Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Promoting Sustainable Development of Cities Using Urban Legislation in Sub-Saharan Africa

Written By

Kasimbazi Emmanuel

Submitted: 16 July 2021 Reviewed: 23 January 2022 Published: 15 July 2022

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.102826

From the Edited Volume

Sustainable Development Dimensions and Urban Agglomeration

Edited by Alessandra Battisti and Serena Baiani

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African countries have been urged to reform their urban policies, practices and laws in order to turn urban areas such as cities and towns into more effective engines of economic growth and play a central role in economic transformation and national development. This chapter examines how urban legislationpromotes sustainable development cities in Africa. Specifically, it discusses the characteristics of cities in sub-Saharan Africa, reviews international legal and policy framework for urban governance and analyses how urban legislation addresses sustainable development aspects in four Africa cities namely: Addis Ababa, Accra, Kampala and Johannesburg.


  • promotion
  • sustainable development
  • cities
  • urban legislation
  • Africa

1. Introduction

Africa is the most rapidly urbanizing region of the world and has immense urban challenges, such as growing slums and growing poverty and inequality, combined with weak government capacity [1]. Other challenges include land allocation and land use management, provision and management of basic infrastructure/services, such as water, sanitation, and waste management, the movement/accessibility system [2]. The urbanization in Africa need to comply with the goals and principles as developed in the international policies and instruments. The Vancouver Declaration (Habitat I) 1976 recognized the growing impact of urbanization and the need to secure political commitment for sustainable urban. The World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) (Brundtland Report) defined the concept of Sustainable development as “development that meets current needs without jeopardizing future generations’ ability to meet their own needs” [3]. Therefore, economic development, social equity, and environmental preservation are the key variables of sustainable urban development. should all be included in sustainable urban development [4]. The 1992 Agenda 21 under Chapter 7 was dedicated to promoting sustainable human settlement development, particularly the urban and rural poor. The Sustainable Development Goal under goal 11 aim to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable and the World Cities Report 2020 called for well-planned, managed, and financed cities and towns create economic, social, environmental and other unquantifiable value that can vastly improve the quality of life of all [5].

The extraordinary projected rate and scale of urban growth in Africa between now and 2030 underscores the need to urgently develop urban laws and regulations that will create and shape cities that work more efficiently, treat people more fairly and address the urban challenges [6]. New urban infrastructure should be built, new urban growth regions should be established and new city governance and management systems should be implemented [6]. All of this should be done in accordance with laws that provide clarity, ensure that everyone is heard, prepare cities for a climate-change-resilient future, and provide efficient decision-making and administration systems [6]. In doing this, there must be harmonization of the national urban laws with global commitments and calls for urban reforms to enable better urban management [6].

The purpose of this chapter is to analyze how urban legislation promotes sustainable development of cities in Africa. The chapter is containing five sections. Section 1 gives an introduction to the chapter. In Section 2 the characteristics of cities in Sub-Saharan Africa described. These include population, infrastructure development, public utilities services, environmental management, the challenges and challenges of sustainable development of cities in Africa. Section 3 analyses international legal and policy framework for sustainable development of cities in Africa. Section 4 analyses the implementation urban legislation for development for cities selected cities in Africa: Accra in Ghana, Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Johannesburg in South Africa and Kampala City in Uganda. Section 5 provides concluding remarks and some recommendations.


2. Characteristics of cities in sub-saharan africa

2.1 Population and urbanization in cities in africa

Currently, Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest proportion of its population living in urban setting and cities, with 472 million people living in urban areas and cities, accounting for roughly 40% of the region’s total population [7]. Sub-Saharan Africa, on the other hand, is the world’s fastest urbanizing region, with an annual urban population growth rate of 4.1 percent compared to the global rate of 2% [7]. African cities are forecast to urbanize at a rate of 3.65% annually, adding nearly 350 million new city-dwellers by 2030, and a billion more people are expected to be living in African cities by 2063 [8]. Africans are migrating to the cities, and the continent, which already has the world’s youngest and fastest-growing population, is urbanizing at a faster rate than any other portion of the globe [9]. By 2050, Africa’s 1.1 billion people will have doubled in number, with more than 80% of the growth taking place in cities, particularly slums [9].

