisis in the wake of the 1958 cholera epidemic, to prepare a master plan for water supply and drainage and to recommend measures for the economic and physical regeneration of the metropolis (Sivaramakrishnan and Green, 1986). The Ford Foundation, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Health Organization provided help and international experts to the CMPO, which quickly grew to a staff of 600 and produced the Basic Development Plan by 1966. In addition to a set of immediate specific projects, the plan aimed at directing future population growth, strengthening development planning and implementation, and mobilizing finance and local government more effectively. Eventually, the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) was created in 1970 and undertook a large number of successful urban improvement projects with financial help from the World Bank.

Cairo's experience, on the other hand, started as a totally local initiative proposed by Egyptian planners without outside help at the time. The idea of creating a truly metropolitan organization, the Greater Cairo Planning Higher Committee (GCPC), was suggested to the prime minister of Egypt in 1965 by a group of local planners (including myself) in the Ministry of Housing (El-Shakhs, 1971). The GCPC was established by a presidential decree. It had a planning staff to assist its policy-making body, which was composed of most members of the cabinet, several university professors, and the three governors of Cairo, Giza, and Qalyubia, and was headed by the prime minister. The Committee's mandate was to integrate the planning function and coordinate implementation among all administrative units and at different levels within the Greater Cairo Region, which was to be defined by the Committee as a first order of business. This body was assisted by a planning organization (the Greater Cairo Planning Commission referred to above) that undertook the necessary research and made planning and policy recommendations for immediate as well as long-range strategic development. The Committee was given the power of review over all major projects in the region and produced a set of development policies and a preliminary long-range development plan, before its work was interrupted by the 1967 war with Israel. Although the GCPC was subsequently changed in character and absorbed into the national General Organization for Physical Planning (GOPP), policies articulated during its short-lived existence had a significant impact on the development of Greater Cairo after 1966, particularly in the areas of decentralization, new towns, infrastructure, and transportation systems.

Local autonomy and popular initiatives

Some examples from Zimbabwe and Tanzania, however limited, go to show what local urban autonomy can achieve within the African context. Local urban government in Zimbabwe has enjoyed a relatively high degree of autonomy in both organizational and financial terms. As a result, the local capacity to raise revenues and the ability to provide necessary urban services in a city such as Bulawayo have been found to be quite high. The municipal government depends almost entirely on its own resources, is run by an elected city council, has authority to hire and fire staff, who are relatively well paid, and works with residents' associations in the low-income areas. The city has been able to maintain not only a high level of services but also a "stable and productive work force" (Mutizwa-Mangiza, 1991, p.375).

Experiences outside cities can also be indicative of the potentials of popular initiatives. Efforts to expand secondary education in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania, for example, led to the re-creation of local government in the form of committees, initially formed by prominent individuals and eventually formalized by elected membership. The committees displayed many of the characteristics of an autonomous local government. They raised funds, negotiated with the national government, and collected taxes. Although this experience was limited to a single clear goal (a school), it is indicative of the capacity for organization and institution building were local initiatives to be freed from overly centralized bureaucracies (Samoff, 1989).

"Sustainable Cities" programme experience

The "Sustainable Cities" programme (SCP), as a coordinating and participatory approach to managing cities, has been adopted by Dar es Salaam since 1992, as one of the 11 cities included in that global initiative of the UN Centre for Human Settlements, the UNDP, and the World Bank. Although it is still too early for this experience to be fully evaluated, the process of its application has resulted in some notable achievements (Halla, 1994). Among these is the completion of an environmental profile of the city documenting information about the dominant issues. This was followed by consultation meetings, with wide participation from the public, private, and popular sectors, covering basic issues and priorities. Small working groups of interested citizens were formed to formulate and execute action plans in response to those issues. Thus action plans and strategies involve local groups and individuals in identifying their needs and developmental goals. This in itself is an important step towards achieving sustainable development (Tacconi and Tisdall, 1993). It helped focus discussion on improvement of basic urban services, infrastructure, and environment, including solid waste management. One result of the SCP is that the Dar es Salaam Metropolitan Development Authority (DMDA) is expected to continue to coordinate the city's development through such participatory processes.

