Solutions to Urbanisation Problems
There are opportunities in increased urbanisation that people may not realise. Guest blogger Allan K Muleya outlines the solutions to urbanisation problems.
According to UN-Habitat, 70% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050. To some people this implies a disaster for urban life. Urbanisation is a term widely used in developing nations and the world at large to denote a cancer that viciously eats into both the public and private realms of life within cities.
Cities should start viewing urbanisation as an opportunity rather than a curse so as to realise sustained growth. One book that I came across in my years of studying Urban Planning is Planning Sustainable Cities: Policy Directions Global Report on Human Settlements, 2009.
The argument in the book is that ‘urbanisation should be seen as a positive phenomenon and a pre-condition for improving access to services, economic and social balance between cultural groups seeking to preserve their identity in cities and the need to avoid extreme forms of segregation and urban fragmentation’.
Globally, urbanisation is a recurring phenomenon mainly caused by migration. Individuals and groups of people from rural areas or depressed regions migrate to metropolitan regions. Many pull and push factors motivate migration, but poverty plays a primary role in pushing people to greener pastures. Employment therefore is what most migrants seek within big cities.
As a result of urbanisation, local authorities are faced with social, political and economic challenges. Fundamentally, these challenges are caused by larger numbers of people in cities than were initally planned for. Housing and other amenities are strained in the wake of urbanisation. Hence, in the end, infrastructure is destroyed, and local authorities do not revamp this infrastructure because they are faced with economic challenges of their own.
From an economic point of view, urbanisation automatically translates into an increase in the demand for goods and services within cities. Local authorities should embrace this increase rather than shun it.
Local authorities should support small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), especially in developing nations. Most of local authorities’ internal finances come from taxes, levies, rates and rentals from the buildings they own. Promoting SMEs will ensure that businesses within the local authorities are not halted, as taxes and rates are likely to increase, thereby increasing funds.
SMEs producing locally-made products and efficiently marketed with the support of local authorities are likely to prosper because the conditions of success – adequate demand, supply, marketing and low production costs – will have been met. Local authorities should also take it upon themselves to provide strategic space for SMEs in every locale within their jurisdiction.
Ester Boserup (1910–1999), a Danish economist, argues that necessity is the mother of invention. My viewpoint is that local authorities should be innovative in this era of urbanisation. Gaps in markets should be identified and filled.
Local authorities should therefore take advantage of the competition which comes as a result of urbanisation in the social and economic domains of life. It is also key that they become creative on how to harness funds and improve the living conditions of people in cities.
Submitted by Allan K Muleya, a 23 year-old passionate about volunteering who recently completed his studies towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Rural and Urban Planning at the University of Zimbabwe. Allan is interested in sustainable urban design, youth empowerment and civil society engagement in governance issues.
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