This is particularly evident in the continent’s spreading urban populations; the top fifteen most populous cities on the continent all have populations above two million [10]. Lagos, Nigeria’s capital, is Africa’s largest metropolis, with a population of at least nine million people; it is also one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, so the number is sure to increase [11]. This is followed by Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a population of roughly 7.7 million people [11]. Nigeria and South Africa, two of Africa’s most populous countries, have several cities with enormous populations [10]. Nigeria is also home to the cities of Kano and Ibadan, both of which have populations of approximately 3.5 million people, making them large cities in their own right [10]. Cape Town, South Africa, has a population of about 3.5 million people, but Durban, South Africa, is not far behind with 3.1 million [10]. Johannesburg in South Africa has also 2 million residents, as well as Soweto and Pretoria, each with about 1.6 million residents [10].

Southern Sub-Saharan Africa has the biggest proportion of people living in urban areas in Sub-Saharan Africa (more than 70%), followed by West Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Sub-Saharan Africa, and East Sub-Saharan Africa [7]. Demographics across the region show that the urban population is predominantly youthful [7]. Children and youth (0-24 years) accounted for 62.9% of the overall population of Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015, and 19% of the global young population [7]. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the population aged 0-24 years was 628 million in 2017, with an estimated increase to 945 million by 2050, implying that more children and youth will live in metropolitan regions and cities than in rural areas [7]. Notably, the Sub-Saharan Africa region is anticipated to see a positive gain in its child and youth population by 2050, whilst all other regions in the globe are expected to see reductions [7]. Currently, the population pyramid in Sub-Saharan Africa shows a strong child and youth base that anchors the other age groups in the region [7].

2.2 Infrastructure development in cities in africa

Infrastructure shapes cities and its deficiency makes the cities unattractive [12]. On the one hand, cities have physical infrastructure, which includes physical structures such as transportation, electricity grids, drainage systems, sewage systems, and waste disposal systems that are essential for an economy to function. Cities, on the other hand, have social infrastructure, which consists of facilities that support social services and serve as a backbone for communities and societies, such as hospitals, schools, and universities, as well as economic infrastructure (markets) and public facilities such as community housing and prison [7]. Generally, cities in Sub-Saharan Africa have poor infrastructure due to political instability and corruption, complex geographies, cultural barriers, and lack of technology and capital [13]. In addition, a recent World Bank research on infrastructure identified hurdles for continental economic development in this area. It was discovered that deficient infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa, specifically electricity, water, roads, and information and communications technology (ICT), lowered annual national economic growth by 2 percentage points and slashed business productivity by as much as 40%.

One of sub-Saharan Africa’s top developmental challenges continues to be the shortage of physical infrastructure [14]. Greater economic activity, enhanced efficiency and increased competitiveness are hampered by inadequate transport, communication, water, and power infrastructure. African cities are being held back not only by a lack of urban infrastructure, but also by a lack of city planning, inefficient land use, regulatory barriers, and vested interests [15]. As a result, cities are expansive, fractured, and hyper-informal [7]. African cities are, unsurprisingly, quite expensive to live in. African cities are 29 percent more expensive than non-African cities with equal income levels, according to the World Bank. Locals pay a stunning 100% more for transportation, 55% more for accommodation, 42% more for transportation, and 35% more for food. All of this slows business down, nearly halving firm productivity while drastically raising consumer products input costs. The infrastructure gaps in Africa are not coincidental [7]. One of the main reasons is that municipal governments and city governments are cash-strapped, struggle tax revenue; and often lack the political discretion and financial autonomy to take action [7]. Rapid population growth also places enormous challenges on existing, and often obsolete and poorly maintained infrastructure and resources [14]. In many African countries, infrastructure limitations, notably in power and logistics, inhibit productivity [14].