Local community/NGO partnerships for development

A good example of a community/NGO alliance is Cairo's Zabbaleen Environmental and Development Programme (Mega-Cities Project and EQI, 1994). The Zabbaleen is an Upper Egyptian Coptic in-migrant community of garbage collectors who have traditionally gathered, sorted, and recycled a substantial part of the city's waste (see chap. 4 in this volume). As the city grew and the amount of garbage multiplied (over 6,000 tons per day), the solid waste crisis pushed the traditional collection system beyond its limits and overwhelmed the Zabbaleen's capacity to provide this service. The Zabbaleen system was considered obsolete and their livelihood was threatened when the government outlawed the use of donkey carts on Cairo's streets, and instead introduced mechanization to the municipal sanitation force, which shared certain tasks in the waste collection system. The community was squatting in squalid conditions on the marginal slopes of the Mokattam Hills near the centre of the city, where garbage heaps were to be found everywhere and sorted refuse covered the roadways. They had no services, no utilities, no schooling, little income, and deplorable environmental and health conditions, with no sewerage system, not a single telephone, and no means of transporting emergency patients to the hospital.

In 1981 the Zabbaleen Environmental and Development Programme was launched as a combined initiative of a local collective (Gameya), an NGO, the local Coptic Church, and a group of Egyptian international environmentalists, with initial funding from the Ford Foundation. Over the next five years, a series of community development initiatives were introduced, which included area upgrading and infrastructure extension, internal clean-up, health care, small industries, waste collection route extensions, mechanization, a composting plant, a veterinary centre, credit groups, and women-headed household projects. These were made possible through credit, cost recovery, and increased local income, which resulted from an expanded, more efficient waste collection system, increased land values, and micro-enterprises. Additional funding from a variety of sources helped consolidate the programme's successes. The results to date have largely been positive. In addition to improved environmental and living conditions in the community, greater literacy, an improved public image, and higher incomes, it led to the institution of a sustainable low-cost waste management system for Greater Cairo. The system was expanded to cover high-, middle-, and low-income neighbourhoods and spawned several recycling, conversion, and commercial activities that diversified the local economy and provided additional employment. This experience of engaging the informal sector in rendering an important service under a formal arrangement with the local authorities is being emulated elsewhere in Egypt (Mega-Cities Project and EQI, 1994).

Neighbourhood upgrading

Neighbourhood upgrading programmes, on the other hand, have recently become a favourite target for international support by such organizations as the World Bank and the United States Agency for International Development. There are numerous examples around the world, ranging from Ismailia's "Sustainable City" low-income housing development programmes in Egypt, to the Kampung Improvement Programmes, which have helped provide essential services to about half of Jakarta's population (Karamoy and Dias, 1986; Devas, 1993, p. 82). The greening programme at Bidara Cina in Jakarta, which aimed at upgrading the quality of the environment through a community-government partnership, also raised people's incomes through the planting of vegetables and other economically viable plants. The "Pueblo unido" (or "united people") in the Il Molino squatter settlement in Mexico City incorporated several innovations into their community, including housing modules prefabricated from local materials and above-ground rubber piping of sewage to a filtering and drying basin to produce water for aqua-culture and fertilizer (Mega-Cities Project, 1993).

Self-reliance and environmental clean-up

The awakening of self-reliance in poor communities following the destructive earthquakes of 1991 in Cairo and 1985 in Mexico City is not an isolated incident but a global phenomenon. Emergency responses to shelter and health needs, as well as assistance in rebuilding the shattered communities, typify local initiatives, with or without assistance from NGOs, governments, and international agencies. Examples of successful sanitation and environmental cleanup projects in large cities are many. These include: the Zabbaleen project in Cairo mentioned earlier; waste paper recycling in Nairobi; the Green Exchange Programme in Curitiba, Brazil, where residents of certain inaccessible areas take their garbage to designated sites for pick-up in exchange for bags of surplus vegetables; the Magic Eyes programme in Bangkok, where street rubbish was reduced by 85 per cent by "encouraging children to hum a jingle about sloppiness when they see their parents litter" (Linden, 1993, p. 32); the reforestation of favelas in Rio de Janeiro, where the planting of fruit trees and vegetables on the hillsides has prevented erosion and provided jobs and nutrition; and the pilot project for a self-installed sewerage system in the Orangi district in Karachi, where some 70 per cent of the area has been connected (Linden, 1993).

