Tag Archives: Urban Management

A plan of action, talk of action, chain reaction, yet?

Alex Ndibwami from Uganda Martyrs University write on the recent African Union of Architects Congress in Kampala, Uganda, and its relevance to the work and goals of SAMSET.

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the African Union of Architects Congress in Kampala.  This was the first time Uganda was hosting the event whose theme was Our Architect, Our Communities, Our Heritage. 

While there were a number of presentations and discussions, I will focus on three of particular interest specifically because they are at the heart of the issues SAMSET has set out to deal with.

Ms Jennifer Musisi, the Executive Director of Kampala Capital City Authority, delivered a keynote presentation on urbanisation in general and what direction is being taken to improve the conditions in her city; while Mr Medie Muhammad Lutwama, Executive Director, ACTogether Uganda, presented the approach to their work in informal settlements, challenging the built environment professional rethink their attitude towards urbanisation and the challenges it comes with; and from a gripping and  inspiring philosophical point of view Ms Lillian Namuganyi of Makerere University, College of Engineering Design, Art and Technology discussed socio-spatial landscapes in a historical and ideological sense, and what form it could take to renew a contextually rich socio-cultural dynamic in a contemporary sense.  Ms Lillian Namuganyi is also a practising architect and a researcher.  What these three presentations had in common was that they are concerned about the future of the city dweller.

What I will dwell on though are the subtle hints for a collaboration that these three players in the built environment are signalling.  While Ms Jennifer Musisi may have concluded inviting professionals to get on board and Mr Medie Muhammad Lutwama reechoed the need for professionals to be less elitist, Ms Lillian Namuganyi simply set the arena for a renewed attitude toward the socio-spatial landscape.

But what does it all mean in practical terms?  We all know that governments focus on infrastructure the best way it fits their political agenda while Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) actually tend to be more hands-on attempting to solve the real problems at the grassroots, yet unless efforts are combined any discourse will remain academic and the existence of the built environment professional float for elitist.

Is there room for a real collaboration that deals with the issues collectively and could deliver lasting solutions?  Who is well placed to lead this and sustain the momentum – a city manager, an NGO activist, an academic/researcher or a built environment professional?  It is difficult to tell in a society where accountability born of collective effort is not part of the work ethic.

Might Ms Lillian Namuganyi suggest a starting point for us in her assertion that “Whether operating within or at its margins, the re-working of the strategic city is a logic and order of fragments, scraps that are pieced together moment by moment.  It is a city of micro-logics of the people’s social and especially economic survival – many small thoughts and actions of many people, woven into the detailed space of the city, unpredictable, never static, ever mutating.” So I dare ask again without deliberate collaboration that acknowledges the complexity of the city and the contribution from different players is the plan of action simply talk of it?  Or is there potential for real change – a chain reaction of possibilities borne of new partnerships that combine astute managerial skills, compassionate activists, avant-garde professionals and more outgoing academics.

The SAMSET project is an action oriented research project setting out to close the capacity gap at municipality level while in a participatory manner developing strategies that will support energy transitions.  Indeed, capacity and engagement are a precursor to action, but without the acknowledgement of and investment in structures that promote inter disciplinary work ethos, is it sustainable?

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The Challenges of Low Carbon Urban Development

Mark Borchers from SEA comments on the C40 City Mayors Summit, held in Johannesburg in February.

There are plenty of ideas about low carbon urban development. These tend to circulate in policy documents, reviews and conference presentations. The challenge is to take these ideas and let them take root and gain life in the messy engine rooms of cities where the aircon may have been broken for many months, the average qualification basic, a receptionist painting their nails, the engineer gone and the finance officer unwilling to do anything new. It may take 3 months just to appoint a staff member; up to six months to issue a tender and appoint a contractor. I have heard of instances where money for retrofit of public lighting ended up paying staff salaries; and funds for solar water heating installation could not be spent as there was no engineer to sign off that the houses could structurally bear the load.

Scratch the surface, however, and there is also a wealth of experience, irreplaceable on-ground technical knowledge and institutional memory. I have also experienced, across almost every municipality in South Africa at least, a massive commitment to meet the environmental challenges facing us.

In February city leaders met in Johannesburg for the C40 City Mayors Summit. Political analysts Richard Calland and Jerome van Rooij (‘African cities need to work together’) posed the question: will African cities be able to ‘catch the wave’ of cities being “where it’s at” with regard to sustainable development and green-growth, given their fiscal and political/legal limitations? Not without a major gearing up, they conclude.

SAMSET aims to address this, following a model that has been enormously successful in South Africa to date: taking an sustainable energy/urban development idea, working on it hand in hand with city staff; when it hits a snarl-up, deepening the investigation, exploring a number of possibilities and moving closer to a solution – a programme of real intervention. As the work happens, the finance begins to flow in, the capacity to do the work expands, new offices develop and the institution reconfigures itself. Incremental, but potentially powerful.

Urban Network Management & EiABC – Ethiopia

800px-Addis_Abeba,_Ethiopia blog feature

Xavier Lemaire from the UCL Energy Institute offers his thoughts on urbanisation in Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture Building Construction (EiABC).

With an annual growth rate of almost 7%, the Ethiopian society is one of the fastest growing worldwide. Addis Ababa alone, as the biggest urban development in Ethiopia, will need to house approximately 4 million people more in 2025 than today.

An Urban Management Network (UMN) for Ethiopia has been launched in December 2013 to optimise urban governance and management, and capacity development of civil services in Ethiopia by aligning their activities to create synergy and to promote best practices and create space for policy dialogue. A Memorandum of Agreement has been signed between EiABC, the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture Building Construction and City Development and the Ministry of Urban Development, Housing and Construction (MoUDHC), the Ethiopian Civil Service University (ECSU) and the Ethiopian Cities Association (ECA).

EiABC, works notably with ETH Zurich to integrate urban sustainability in the design process in an early stage. The project “Urban Laboratory ETHiopia” realizes a platform for architecture and urban planning on the Addis Ababa University campus. The project’s main target is to contribute to the future development of Ethiopia by researching and publicly presenting various research activities for urgent problems as well as transferring knowledge for planning strategies in urban territories. Other projects where EiABC is involved try to showcase the use of local materials, and research, re-apply and re-invent vernacular building techniques to build Sustainable Dwelling Units.

http://eiabc.edu.et/

Image © Glustino / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0