Sub-Saharan Africa is still a long way from having universal access to the internet [16]. Only 1 in 5 people in Sub-Saharan Africa utilized the internet in 2017, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which analyzes internet usage internationally and across nation [16]. While internet coverage in Sub-Saharan Africa has increased significantly over the years, it still lags behind the rest of the globe [16]. Sub-Saharan Africa has not achieved the international goal under target 9.C of the Sustainable Development Goals that calls for the achievement of universal and affordable internet access by 2020 [17].

Currently, more than 100 million urban Africans live just beneath a grid but are unable to connect to the grid due to unreasonably expensive connection prices [18]. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 55 percent of urban people live in slum-like conditions, with many of them being without power or connected illegally [18]. Other city inhabitants have electrical connections, but due to frequent outages and voltage changes, they are unable to gain from them [18]. Applications of the Multi-tier Framework in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, show that about 60% of urban households in Ethiopia and 77% in Rwanda experience 4–14 power outages per week [18].

2.3 State of public utilities services in african cities

Majority of the people most African cities live in unplanned urban areas and informal settlements. As a result, the public utilities services in most African cities are well developed. In assessing the performance of Sub- Sharan Africa cities in provision of public utility service due regard must be place on areas that include accessibility to the large portion of the population in the city, safety in terms of water supply, sufficiency in the area of people accessing to at least meet basic health requirements; for reliability in areas of supply of interruptions of limited duration; for affordability and cost-effectiveness dictate the ability of poor households to afford utilities to meet at least basic needs. Water and sanitation are basic human rights, yet in Sub-Saharan Africa, 42 percent of people do not have access to basic water and 72 percent do not have access to basic sanitation [19]. In urban areas, only 56% of the population have access to a piped water supply (down from 67% fifteen years previously), and just 11% to a sewer connection [19, 20]. Simultaneously, the region is quickly urbanizing is urbanizing rapidly—with the urban population anticipated to rise from 345 million in 2014 to 1.3 billion by 2050 [21]. As a result, there is a big and growing demand for services, as well as a growing funding shortfall [22]. To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for water and sanitation in Sub-Saharan Africa, investments will have to be enhanced by at least threefold [22].

Sewerage systems in most sub-Saharan cities serve few people [23]. They cover only a small fraction of the urban area and even where available, the connection costs are high and unaffordable for poor households [23]. The cost of a sewer connection can be twice as costly as a water connection for individuals living near a sewerage network [24]. Furthermore, once connected, households are subject to a wastewater charge that can account for as much as 50% (and occasionally as much as 90%) of their water bill [24]. The sewerage service network in many cities is limited to better-off, formal, and planned districts, and even here, the rate of connections has been modest because many families already have on-site sanitation facilities [25]. In some circumstances, a mandatory connection policy for residences within a certain radius of the network has been implemented. Even in these locations, however, many homes have yet to connect, and/or utilities have failed to enforce the connection policy because they are unable to provide a consistent water supply to their customers [25]. However, even in these areas, many households have not yet connected and/or utilities have not enforced the connection policy, as they are unable to ensure a regular water supply to their customers [21].

2.4 Status of environmental management in african cities

Sub-Saharan Africa has been (and still is) a region of varying environmental problems which are inherent or human-caused in quest of development [26]. Africa’s urban areas are likely to suffer disproportionately from climate change, as the region as a whole is warming up 1.5 times faster than the global average [15]. Africa’s fast urbanizing cities are rapidly depleting their natural capital [27]. Unique characteristics of African urbanization, such as considerably lower per capita incomes, a high reliance on biomass fuels, widespread informal settlement with poor service levels, and cities’ exposure to natural disasters such as floods, are putting pressure on the natural environment of African cities and eroding the value of environmental assets [27]. As a result, there is a major risk that Africa’s cities will be trapped in a “grow dirty now, clean up later” development path that will be costly, irreversible, inefficient, and detrimental to citizens’ wellbeing [27].