Appropriate approaches for the future

Planning for the future development of mega-cities in Africa is fraught with tremendous uncertainties, an extremely rapid pace of change, and the seeming inability of governments and the formal sector to cope with such change. Adequate responses would, therefore, have to be based on promoting:

• flexibility, adaptability, and speed of response;
• democratization, participation, and the harnessing of local community initiatives;
• system-wide coordination and cooperation;
• privatization and greater reliance on the informal sector.

Training more planners and increasing budgets may be essential, but they are only a small part of any effective approach to urban planning in Africa's largest cities. If planning is to be made more relevant to the lives of the bulk of the urban population, new responsive and consultative processes that do not promise more than can be delivered will have to be developed. Many of the current problems of overconcentration in cities and failure of planning responses lie in the excessively centralized and often undemocratic nature of the state.

Without democratization of the state itself, it is hard to envisage truly responsive planning and development processes that can be sustained, particularly at the local level through community-based organizations, a view with which Aina would concur (chap. 12 in this volume). The commitment to a genuine process of democratization of urban government through devolution of political power and control of local financial resources, however, will not come easy. It will require extraordinary political will and intense pressure from local business interests, non-governmental organizations, and citizens' alliances. Crises in the delivery of urban functions and the general degradation of the quality of life, with increased population pressures in face of bankrupt urban management, might help bring that about.

The 1990s' debate, therefore, is no longer about "whether there should be more or less government intervention but about the nature of government, the type of governance" (Shoshkes, 1994, p. 24). Administrative and spatial restructuring efforts, at both the national and the mega-city levels, should aim at strengthening local initiatives and facilitating grass-roots responses to change. Restructuring mega-cities in a sustainable manner in order to improve community live-ability has "serious implications for urban form, for the material basis of urban life, and for community social relationships that must be expressed as practical measures in planning" (Rees, 1991, p. 17). Such measures would focus on the efficient use of urban space and reducing energy consumption. Restructuring also requires a set of consistent governance and planning policies, the aim of which would be to articulate and redefine the structure of the urban system and of mega-cities in terms of an integrated system of interdependent, largely autonomous communities with identifiable activity centres and population settlements.

Strategies for such restructuring can be based on one of two general premises: (1) centralized manipulation of the economic basis of development and control of factor movements by legal and administrative means and regulations; or (2) empowering people to do things for themselves and creation of the social, psychological, and political environment for sustainable development through decentralization of decision-making power and local control over development (El-Shakhs, 1982a). The first has figured prominently in most national planning experiences to date, with no or very limited success. On the other hand, experience shows that the effects of strategies such as regionalization of budgets, decentralization of administrative functions, and revenue sharing with a measure of local autonomy can produce positive results, particularly in LDCs with large public sectors and government employment. Thus an effective and sustainable framework for the management of urban development in Africa's largest cities requires actions at both national and local levels.

At the level of the national urban system, development strategies should aim to promote nascent democracy movements and strengthen local governments, to target certain strategically located intermediate urban centres for development, and to guide the inevitable spontaneous development of urban regions along corridors of potentially intense urban interaction between major cities.

At the mega-city level, planning effort should aim at containing the uncontrolled horizontal spatial expansion of central cities, articulating their internal structure into identifiable local communities with viable business subcentres, empowering peripheral communities to restructure themselves into viable, spatially identifiable settlements, and promoting area-wide differentiation of functions and specialization of settlements.

Spatial restructuring of mega-cities: At the level of the national settlement system

Genuine devolution of political power and decentralization of government and amenities

Decentralization and greater citizen participation are effective only if they are accompanied by greater local autonomy and home rule. There is a danger that, without genuine autonomy and transfer of control, decentralization may simply mean allocation of responsibilities to local levels of administration, the net impact of which would in effect be to strengthen the presence of central government (Batley, 1993; Shoshkes, 1994). Similarly, citizen participation without empowerment could simply lead to the transfer of added burdens and responsibilities and not of economic and political power to local groups. Thus, localities should acquire control over much of their resources, be given taxing powers, and retain a good portion of their taxes, fees, and other locally generated income.

