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The Town and County Planning and Development Conference was held from 9th -10th November 2016 at Reef Hotel Mombasa. The conference also marked the World Town Planning Day. The late Professor Carlos Maria della Paolera of the University of Buenos Aires to advance public and professional interest in planning, both locally and abroad, founded the international organization for World Town Planning Day in 1949.  Since then, the World Town Planning Day is celebrated each November. This has become a special day to recognize and promote the role of planning in creating sustainable communities.

The Conference theme was ‘Sustainable Development Planning, Investments and Entrepreneurship’. In attendance were about 100 participants drawn from international organizations, national/county governments, private sector, NGOs and professionals in the building sector- town planners, architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and EIA experts.

Through this conference, the imperatives of effective and efficient public service delivery that include the need for effective, integrated economic and spatial planning; appropriate financing/funding mechanisms; sound service management practices; good governance; and monitoring and evaluation were discussed.

During this conference, the Center for Urban Research and Innovation (CURI), made a presentation titled “Slum upgrading in Kenya-Opportunities and Challenges in towns/counties and country”. Mr. Philip Olale made the presentation, which largely outlined the vital role CURI has played in contributing to sustainable solutions towards solving the challenge of informality in urban areas in Kenya. From this presentation, it was noted that CURI seeks innovative approaches by which the planning school at the University of Nairobi and faculty of built environment can better engage urban stakeholders. Based on this vision, CURI has been able to foster greater awareness and appreciation of collaborative planned interventions to local urban challenges mainly through negotiated applied research.

Conversely, Mr. Olale’s presentation outlined the challenge of informality in Kenya. He argued that  urban population in Kenya is estimated at 14.5 million according to 2009 census, with an annual growth rate of 4.2%. Further, he argued that about 65% of this urban population lives in informal settlements characterised by squalid living conditions, poor infrastructure, high poverty rates, absence of planning and vagaries of insecure tenure. Some of the challenges identified in the presentation that characterise search for a solution included apathy, bad politics, corruption, resource constraints, magnitude of the challenge, land tenure system, cycle of disadvantage, and poverty cost.

Nyamaroto Informal Settlement in Nakuru County, Kenya

Nonetheless, the presentation also identified some opportunities: a revitalized profession; an increasingly aware/empowered society; a government with a change of heart (Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme (KENSUP), Kenya Informal Settlement Improvement Project (KISIP)); international support; and an enabling legal framework (Constitution of Kenya 2010, Slum Prevention and Upgrading Policy, National Land Policy and Land Act 2012).

To illustrate these opportunities, the presentation noted that CURI is instrumental in an ongoing discourse on access to land by Kiandutu informal settlement dwellers in Thika. CURI has prepared a policy brief, which discusses various policy scenarios that can be leveraged by the County Governments of Kiambu; in sustainably tackling land access constraints faced by urban poor in accessing land and respectable shelter. Some of the policy options discussed included resettlement of the slum dwellers to alternative site, compensation, sale of the land to the urban poor at subsidized rates and land sharing which appears to be the preferred option.

This year’s conference was concluded by issuance of awards christened ‘Town Awards of Excellence 2016’ to various individuals, companies and government institutions that have contributed to improved urban development.

Philip Olale,

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