The impact of urbanization on the natural environment includes a reduction in the amount of the impact of urbanization on the natural environment includes a reduction in the amount of freshwater available and a degradation in its quality; the rate of natural resource consumption is driven by a number of demographic and economic drivers, including population growth, rises in wealth and living standards, and increases in economic productivity [28]. Urbanization has an impact on the city’s ecosystems, as well as the volume and value of services generated by these systems. For example, converting wetlands to agricultural or hard surfaces diminishes the value of the water purification services that wetlands frequently provide; the ongoing stress on urban city environments also has an impact on city biodiversity, since species may be destroyed [29]. Slow progress in addressing climate change in many developed countries is wreaking havoc on the world’s least developed countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, where a lack of preparedness for extreme events, as well as socio-economic and environmental resilience, will intensify the negative impacts of climate change and variability [30]. Only a few regulatory regimes in Sub-Saharan Africa explicitly require climate change to be addressed in an environmental impact assessment, indicating that most nations’ environmental legislation lags behind the urgent need to tackle climate change [31]. When done right, environmental social and impact assessments can aid in the development and implementation of better projects that address challenging issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, urban sprawl, conflicts over increasingly scarce resources, inequity, and new technological opportunities [28]. Environmental Social and Impact Assessments can help build a balanced and sustainable future by critically assessing development actions while they are still being conceptualized, as well as molding and improving the society that future generations will live in., which is not operationalized [28].

Water scarcity is a major worry in most cities as a result of urbanization, and adequate, safe water supplies are a key concern [32]. Because majority of Africa is arid or semi-arid, and 41% of African countries are water-stressed, this is posing problems in many towns [32]. Most African cities are characterized by high levels of pollution [33]. The majority of African cities have high levels of air, water, and solid pollution. Pollution is due to the enormous number of households who use wood as a source of energy, and also industrial emissions, fertilizer use in urban and peri-urban farming, and traffic congestion [33]. Insufficient sanitation, as well as industrial discharges and herbicides and pesticides applications, are all linked to water pollution [33]. Low investments in waste collection services are linked to solid waste issues [28]. The majority of these issues are aggravated by inadequate enforcement of the regulations in place [28]. The combination of sewage and poorly managed industrial effluents and agricultural return-flows has led to critical levels of pollution in many urban river systems, to the point of being hazardous to human health [34].


3. Analysis of international legal and policy framework for sustainable development of cities in africa

There are a number of international and regional instruments which provide guidelines and principles for sustainable development of cities in Africa.

3.1 Stockholm declaration 1972

The Stockholm Declaration represented a first taking stock of the global human impact on the environment, an attempt at forging a basic common outlook on how to address the challenge of preserving and enhancing the human environment. Principle 15 requires that planning must be applied to human settlements and urbanization with a view to avoiding adverse effects on the environment and obtaining maximum social, economic and environmental benefits for all. This Principle implies that development of human settlements in cities should consider environmental effects.

3.2 The Vancouver declaration (habitat I) 1976

The Vancouver Declaration of 1976 was the outcome of the first United Nations Conference on Human Settlements held in Vancouver, Canada, 31 May-11 June 1976. The Declaration provides some guidelines for sustainable development of cities in Africa. In its preamble the Declaration recognized the need for socially and environmentally rational human settlements and the dire consequences of “uncontrolled urbanization and consequent conditions of overcrowding, pollution, deterioration and psychological tensions in metropolitan regions,” as well as “rural backwardness,” especially in the impoverished world.

The Declaration in Principle 1 (b) requires creating more live able, attractive and efficient settlements which recognize human scale, the heritage and culture of people and the special needs of disadvantaged groups. Further, Principle 13 reaffirmed the human right and responsibility of all persons “to participate individually and collectively in the elaboration and implementation of policies and programmers of their human settlements.” These two Principles imply that the development of cities should consider the quality of life and human rights.

3.3 Our common future or Brundtland report, 1987

The Brundtland report defined the term sustainable development to mean “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This term encompasses the three basic variables which are essential for human beings: economic development, social equity and the preservation of the environment.

