Mombasa, 14 July 2015—Over 70 participants drawn from the national and county governments as well as grassroots community leaders gathered in Mombasa, Kenya for a meeting on integrated urban planning and informal settlements improvement.

The meeting is part of follow-up sessions to complement the integration efforts aimed at maximizing the impact of both the Kenya Municipal Programme (KMP) and the Kenya Informal Settlement Improvement Programme (KISIP) in the various Kenyan counties where the two programmes are being implemented simultaneously.

These follow up sessions are designed, jointly, by UN-Habitat and the two programmes which are both funded by the World Bank and implemented in partnership with the Government of Kenya. UN-Habitat on its part is facilitated financially by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) to support a sustainable urban development sector in Kenya, through enhancing capacity development in the counties under the KMP framework.

At the Mombasa meeting, various speakers underscored the importance of community participation in both urban planning and informal settlements improvement where as community members present were also sensitized on the need of planning.

Sixty five percent of population living in informal settlements

In his remarks, the Chief Officer for Lands, Planning and Housing for Mombasa County Mr. Jabu Salim estimated that Mombasa had 65 percent of her population living in informal settlements. “The workshop should aim to emphasize the importance of secure tenure, and demystify that interventions in the informal settlements can only be successful if communities are given individual title deeds,” he said adding there was need to consider more diverse and inclusive, as well as market attractive approaches such as redevelopments involving the private sector.

Ms. Kerstin Sommer of UN-Habitat said the meeting was an ample opportunity to engage with communities directly-ascertain how policy, models being advocated for are resonating with the challenges on ground. “We will get the chance to understand the urban future we collectively desire. I am happy to note that our collaboration with Kilifi county has yielded- a real learning experience for each partner and we are now institutionalizing the various approaches,” she said.

According to Ms. Sommer, it was imperative that communities understood how planning works and perhaps shape how planning should work in their context. She told the participants that communities were open to engage UN Habitat consistently-share their experiences, approach to the various challenges in informal settlements and areas of collaboration.

The meeting had the added importance that it included a learning and exchange aspect. It also underscored the need to bring all major informal settlements upgrading programmes together. UN-Habitat is focusing on having informal settlement program integrated into city wide planning programme. UN-Habitat does this through its City Planning Extension and Design Unit (CPEDU) and the Participatory Slum Upgrading  Programme  (PSUP).

Urban Specialist with the World Bank, Ms. Sheila Kamunyori asked how KISIP and KMP could collaborate better so as to achieve the common goals they shared.

On behalf of KISP, Mr. George Arwa gave a brief history of the programme from its inception in 2011. He laid out KISP components as:

  • Institutional building
  • Enhancing Tenure
  • Infrastructure projects
  • Enhancing knowledge-developing strategies from learnt experiences.

On his part, Solomon Ambwere from KMP said a review of the Urban Areas and Cities Act would enable more reasonable categorization of urban areas.

“There has been a validation of the National Urban Development policy has been done and the two counties of Kilifi and Mombasa participated,” he said adding that the ministry had plans to establish an urban development fund, and would continue supporting secondary cities and intermediate towns. An elected representative Mr. Adamson K. Mwathethe, who is a Member of the County Assembly of Kilifi appreciated the work being done by all the partners present.

He caused a light moment when he said that politicians were a paradox; their work can be supportive and equally destructive and that the biggest challenges was how to sustain political good will. “However, you must realise that what allows room for destructive politics is lack of sharing goals and visions (the short-term, medium term and long-term).

The technocrats have also failed, especially with regard to implementation. The plans are formulated and shelved, approvals are done in contrarily to the plan, and people end-up developing. During implementation, which could come after decades, the technocrat comes in to start demolishing for planned investments. But, the politician, who relies on the voters, will have to go by the popular mood-in this case, there cannot be political good will,” he said.

Special Economic Zone to trigger rapid growth

Officially opening the meeting, the Mombasa County Executive Committee (equivalent to the county minister) for Lands, Planning and Housing Mr. Francis Thoya disclosed that the Special Economic Zone, being developed in the county will trigger rapid growth.

“A similar growth is also expected in Kilifi county and this is both an opportunity and a challenge least of all in that it will likely lead to an increase in informal settlements. Planning the anticipated growth is important and especially how to deal with low-cost housing and jobs, ‘he said.

We would need to mention the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme (KENSUP) implemented by the Government and the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme (PSUP) implemented by UN-Habitat as well.

Read more about how UN-Habitat supports the Kenya Municipal Programme - Phase 1 and Phase 2