Uganda has of late begun celebrating ghetto life. Initially, we used to imagine that our role was to have no ghettos and address slum life every minute we get a leadership or management responsibility in any urbanizing place. The reason we must ask whether the new cities will escape the current city development challenges Kampala faces today. To realize the cities we all adore, there must be a deliberate plan to decongest Kampala and avoid creating another Kampala through the new 6 strategic proposed cities for Uganda.
Kampala is the only city where both our history and current generation will talk about. However, the current and future Kampala talk is characterized by acute traffic jam, floods, noise, disorder, hawkers trading everywhere, ghetto life, slums, poor drainage, limited consideration of the environment, lawlessness, fake unauthorized goods and services, serious unregulated street policing, roadside street parking on the narrow pagers, kidnaps, disorder, congestion, street noise, narrow roads to mention but a few. Our green is stepped on before it becomes our treasure. New cities like Oil city (Hoima), tourism city (Fort Portal), Business cities (Mbarara, Masaka, Gulu, Lira, Arua, Mbale and Masaka) have been proposed and soon, in the next three Financial Years 3 – 6 cities will be inaugurated with similar or related development challenges. Despite this, we have committed that by 2030, under global commitments where Uganda is signatory like Sustainable Development Goal number 11 warrants us to facilitate sustainable cities and communities. We are expected to work and track progress on urban and inter-urban mobility, communities’ infrastructures, buildings and shelters. How do we deliver to this contribution but also mitigate future occurrences of the current Kampala challenges reoccurring into the other new cities. This is what we can do differently.
We need to do the unobvious. We must start believing that things can change. Occupants of Kampala and planners and business leaders for the new proposed cities may have to learn mitigation strategies for city crisis. There must be a culture of everyone playing a role towards a better, sustainable and clean city we all admire not just blaming political and technical leaders. It is too early to begin a campaign of walking and bike ride (not boda bodas) for the new cities. Kampala and the new cities must employ technology. Technology should be able to reduce the need to visit offices for approvals, authorization and documents. Uganda Revenue Authority has successfully done this and we interface with it online. Going digital will require incubation centres. We need to generate innovative ideas and strategic products that enables city occupants utilize Information Technology and increasingly reduce the need to travel to the city for services. If employing Information Technology is challenging for city duelers, government can take mitigate remedies and administrative strategies. Government can take radical but more practical strategies. Remove key Ministries, Departments and Agencies from Kampala as it adopts the Information Technology strategies. Lead agencies and political decisions must be made to this effect. For instance, if parliament was removed from the Metropolitan Kampala, all ministries shifted to surrounding towns like Bwikwe, Kayunga, Wakiso among others, Kampala’s traffic jam would reduce by over 25% in all Kampala areas. This calls for decisive political action that is both transformative and futuristic. The political risk is lower than the damage Kampala and the new cities will cause to Uganda. Governance actors and political leaders must become strict to the purpose. It will require technical thinking not just politics. Kampala managers will automatically shift to the new cities as they start. This will certainly be so due to experience needs but also transfer agony and work methodology and the dream for the new cities turning into new ghetto or slums will be obvious. Let all of us work towards better and sustainable cities using Kampala as a prototype. This however, will require a deliberate plan to decongest Kampala and avoid creating another Kampala through other new proposed cities with the same development challenges as those of Kampala. We can be excused for the mess in Kampala as we inherited an already small population planned town but never can we escape the future demands and challenges being apportioned on us on the new cities as we still have room to make them even better for the next 13 generations. We are tied of blaming Kampala and cherishing other cities whenever we travel abroad. We still have the time. The opportunity is ripe for us to play a fundamental contribution in form of a new brand of cities. We must redesign our will to shape the cities we all cherish and admire.
I believes that cities are murky places and indeed hatching grounds for monsters if not planned at infancy. Our new cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody
The writer is lead mentor at the Next Generational Leaders a platform that mentors, inspires and empower leaders in Africa