Minister of Local Government and Housing Emerine Kabanshi has called for adequate planning for sustainable urban development because projections indicate that by 2030, the majority of people in Zambia will be living in cities and towns.
Ms. Kabanshi said it was only when there was a plan for sustainable urban development that the country can derive benefits of urbanisation.
She noted that urban centres in most countries, including Zambia, contribute up to 60 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
She was speaking in Lusaka today at a two-day conference where regional and international partners, representatives of City councils and nongovernmental organisations are gathered to formulate the national urban policy framework for Zambia and plan for the extension of Lusaka City as a way of addressing rapid urbanisation which Zambia’s cities are facing.
She said the process of urbanisation provides an opportunity for accelerated socio-economic development because of its economies of scale.
Ms. Kabanshi however noted that urbanisation, if not well managed, can bring pressure on the provisions of municipal services such as decent and affordable housing, clean and safe drinking water, solid waste management, roads and drainages which she said can result in social ills such as poverty, diseases and crime.
The minister disclosed that government has approved a comprehensive urban development plan for the city of Lusaka.
She sad this plan was developed with the support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and has resulted in the construction of the Lusaka inner ring roads that will link the Lusaka South multi-facility zone to other parts of the city.
And the United Nations Habitat (UN-Habitat) has urged African governments to respond to urbanisation by planning for and spending on basic infrastructure, affordable housing and services by linking urban economies and job creation to the national development imperatives.
United Nations Habitat regional Director for Africa Axumite Gebre-Egziabher said urbanisation was inevitable and if properly planned and managed, has the potential to make a significant contribution to economic growth.
Dr. Gebre-Egziabher however noted that if not managed well, urbanisation can lead to the mushrooming growth of slums, pollution and crime.
She said African cities have been relatively growing unnoticed with the fastest urbanisation rate in the world of about 41 per cent of the population living in urban areas.
She said Zambia was one of the most urbanised countries in Southern Africa with over 40 per cent of her 13 million people living in the urban areas but mainly in unplanned settlements.
Dr. Gebre-Egziabher however commended Zambia for its commitment to working on the national urban policies that will promote sustainable urban development and housing.
According to the UN-Habitat Global Urban Observatory, the city of Lusaka is among the five major cities in Africa that will grow fastest in the next 10 to 15 years.
Meanwhile, Lusaka Mayor Daniel Chisenga explained that the impact of population growth on urban management has been enormous.
Mr. Chisenga said Lusaka city has not been spared by the impact of the population growth adding that it was therefore prudent that Zambia begins to plan how the cities will grow and how to manage critical natural resources such as land.
He expressed gratitude that the Patriotic Front government has made several pronouncements and shown high level of political will to addressing urbanisation in cities.