The report’s sixth chapter, “The Urban Challenge,” examines the enormous increase in the urban population of developing countries between 1940 and 1980.It also makes predictions about future trends and encourages Third World cities to develop their capacity to generate and manage urban infrastructure and services. Additionally, the Report emphasizes the issues that many cities in both developing and developed nations are facing, and it urges governments to develop and design explicit settlement strategies to manage the urbanization process.

3.4 Agenda 21 and the Rio + declaration 1992

The agenda 21 was one of the documents that were negotiated during the Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 3 to 14 June 1992. It is a non-binding action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development whose aim is to achieve global sustainable development.

Agenda 21 provides guidelines that relevant to cities sustainable development in Africa. The goal of Chapter seven of Agenda 21 is to promote sustainable human settlement development, with the objective of improving the social-economic and ecological quality of human settlements as well as the working and living conditions of all people, particularly the rural and urban poor. Paragraph 7.15 requires that to ensure sustainable management of all urban settlements, particularly in developing countries. It emphasizes that improving urban management requires encouraging intermediate city development in order to relieve pressure on large urban agglomerations as well developing and implementing countries policies and strategies towards the development of intermediate cities. Further, Paragraph 7.19 requires all countries to conduct reviews of urbanization processes and policies in order to assess the environmental impacts of growth and apply urban planning and management approaches specifically suited to the needs, resource capabilities and characteristics of their growing intermediate-sized cities.

The other outcome of the Rio Conference was the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development 1992. It also contains guidelines for cities development and management. Principle 4 provides that in order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it while Principle 11 recognizes the importance of enacting effective environmental legislation. Thus, states are required to enact effective environmental legislation. It further requires that environmental standards, management objectives and priorities should reflect the environmental and developmental context to which they apply.

3.5 The Istanbul declaration on human settlements and the habitat II, 1996

The Istanbul Declaration was the outcome of the Habitat II, the second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements that was held in Istanbul, Turkey, 3–14 June, 1996.

The Habitat Agenda’s preamble expressly addresses the issue of gradually rising rural-to-urban migration, especially those in developing countries, which has put great strain on already overburdened urban infrastructure and services. Conflicts arising from the expansion of city suburbs have grown as a result of increased rural migration to cities. The haphazard settlement of this land, which is devoid of urban infrastructure, complicates any green space development.

In its Preamble the Declaration recognizes that among the most key problems facing cities and towns, as well as their residents, is the rise of squatter colonies and improper property use. Under paragraph 6, it recognizes the interdependence of rural and urban development, along with the need to focus development, especially in rural areas and small- and medium-sized towns, while minimizing the deprivation causing and resulting from rural-to-urban migration. This Declaration implies that there is need to minimize rural to urban migration in order ensure sustainable development of cities in Africa.

3.6 The Rio declaration 2012 (the Rio + 20) the future we want

The Rio Declaration 2012 was the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD). The Rio + 20 or Earth Summit 2012 was the third international conference on sustainable development aimed at reconciling the economic and environmental goals of the global community. Its objective was to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges.

Paragraph 132 notes that transportation and mobility are central to sustainable development because it can enhance economic growth and improve accessibility. It recognizes the importance of environmentally sound, safe, and economical transportation in improving social fairness, health, city resilience, urban-rural links, and rural productivity. We therefore consider road safety as part of our efforts to promote sustainable development in this area.

The establishment of sustainable transportation systems, such as energy-efficient multimodal transport systems, particularly public mass transit systems, clean fuels and cars, and enhanced transportation systems in rural regions, according to paragraph 133. It further recognizes the need to promote an integrated approach to policymaking at the national, regional and local levels for transport services and systems to promote sustainable development.

Paragraph 134 acknowledges that cities can create economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable societies if they are adequately planned and developed, namely through integrated planning and management approaches. It therefore acknowledges the need for a holistic approach to urban development and human settlements that prioritizes slum upgrading and urban regeneration while also providing affordable housing and infrastructure.

3.7 The sustainable development goals 2015

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.