Members of the local élite, politicians, and entrepreneurs need to have a sense of "place" and feel that they have a future in their communities. "A sense of place is an asset in which people are willing to invest and from which they gain returns" (Fainstein and Markusen, 1993, p. 1465). They need the assurances and the certainty that they have a stake, and that if they develop a political and/or economic base locally it will pay off for them and their children after them. This is particularly important in Africa where different local areas are identified with specific ethnic groups. Aspirations for regional and national stature can thus be realized through local involvement rather than by physically migrating to capital cities. Such development of local élites and a local power base will help not only in local economic development but also in the development of the social infrastructure and amenities necessary to retain and attract population (El-Shakhs, 1982b).

Promoting growth in intermediate urban centres and along corridors of intense interaction

Interregional decentralization efforts, which would promote growth in smaller and intermediate cities and regional centres, would clearly go a long way towards solving the problems of overconcentration in mega-cities. Such a process, however, is often difficult to achieve in the face of rapid urban growth in the early stages, and may create other problems, e.g. the tragic consumption of agricultural land by urban land uses in Egypt. Additionally this is often a slow process and not very attractive to migrants intent on trying their luck in the largest cities.

Thus, policies for the development of mega-city regions should give particular attention to the growth potential along intense transportation corridors linking them to other major cities, both within the national urban settlement system and between countries. A close look at the growth patterns of large cities would show that such potential may have already generated major growth areas (e.g. the Cairo-Alexandria and the Lagos-Ibadan corridors) and created significant urbanization economies extending considerable distances out of such cities, particularly at the transportation centres in between. Experience indicates that the development of such urban regions is inevitable and is in fact under way in many less developed countries. Independent settlements located along major corridors of interaction provide attractive alternatives for both basic and service industries, as well as for migrants, and thus constitute rational choices for incremental decentralization moves out of the mega-city. They also enhance the potential for development of intermediate cities and regional centres within the national settlement system.

Spatial restructuring within the mega-city region

Policies to contain the horizontal expansion of central cities

One short-sighted response to the rapid growth of mega-cities has been to allow a process of continuous incremental vertical and horizontal expansion of the main built-up area. This has been the case in Cairo, whose area has more than tripled over the past 30 years, and in Lagos where it probably more than doubled between 1985 and 1994 (Onibokun and Agbola, 1994; see also chaps. 4 and 6 in this volume). The patterns of settlement expansion in the six cities studied in this book, to a greater or lesser extent, show such contiguity. Whether planned or not, such contiguous development offers a course of least resistance. It is relatively easily accessible to existing utility and service systems, which are frequently overextended. Such horizontal peripheral expansion often extends outside urban administrative jurisdictions and their planning and building controls and regulations. The consequences of such development policies and patterns are many: (1) unplanned rigid and long-lasting built environments with little or no limits or safeguards dictated by the natural environment, sustainability, or human scale; (2) extreme overloads on utility and transportation systems with frequent breakdowns, which threaten the health and safety of the population; (3) jobs/housing locational imbalances, thus decreasing accessibility to jobs, amenities, and open space; and (4) increased levels of congestion and concentrations of urban environmental pollution.

An alternative development process should attempt spatially to separate new urban development by green belts or reserves of open land, and create independent communities as an approach to expanding the urban land market. This approach would distinguish these communities from the core built-up area of the central city and reduce their dependence on its utilities and service systems. At the same time as they are given separate physical and administrative (governmental) identities, they should be made easily accessible to, and identifiable with, the mega-city itself. This would extend the glamour and mystique of the mega-city to them and thus increase their attractiveness to population and economic activities and their viability as growth alternatives. Such examples existed in the development of Heliopolis and Maadi (and more recently 6 October) outside Cairo and Ikeja outside Lagos. Unwittingly, however, horizontal expansion of the central city and lax or inappropriate land-use controls allowed developments in the interstices between them and the main built-up areas.

