- Blueprint for Africa: Sustainable Planning and Development through Regional Upgrading    click here to open paper content183 kb
by    Cerere, Njeri | cerere@gmail.com   click here to send an email to the auther(s) of this paper
Short Outline
Africa is experiencing a period of massive change. The shifting landscape points to the benefit of having a comprehensive approach to managing the rapid evolution by leverage regional resources to ensure effective management and optimal outcomes.
Africa is making gigantic leaps in development. One example that is commonly held up as an example is the virtual explosion in the telecommunication industry through the introduction of mobile phones to the African market. The speed of mobile phone penetration in the African market is astronomical compared to the rest of the world. The continent was a late bloomer, but it is catching up in record time. Currently, Africa is on the cutting edge in the development of mobile phone applications, the most successful applications being mobile banking and money transfer. This is an astounding achievement for Africa considering its telecommunication infrastructure a decade ago was more or less antiquated.
Paradigm Shift to the Regional Scope
The economic, environmental and socio-political landscape is changing so fast that there is an urgent need to plan for and manage that evolution before it becomes overwhelming. Governments are often ill-prepared and ill-equipped to manage the process due to the lack of capacity to accommodate these far reaching effects. Current and recent events in one country have profound consequences on surrounding nations. The impact of agrarian and land tenure policy in Zimbabwe and the consequences to the national economy thereafter had a direct impact on South Africa’s immigration and workforce arena. The effect of the brief period of political instability experienced after Kenya’s election in 2007 was felt acutely throughout the East African region. Uganda and other landlocked countries were adversely affected due to the amputation of transportation networks, while Tanzania experienced a boom in the tourism industry during that period. The same region has been affected by the ongoing civil war in neighboring Somalia. Tourism in the region has been on the decline since the inception of close-monitoring via the terror watch list.
It is becoming more and more evident that African countries cannot continue to operate in silos under the umbrella of independence and sovereignty. Activities in one country have far reaching implications in their respective regions and quite possibly throughout the entire continent. Borders have become so porous that their most significant use is arguably in the political arena. In other aspects, borders act merely as benchmarks against which the osmosis of regional trends can be measured. The spread of microfinance banking from one country to another in various regions in Africa is one such example. As a result, it is important to note that while a single comprehensive plan for the entire continent might be a cumbersome or even far-fetched endeavor at the moment, regional pans are way overdue if none have been seriously considered and implemented. The impending liability that lies in failing to pursue the option of having a regional upgrading and change anticipation policy far outweighs any immediate cost of pursuing the goal or potential benefit of not doing so.

Sustainability: Why it Matters
According to the World Commission on Environment and Development, Sustainable Development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (United Nations 1987). The root of the word sustainability is the Latin word “tenire” meaning “to hold”. It also happens to be the basis for the word “tenure” which is commonly used in reference to land tenure. There is often a debate on the use of the word sustainability in relation to development. Some argue that the term “sustainable development” is more of an oxymoron than a descriptive term because the two words are more or less contradictory. How is it possible to reconcile development, a word that implies consumption and in some cases depletion of limited resources, to sustainability which implies preserving currently available resources for future generations?
''Sustainability is a condition of existence which enables the present generation of humans and other species to enjoy social wellbeing, a vibrant economy, and a healthy environment, and to experience fulfillment, beauty and joy, without compromising the ability of future generations of humans and other species to enjoy the same.'' (Dauncey n.d.)

~Guy Dauncey
A vital point of clarification here would be to submit as unrealistic the notion of sustainability as a stagnant state of being; one that preserves natural resources, as we know them today, and keeps them intact for centuries to come. The very essence of the natural world is one that relies heavily on regeneration through dynamic forces and consequently, relies on change in order to thrive. The kind of sustainable development that is addressed in this discussion is one that takes into account the variables, opportunities and limitations of natural and human existence. The definition relies heavily on the origins of the word sustainability, “tenire” or “to hold”. An element that can be retained in a useful manner and while its scope may change over time, the lessons learned in the process will serve useful and worthwhile to future generations.
In relation to the African continent, the subject of sustainability matters because it is a goal post that guides decision makers in striking and achieving balance between environmental stewardship and socio-economic development. Furthermore, the economic mainstay of many countries in Africa includes sectors such as agriculture, tourism and mineral extraction. As such, a balanced approach is not only a good addition to the discussion, it is an integral part of it.
Enabling Policy Environment
Policy then, becomes the tool for incorporating sustainability into development, and the results of policy; the means through which the effectiveness of it is judged. Unlike other conceptual elements, policy allows us to test a notion and view the tangible consequences of the idea. This has become especially apparent in the recent years as concepts and policies implemented in one part of the globe significantly affect other distinctly different areas. It is becoming increasingly obvious for example, that policies regarding subsidies on agriculture in developed nations have a substantial negative impact on agriculturally dependent economies in the less developed world. On the other hand, the cooperation efforts by the European Union have seen it surge ahead to become the global leader in regional policy implementation and innovation. This comprehensive attribute of policy is growing beyond local, national and regional boundaries, with increasing far reaching global implications and consequences.
As such, the role of policy can be viewed as being two fold; in that both global and national policy affects the outcome of development efforts. The same applies to the role of planning in linking needs to resources, information to action, concepts to reality, and navigating the landmines involved in the process. While implementing policy interventions in Africa is viewed as a gargantuan undertaking in some quarters, the research proposed will use the backdrop of an enabling environment with the intention of fully showcasing the benefits of cooperation at the regional level and beyond.

Although the solitary model has worked well for some countries, there is a need to go beyond that. This stems from the need to respond to issues caused by expansive issues such as growth management, transportation and environmental concerns. There is also the question of marginalised areas (such as arid and semi-arid regions in East Africa) that require interventions on a scale larger than local provinces and districts are equipped to manage. Over time, the line that existed between the services provided by local authorities and those provided by national agencies has grayed and as countries take on more responsibilities than they were initially designed to accommodate, as is the case with Kenya’s border towns, the option of regional involvement becomes a more attractive one.
Proponents of regional planning and development often tout the benefit in economies of scale as one of its most obvious advantages. However, there are those who question the assumptions made by that argument and consider other aspects such as transaction costs that are easily overlooked but may significantly tip the scales when considered in the budgetary element of implementing regional plans. Economies of scale in this case generally refer to the advantage incurred by aggregating buying power and operating costs by creating a centralized system. The transaction cost would be described as the cost incurred by a governmental entity when it engages in activities in order to provide a service to the community.
In a continent where political fragmentation has been one of many drawbacks to progress, it would be a worthwhile venture to investigate implementation of plans on a regional scale as a tool that can mobilize adequate and relevant resources to effectively manage and solve problems. In Africa, the role of planners and policy makers has, in many ways been limited to just that, planning and policy making. This is is quickly changing as the vocation becomes more robust and demands increasingly that theorists take on the role of practitioners. It is my sincere hope that the proposed research yields a significant contribution to the theory and practice of planning in Africa and beyond.

Sustainable, Regional Development
click here to open paper content  Click to open the full paper as pdf document
click here to send an email to the auther(s) of this paper  Click to send an email to the author(s) of this paper