Malawi to benefit from Manda’s seat on AAPS
Lilongwe ‑ A renowned Malawian urban planner and University of Mzuzu University lecturer, Mtafu Zeleza, Manda has been elected to serve on the Association of African Planning Schools (AAPS) steering committee.
Manda, is a co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Centre for Community Organisation and Development (CCODE), a local urban development NGO that promotes the inclusion of the poor in the formulation of interventions on housing, water and sanitation, employment opportunities and other initiatives.
He will sit on the AAPS Steering committee alongside Prof Babatunde Agbola (University of Ibadan, Nigeria), Prof Vanessa Watson (University of Cape Town, South Africa), Prof Peter Ngau (University of Nairobi, Kenya), Mr Garth Klein (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa), Dr Dan Inkoom (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana), and Mr Nigel Tapela (Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa).
AAPS is a network of 41 urban and regional planning departments or schools based in universities in Africa.
It was formed in 2002, and is one of nine member planning school associations, which make up GPEAN (the Global Planning Education Association Network).
The association works at revitalising planning education in Africa through initiating debate on the current state of planning education in Africa and the extent to which it is aligned with currently realities and demands of African urban settlements.
“AAPS aim to start off a process of review and reform within the planning education sector of African higher education institutions, so that planning graduates can play a meaningful role in meeting the very serious challenges facing African cities,” says Manda.
It is envisaged that the election of Manda will put Malawi’s urban planning education, policies and implementation on the pedestal for improvement.
Malawi, one of the countries, which gained independence from Britain in 1964 after nearly 70 years of colonialism, followed by one-party dictatorship until 1994 ‑ when multiparty politics was introduced, lags behind in urban planning and management. The southern African country’s per capita GDP is less than US$200, of which 40 percent is contributed by the agricultural sector with an urban poverty line pegged at US$1 per day.
According to the Integrated Household Survey, 52.4 percent of the population lives below this poverty line, while 22.4 percent are ultra-poor.
Manda says by 1998, the country’s poor were classified as those who had less than a dollar per day to meet their basic needs (food and non-food items), and they accounted for 65.3 percent of the population.
“Income, or consumption, is only one among a number of measures that adequately define poverty,” he says adding that lack of political power, services, facilities and infrastructure, including housing, schools, health centres, water points and roads, are also features of the country’s poverty.
He points out: “In both rural and urban areas, the provision of services is quite low because of the weak macroeconomic environment prevailing in the country”.
Malawi’s national population has grown at a rate of about 3 percent per annum, from 4 million in 1966 to about 10 million in 1998.
From approximately 11.9 million in mid-2004, the population is expected to reach 17 million by 2015 and 20.1 million by 2020, warns Manda.
“At the same time, with a density of 87 persons per square kilometre of surface area and 171 persons per square kilometre of arable land, Malawi’s agricultural economy, which uses traditional farming techniques, is threatened by serious land pressure,” he observes. “High population growth, high densities and a weakening economy reduce savings and investment levels and increase migration to urban areas, as food insecurity increases in rural areas,” he adds.
The percentage of the population living in urban areas is low, hovering at 15 percent while the annual urban population growth rate is very high and rising, at about 6.7 percent making the tiny nation one of the most rapidly urbanising nations in the world.
Manda notes that the rapid growth of the urban population is attributed not only to high rural–urban migration, but also to the tendency to extend urban boundaries to bring peri-urban areas within the purview of rateable areas.
The urban population in Malawi is concentrated in the four major urban centres of Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.
Manda says, rapid urbanisation without matching services and housing means increasing numbers of households in poor housing conditions, with inadequate infrastructure and services, environmental degradation, high levels of unemployment and other social ills.
According to the government, the urban poor constitute 25.4 percent of the urban population. An additional 7.5 percent are classified asultra-poor.
This figure is a gross underestimation, he says adding, that according to an analysis of the poverty situation undertaken jointly by Malawi and the United Nations in 1993, urban poverty was estimated at 65 percent, compared to 60 percent for rural areas.
“Recent studies have indicated that over the past decade, Malawi has slipped five levels backwards in her human development index (HDI), from 161 to 166, while the National Poverty and Vulnerability Assessment Report says that there is no progress on poverty reduction.
The urban planner observes that in the cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe, the poor are mainly in slums, where the majority of people reside because of a lack of adequate housing.
Lilongwe, the capital since 1975, is a city where 34 percent of people live in squatter areas, 44 percent in Traditional Housing Areas (that are fast becoming slums) and the rest in conventional planned housing areas. The conventional housing areas occupy nearly 80 percent of the land but comprise only about 20 percent of the population.
According to Manda, the average number of people per plot had doubled to 12.5, and more than 50 percent of the poor lived on plots with occupancy rates of more than 14 people in Malawi’s capital city, Lilongwe.
“While urbanisation does stimulate national and local economic development, the high rate of urban population growth results in a failure of the housing industry to meet demand, and those most affected are the poor communities who crowd into the slums,” says Manda emphasising the need for serious attention to urban planning policies and education.