Thus a multi-nucleated regional development pattern requires a two-pronged strategy of increasing the supply of accessible urban land in planned locations, on the one hand, and tightening land development and preservation controls on the other. The first requires the expansion of convenient, inexpensive, and energy-conserving mass transit links to outlying development centres. Such links should be designed to leapfrog (by limiting access) intermediate areas where development is to be discouraged or halted, for example agricultural areas or open space. Land development and control concepts such as regional zoning, manipulating accessibility through the provision of roads and utilities, designation of priority zones for development, green belts, land banking or pooling on the outskirts of central cities, acquisition of development rights, transfer of development rights, or outright public acquisition of existing and/or potential urban land provide examples of the many tools that may be used to enforce such policies. There are, moreover, many examples of successful applications around the world. Perhaps the most common is the use of roads and utilities to guide development, in Curitiba and

São Paulo among others (and to determine land values, as is being attempted in Jakarta). Other experiences include green belts in Delhi and Seoul, the capturing of the improvement increment in land values to finance planned developments in Taiwan and Ismailia, and new town developments (Sivaramakrishnan and Green, 1986; Yeung and McGee, 1986; Devas, 1993).

Processes to articulate the internal structure of central cities

The sense of community within central cities themselves is often compromised or weakened by development pressures. The lack of identifiable boundaries or areas of transition, the loss of open and civic space, the general tendency toward more central control of local services, and the concentration of business and cultural activities and amenities in the city centre are all detrimental to local identity, sense of space, and pride. The usually rich heritage of diverse communities tends to disappear. Also, needless burdens are added to transportation systems as a result of the increased dependence on the city centre. Transportation projects frequently respond to and reinforce such centrality.

Development and planning policies should be designed in a way that would help identify established communities and community centres within mega-cities, through a bottom-up participatory approach, and strengthen them through land-use, transportation, and redevelopment assistance plans (for example, this was recommended in the 1970 preliminary strategic plan for Greater Cairo and elaborated as the "homogeneous sectors" in the 1983 development plan; see chap. 4). Decentralization of business, cultural, and governmental activities into secondary business subcentres can help reduce extreme centrality and create a more balanced poly-nucleated pattern of viable communities. The boundaries of communities can be sharpened, for instance by redevelopment of the often marginal uses and transitional areas at the edges.

Such spatial restructuring could be accomplished through urban land policies. For instance, public ownership or acquisition of land through eminent domain, where feasible, provides one approach. Land-pooling and readjustment schemes where appropriate could provide another approach (South Korea, Taiwan). In this case the owners of a given site get smaller but better-serviced parcels at least as valuable and better planned, and the local government gets a portion of the land to sell for cost recovery or use for services. If well planned as intensive-use readjustments, such redevelopment processes could enable the creation of buffer zones, passive open spaces, or right of ways for major high-speed roads or limited-access highways. While improving accessibility to the identified communities and their business centres, such roads could also act as defining barriers or edges between them. The spatial definition and articulation of a system or hierarchy of communities and neighbourhoods can go hand in hand with moves toward governmental decentralization and local self-reliance.

Restructuring peripheral developments

Regional development policies should anticipate and prepare for eventual deconcentration or "counter-urbanization" within the mega-city region. Such processes are already occurring in most large metropolitan regions, including Cairo, Lagos, Abidjan, and Johannesburg. Unregulated spontaneous dispersal can be costly as well as wasteful in its indiscriminate use of valuable land resources. Proper planning, especially during stages of rapid mega-city growth, would help spark a step-wise process of decentralization and reduce growth pressures on the central city. It can promote the development of a hierarchy of regional intermediate and small urban centres. This could include new towns and expanded towns, which prove more successful when they are developed as integral parts of mega-city subsystems (e.g. new towns in the Cairo region such as 6 October, compared with independent new cities elsewhere such as Sadat City; El-Shakhs, 1994). In addition, the use of approaches such as priority development zones and industrial estates to focus and synchronize development efforts within large regions provides added valuable experience in this context.

Spontaneous peripheral settlements and squatters should be recognized and stabilized as elements of any peripheral restructuring. Such communities should be integrated into the envisioned settlement pattern and activity subcentres. Their inclusion in itself would help stabilize as well as control land uses in such settlements. In the process, spatial relocation may be inevitable, but should be kept to a minimum in order to reduce social and economic costs. Land-pooling and readjustment schemes in the periphery could prove to be of major utility for upgrading and servicing these developments, as well as allowing for redevelopment of infrastructure and open space.

