“It is estimated that Malawi’s urban population will grow from the 15.3 percent to between 32 percent and 50 percent of the national population by 2050”

“It is estimated that Malawi’s urban population will grow from the 15.3 percent to between 32 percent and 50 percent of the national population by 2050”

Lilongwe – Malawi is developing a national urban policy framework aimed at shifting national development from being predominately rural-focused to underline urban growth in the light of the country’s rapid urbanisation trends.
Spearheaded by the Ministry of Lands and Housing, the exercise was triggered by revelations made by the National Statistical Office’s (NSO) 2008 Integrated Household census that showed that the level of urbanisation in the small southern African nation was 15.3 percent, with a 5.2 percent annual urban growth rate against the national growth rate of 2.8 percent.
Principal consultant in the development of the framework, Mtafu Zeleza Manda, notes that Malawi’s rapid urbanisation has led to the mushrooming of new urban centres, growth and expansion of informal settlements and constrained planning, management and service delivery by urban authorities.
“This is worsened by the rural focus of governments’ development agenda when yet more people are leaving the rural areas in search of greener pastures in urban centres,” says Manda.
He also points out that the lack of an urban focus has hindered the government’s efforts to deliver on national and international development goals such as the Malawi Growth and Development Strategies (MGDS) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
It is estimated that Malawi’s urban population will grow from the 15.3 percent to between 32 percent and 50 percent of the national population by 2050.
“The situation requires us to be proactive by developing a process that will guide and contain the trends, promote sustainable urban development and enhance local governance capacities,” says Manda.
UN Habitat (Malawi) Country Manager John Chome observes that the nation has in the last 50 years failed to eradicate poverty because of its failure to manage urbanisation for economic growth and poverty reduction.
“In order to reduce poverty, the country has to start planning on how the urban centres that contributes 65 percent of the country’s GDP can best create wealth through industrialisation, job creation and decent settlements,” he says.
Chome then warns that “we can only neglect this at our own peril”.
Commissioner for Physical Planning in the Lands and Housing Ministry, Felix Tukula, adds that while previously government focused on rural development and fought against urbanisation by creating rural development centres to prevent rural to urban migration, the present attention is set to link urban sectors to the rural so that they can support each other.
“Considering the increasing shift of the population to urban areas and the potential for economic development of Malawi, policies that focus on urban growth need to be put in place emphasising on creating compact, integrated and inclusive cities,” says the Commissioner.
Malawi’s four major urban centres of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Zomba and Mzuzu have 76-77 percent of the country’s urban population – or 12 percent of the national population – with other centres accounting for 3.3 percent up from 2.6 percent in 1987.
Manda observes that Malawi’s southern region dominates in terms of the country’s urban population, while investment in the central region facilitated the increase in urban population share from 29.3 percent in 1977 to 41.5 percent in 2008.
Lilongwe and Mzuzu are currently the fastest-growing cities in Malawi with Liwonde, Mangochi and Karonga townships striving to outpace these two over the next ten years, experts predict.
Regional Development Planning and Management Specialist in the Ministry of Lands and Housing, Gilbert Chilinde says a proactive urban policy drive in China has managed to see the country’s urban centres command 70 percent of the country’s GDP and creation of 50 percent of the industries which has led China to a world unprecedented annual economic growth of 10 percent after the rate of urbanisation grew from 26.4 percent in 1996 to 36.2 percent in 2000, and then 51.3 percent in 2011.
Chilinde therefore says, “It is only important that Malawi begins now to plan for city systems that complement each other through
realisation of each others potential instead of competing.”
Blantyre City Council official Costly Chanza also emphasises the need to plan ahead for levels of infrastructure and services to match the anticipated urban population growth in order to support industrialisation for wealth creation and avoid urban centres being overtaken by the negative effects of population growth.

July 2013
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