Some of the goals provide some guidelines for urban development and management. Member states are responsible for making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable, and this according to SDG 11. Target 11.1 is particularly relevant to cities in Africa, as it requires the government to ensure that everyone has access to adequate, safe, and affordable housing and basic services by 2030, as well as upgrade slums, which necessitates making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. The targets for achieving this goal include ensuring access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums, providing access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, notably by expanding public transport, sustainable people settlement management and planning in all countries, minimising the adverse per capita ecological effects of cities, such as through ensuring proper management of air quality and municipal and other waste management, enabling equitable access to green and public areas that are safe, inclusive, and accessible and putting in place integrated policies and programs for inclusion, resource efficiency, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and resilience hazards, and design and implement holistic disaster risk management at all levels, in accordance with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.

3.8 The paris agreement on climate change, 2016

The Paris Agreement provides a framework for global climate action. In the preamble, the Agreement calls for the inclusion and networking of all levels of government in order to cope with climate change.

The Agreement contains provisions that provide guidelines for cities development and management. The Agreement’s Articles 7 and 8 urge for climate change adaptation to be integrated by national adaptation plans that can be utilized to execute policies, programs, and projects. Cities and towns play a vital role in the development of such national plans since they strive to coordinate and integrate efforts to improve the resilience of major infrastructures in the face of climate-related disasters.

3.9 Habitat III: the new urban agenda 2016

The Habitat III or the New Urban Agenda 2016 was the outcome of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, took place in Quito, Ecuador, 17–20 October 2016.

The New Urban Agenda is a collective vision for a more prosperous and sustainable future. Urbanization, if well-planned and managed, may be a powerful tool for both developing and developed countries to achieve sustainable development. The issues that are covered in the New Urban Agenda include how to plan and manage cities, towns and villages for sustainable development.

The Agenda implored all national, subnational, and local governments, and all relevant stakeholders, to revitalize, enhance, and create partnerships, as well as improve coordination and cooperation, in accordance with national policies and legislation, in order to effectively implement the New Urban Agenda and achieve the shared vision.

The States committed themselves to promote national, sub-national and local housing policies that support the progressive realization of the right to adequate housing for all, equitable and affordable access to sustainable basic physical and social infrastructure for all without discrimination, including affordable serviced land, housing, modern and renewable energy, safe drinking water and sanitation, safe, nutritious and adequate food, waste disposal. The States further committed themselves. The States also agreed to promote appropriate measures in cities and human settlements to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to the physical environment of cities, including public spaces, public transportation, housing, education and health facilities, public information and communication, and other public facilities and services, in both urban and rural areas, that are safe, inclusive, and accessible open or provided to the public, in both urban and rural areas, safe, inclusive, accessible, green and quality public spaces, including streets, sidewalks and cycling lanes, squares, waterfront areas, gardens and parks.

The states also committed themselves to increasing the supply of a variety of adequate housing options that are safe, affordable, and accessible to people from all walks of life, while also taking into account the socio-economic and cultural integration of marginalized communities, homeless people, and those in vulnerable circumstances, and avoiding segregation.

The New Urban Agenda 2016 sets standards for the development of cities in Africa which include quality urban settlement are dependent upon the set of rules and regulations and its implementation, establishing the adequate provision of common goods, including streets and open spaces, together with an efficient pattern of buildable plots and developing local fiscal systems that redistribute parts of the urban value generated.

3.10 The AU vision 2063

At a regional level Africa adopted Agenda 2063 (The Africa We Want) provides aspirations towards achieving a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development. The Vision is a Pan-African people-centered vision and action plan that aims to position Africa for growth over the next 50 years. It puts a strong focus on urban development that includes transformational outcomes by 2023 in urban services such as improvements in living standards having access to safe drinking water and sanitation, electricity supply and internet connectivity to be up by 50% and recycling in cities at least 50% of the waste they generate [34]. The Cities are also expected to meet the WHO’s Ambient Air Quality Standards (AAQS) by 2025and also make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable [34].


4. Analysis of urban legislation framework for development of selected cities in Africa

Effective urban legislation is an indispensable pillar of sustainable development of cities because it ensures proper planning. The next section analyses the urban legislation development and its implementation in selective African cities. It also describes the adequacy and how urban legislation in supporting sustainable development and transforming cities into more effective engines of economic growth.