Specialization and functional differentiation of settlements

Functional specialization within national urban settlement systems is nothing new. Although all cities provide basic urban services, locational or historical factors tend to differentiate them and endow them with major distinguishing functions. Thus many cities develop special roles as ports, industrial agglomerations, resort areas, educational centres, religious meccas, administrative capitals, and so on. Problems of overconcentration are often exacerbated when all or most of these functions reside in one mega-city, e.g. Lagos (particularly prior to the move of the capital to Abuja) and Cairo (with the exception of the port functions in Alexandria and the Suez Canal cities). The degree of urban primacy is often very low or absent when these functions are distributed among several national centres (e.g. the United States, Sweden, Italy, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, and others).

The same rationale exists, and may be easier to achieve, within mega-city regions. The high degree of unity, interdependence, and self-reliance within such regions allows for a significant degree of diversity and specialization among their constituent settlements. Major economic, cultural, entertainment, business, and governmental functions tend to agglomerate individually within specific locations in and around mega-cities. This trend of spatial differentiation of major functions and specialization of settlements could become an important approach in the planning for deconcentration of mega-cities. Such an approach would help redefine the functions of the main centre and of secondary centres, provide room for expansion and often badly needed open space within the primary centre (e.g. moving several of the national government agencies from the city centre to Nasr City in Cairo in the 1950s and 1960s), separate major non-compatible uses, and deconcentrate congestion and environmental pollution.

Implications for governance and planning

Current approaches to urban planning and management have to be realistic about the expectations and potentials of urban development, the limitations on the capacity of the institutions involved, and the need for flexibility in planning and incrementality in implementation. This requires the expansion and reorganization of planning and administrative functions to provide area-wide coordination, yet to strengthen local autonomy, initiative, and identity both within and outside the central city. There needs to be a greater reliance on the private sector for a substantial part of metropolitan services and a shift towards greater local participation and community self-help through volunteer efforts (Sivaramakrishnan and Green, 1986).

Promoting local autonomy and initiative within area-wide coordination

The first step in facing the challenge of mega-city growth is to establish meaningful and workable mechanisms for region-wide planning and coordination and control of development. These should articulate a division of authority and responsibility that maximizes local participation while preserving integration at a regional scale. Such mechanisms and institutions, be they jurisdictional or networks, should be flexible enough so that their authority and its boundary can be frequently adjusted to fit the phenomena.2 Local initiative and control at the small scale of towns and districts would enhance chances for self-reliance and sustainability for many urban functions and make it feasible to attract qualified personnel. This would reduce the burden on the mega-city government and thus enable it to cope with the increasingly complex regional functions such as transportation, communications, utilities, public safety, and protection of the environment. In order to be effective, local administrations must have a say in or control of capital investment, priorities, and local resources. Only a strong local official (a mayor or manager) with powers to deliver can cut deals with private enterprises and community groups in a relevant, timely, and responsive manner at the local level.

Promoting participation and self-reliance

The future salvation of mega-cities has to rely in large measure on "the vibrancy, dedication, creativity and ambition of the poor who inhabit these cities in improving their lot" (Onibokun and Agbola, 1994, p. 3). In face of the increasing complexity of mega-city systems and of dwindling municipal revenues, community-initiated self-help programmes become key to any improvement. Governments should thus pursue a more community-based approach to development by integrating local initiatives and voluntary associations into their plans. Incorporating traditional groups in the planning process would also serve as a stabilizing influence during periods of fundamental change (Kooperman, 1987). Such approaches would force governments to re-evaluate their own centralized bureaucratic structures, mobilize local groups, and reorient the decision-making process to make it more responsive to people's needs. Certainly democratization of the planning process, and of the state itself, would go a long way towards this end.

These moves towards greater participation at community levels, however, call for more, not less, coordination and integration at higher levels of government. The increasing complexities of large cities seem to shift more importance and burdens from city government to both lower (local neighbourhood or district) and higher (regional or national) levels. While unification of area-wide jurisdictions leads to better coordination, strengthening of lower tiers makes genuine popular participation possible. This articulation of authority also tends to place more importance on people's capacity and ingenuity to do things for themselves. In this respect, governments should recognize the importance and potential of the informal sector (Lee-Smith, 1989).

