Pretoria: In order for development to take place, Africa has to create more equitable, inclusive societies, says National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel. “Creating more equitable, inclusive societies in Africa has to top our development agenda,” said Manuel at a conference of African Planners on Monday, adding that it was necessary to achieve these complex interventions, which ranged from a regional, national, sub-national, city and neighbourhood scale.
“Political decision-makers need to create space for planning norms and standards, failing which those with spending powers will do as they please, and the people of Africa will remain poor,” he explained. The minister added that loops in local government democracy needed to be closed. “Very often planners visit communities with councillors to elicit views but seldom return with responses. This breeds mistrust,” he said.
The National Development Plan handed to President Jacob Zuma set out to address inequality and the elimination of poverty. These, said the minister, were not new challenges and were not uniquely African or South African.
Poor education outcomes and distorted spatial patterns are other challenges facing South Africa. “Both these factors have been known to policy makers and planners since the dawn of our democracy. Yet it seems we have not made much progress in addressing them. Throughout the continent, the spatial patterns have not progressed far beyond what the liberated Africa inherited from her colonisers.”
According to the minister,r the shadow of colonialism continues to linger on the continent and remains a determinant of relations between Africans through language and transport networks. “To take Africa forward, we need a different political perspective and planners who appreciate the enormous burden they bear of physically transforming their societies.”
Manuel added that planners need to be cognisant of challenges that lie ahead with around half of the world’s population already living in cities with the number set to increase. For South Africa it is estimated that 8 million more people will live in cities by 2030.
“The economic and health imperative to plan for and create sustainable cities is not a luxury; it is a necessity if the 21st century is to provide a secure and sustainable way of life for a world population that over the next four decades will increase by a third.”
The continent is expected to experience unprecedented levels of urbanisation. “Whether or not this delivers benefits for the people of Africa depends on whether the profession of planners is able to rise to the challenge. It also depends on whether political decision makers create the necessary policies to enable planners to make the right planning decisions.”
Deficits in infrastructure, entrepreneurship, human resources, science and technology are some of the issues faced by the continent though progress has been made on the continent. “Africa has also witnessed a substantial improvement in economic performance, with average GDP growth of 5.6% between 2002 and 2008, making Africa the second-fastest growing continent in the world at times.
“In order to sustain growth, African governments need to continue to promote good governance, make the most of the demographic potential of its youthful population and prepare for increased rates of urbanisation. Industrialisation and investment in infrastructure and human capital is also critical,” he said.