Four major cities namely, Kampala, Johannesburg, Accra and Addis Ababa were selected as case studies to provide a comparative analysis of the implementation. Kampala was selected because it is Uganda’s biggest city and is reported to be among the fastest-growing cities in Africa. In addition, it is the only city in Africa managed by Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) which is the legal entity established by Act of Parliament that is responsible for the operations of the capital city of Kampala in Uganda. Johannesburg was selected because it is South Africa’s biggest city and it is recognized as a major world city and the economic capital of both South and sub-Saharan Africa. Accra was selected because it is the capital and largest city of Ghana and was established as the administrative capital of Ghana in 1877 during the British colonial rule. Addis Ababa was selected because it is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa and a capital city of Ethiopia and it also the diplomatic Centre of Africa because it hosts a number of international organizations such as the headquarters of African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

4.1 Kampala city in Uganda

Uganda is in the East African region and situated 800 kilometers inland from the Indian Ocean, across the equator. It is located between the Equator’s 10 29′ South and 40 12′ North latitudes, as well as Greenwich’s 290 34′ East and 350 0′ East latitudes. Kenya is on the east, South Sudan is on the north, the Democratic Republic of Congo is on the west, Tanzania is on the south, and Rwanda is on the west. It spans a total area of 241,551 square kilometers, with 200,523 square kilometers of land. Kampala is capital city and largest city of Uganda of Uganda. It is the most populous urban centre with 1.5 million persons [35].

Uganda has developed several pieces of legislation that are intended to promote sustainable development of urban areas such as cities. The Constitution of Uganda 1995 sets an objective for the State to promote sustainable development and public awareness of the need to manage land, air and water resources in a balanced and sustainable manner for the present and future generations [36]. The same Constitution mandates Parliament to make laws for the management of the environment for sustainable development [37]. The parent law on environmental management in the country establishes and mandates the National Environment Management Authority to provide for the management of the environment for sustainable development with powers to make statutory instruments that apply to the whole country including the capital city [38].

According to Article 5 (4) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Kampala is the capital city for Uganda and is administered by the Central Government; Article 5 (6) empowers the Parliament of Uganda to enact a law that provides for the administration and development of Kampala as the capital city [39]. Therefore, Kampala is managed under the Kampala Capital City Authority Act which provides an administrative arrangement for the city of Kampala and provides for its development and physical planning. The same law grants responsibility upon the Minister of Kampala Capital City Authority to coordinate physical planning in the metropolitan area in consultation with the Ministries responsible for urban development and local governments [40].

A specific law on the establishment and regulation of KCCA has been enacted. Section 7 of the KCCA Act specifies functions of KCCA in administration and development that include initiating and formulate policy, enacting legislations in form of ordinances for the proper management of the Capital City, constructing and maintaining major drains, carrying out physical planning and development control among others [41]. Several ordinances have been passed by the City Council while several bye-laws have been passed by division councils to strengthen and support sustainable development and management of the city as an urban area. The deposit or allow any solid waste to be placed or deposited on his or her premises or on private property, on a public street, roadside [42]. The Urban Agriculture Ordinance regulates use of manure, chemicals, disposal of toxic emissions and wastes, disposal of sump oil, prohibits agriculture in certain areas such as greenbelts, road reserves, wetlands, an area less than ten feet away from an open drainage channel, toxic area as well as parks; and also prohibits use of human waste as manure [43]. The Sewage and Fecal Sludge Management Ordinance regulates the disposal of fecal sludge, fecal sludge transportation, and issuance of licenses of providers of environmental sanitation services [44]. KCCA Act alongside the regulations and bye-laws do not express on make the capital city as inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable just as is stated by Goal 11 of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This may Uganda to reach Target 11.1 which requires that by 2030, governments must ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services, and upgrade slums which requires making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

4.2 Johannesburg city in South Africa

South Africa is one of the most geographically varied countries in Africa. It is located at the southern tip of the African continent. The total land is 1,213,090 km2. It is bordered by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland. In 2019, the population of the city of Johannesburg was estimated to be about 5,635,127 people making it the most populous city in South Africa. In the same year, the population of Johannesburg’s urban agglomeration was put at 8,000,000 people.