Integrating the planning and administration of development

Creating networks within and between existing organizations and institutions would facilitate information flows and enhance coordination throughout the process, including: research and analysis of metropolitan systems, formulation of goals and objectives, evaluation and choice among feasible alternative policies and strategies, implementation, and monitoring and feedback. Such experiences, as experimented with in the Greater Cairo Planning Commission, exist in a variety of forms in major Asian mega-cities (e.g. Tokyo's federal government, the city-states of Singapore and Hong Kong, and the Metro Manila Management Coordination Board) and are instructive in this respect. They provide an alternative and support to the more rigid traditional hierarchical command structure (Sivaramakrishnan and Green, 1986). The unique advantage of networks is that they can easily cross lines and levels of authority, include internal and external institutions, link formal and informal organizations, and shrink or expand their boundaries as needed in response to changes within the metropolitan system.


A multi-level cooperative administrative approach to urban management and planning, based on democratization and participation and focused on greater local initiative and control, would provide a flexible strategy that would be responsive and adaptable to future

uncertainties. Instead of reinforcing the status quo, it would better anticipate and facilitate the likely long-range changes and minimize their adverse impacts. Combined with promoting a poly-nucleated approach to the spatial restructuring of mega-cities, it would help organize urban regions along manageable and humane dimensions, were they destined to continue their unabated growth for long periods in the future. Such approaches would, at the same time, promote a more socially and environmentally sustainable development process. They would empower people to do things for themselves, increase their participation in decisions that affect their lives, encourage local identity and self-reliance, and increase popular participation in the provision of urban services and in the planning process. They would provide an effective framework and incentives for the generation of growth and its distribution at local levels. They would also help preserve human scale and access to nature. The efficient use of urban land and of energy resources through a better-balanced distribution of population and systems of settlements would go a long way towards protecting the environment, preserving natural capital, and creating liveable communities.

Major international funding and technical assistance organizations such as the World Bank, traditionally accustomed to funding giant projects, have increasingly come to recognize the importance of supporting small community-based projects and the virtues of fostering citizen participation as important elements in local planning and sustainable development. There is also an emerging emphasis on the role of non-governmental organizations or private voluntary organizations in the planning, management, and finance of development at all levels. If freed from government intervention, the proliferating numbers of NGOs (for example, there are at least 60 in Nigeria) and their close association with urban residents can, in addition to supporting community-based initiatives, play an important role in the area of networking and information flows for region and metropolitan area-wide planning.

The continuous exchange of ideas and experiences among mega-cities governments and planners worldwide is another promising and important area of action at the international level. Such exchanges have already begun under a variety of rubrics: the United Nations Population Fund's large-city mayors' conferences, the Mega-City Project based in New York, the World Bank's Sustainable Development annual conferences, and the organization "Metropolis" based in Paris, among others. Regional African city associations may also play an important role in encouraging research and experimentation and in sharing successful experiences in the planning and management of large and mega-cities.


The author acknowledges the help with the translation and research for this chapter ably provided by Catherine C. Galley, Hassan Hegab, Melissa Mandoz, Grant Saff, and Apana Subaiya, all graduate students in Urban Planning and Policy Development at Rutgers University.


1. The absence of reliable census figures for most African countries and the lack of knowledge of urban growth rates during the years of recession have been referred to in many earlier chapters and discussed especially by Simon (chap. 3) and Potts (chap. 13). In this context, projections should be regarded with considerable scepticism and are used here only for indicative purposes.

2. This has been possible in terms of formal municipal boundaries in Turkey, Zimbabwe, and Kenya, where municipalities can legally and politically expand their boundaries to incorporate their immediate environs and pert-urban periphery. Frequent and major extensions took place in Kenya in the 1970s and 1980s. In Turkey, not only did municipal boundaries expand to service unplanned settlements, but a "powerful upper tier metropolitan authority has been created for the larger conurbations" (Davey, 1993, p. 156).


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