There are several pieces of legislation that promote and govern sustainable development of urban areas in South Africa. The Constitution of South Africa of 1996 provides a right to every person to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

According to Sections 156(2) and (5) of the Constitution a municipality is empowered to make and administer by-laws for the effective administration of matters over which it has jurisdiction, as well as exercise any power over a matter that is reasonably necessary or incidental to the effective performance of its functions [45]. Johannesburg city makes by-laws under Section 13(a) of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act, 2000 [46]. Some of the by-laws that concern development of a sustainable urban city include: Air Pollution Control By-laws of the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality which prohibits air pollution by providing for adoption of reasonable measures to prevent and mitigate air pollution [47]. The Waste Management by-laws provide for reduction, re-use, recycling and recovery of waste so as to minimize the environmental harm; to provide for rules on storage, collection, treatment, transportation and disposal of recyclable, industrial and organic waste [48]. The Water Services By-Laws provide for an environmental impact assessment to be carried out before the provision of the water services can be approved or commenced it also prohibits discharge of sewage, industrial effluent or other liquid or substance and installation of pre-treatment facilities [49].

The Municipal Planning By-law seeks to set up and manage land use scheme and municipal spatial development framework through the established of Municipal Planning Tribunals [50]. Public Health By-Laws provides for prohibition on causing public health nuisances and public health hazards, provides for the issuance of Public health permits, demolition orders, provides for compulsory connection to municipal sewage system, prohibits against obstruction of sanitary services, sets requirements in respect of toilet facilities, prohibits pollution of sources of water supply, sets out duties of salon operators overstore or dispose of waste, and also rules on keeping of animals [51].

4.3 Accra City in Ghana

Ghana is a country in West Africa that shares borders with the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, and Togo in the east, spanning the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. Ghana has a total size of 238,535 square kilometers (92,099 sq mi). Accra is Ghana’s capital and largest city, with a population of 2.27 million inhabitants. The Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) has a population of roughly 4 million people, making it Africa’s 11th largest metro area.

Accra City has the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) which currently derives its legal basis from Local Government Act, 1993, which currently has been amended as the Local Governance Act, 2016, and under Legislative Instrument [52]. It has departments on waste management, works, physical planning among others [53].The functions of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly include provision of a sound sanitary and healthy environment, planning and development control of all infrastructures within Accra and provision of public safety; it has the Metropolitan Planning Committee which has the overall responsibility for the management of the land use plans and physical development activities [53].

The Environmental Protection Bye-law provides a responsibility onto households, industries, waste management operators, corporate bodies, institutions or any other business to take all necessary measures to protect the environment; it creates a duty that any discharge from a factory, industries, commercial mall, market, institutions, office or household must meet the standards set by the Assembly or other regulatory agency [54]. It also provides for promotion of waste treatment systems; sets a requirement of permits for sand winning activities; provides for rules on the protection of wetlands and water bodies, control of tree felling and vegetation; and advocates through permits the replanting of economic trees [54]. Control of Animals Bye-law prohibits keeping of swine, cattle, sheep or goat and other wildlife in any town/community in the area of authority of the Assembly without a permit issued by the Assembly [55]. Sanitation Bye law provides for guidelines on disposal of solid and liquid waste management [56]. The Cleaning Bye-Law prohibits throwing litter, refuse, or other matter into gutters, drains, or unauthorized places which may cause nuisance or block free passage of running water [57]. Building/Physical Development Bye-law, provide for issuance of development and building permits to developers before commences development [58].

4.4 Addis Ababa city

Ethiopia is a landlocked country located in the North Eastern part of the African continent or what is known as the “Horn of Africa.” Ethiopia is bounded by Sudan on the west, Eritrea and Djibouti on the northeast, Somalia on the east and southeast, and Kenya on the south. Ethiopia lies between the Equator and Tropic of Cancer, between the 30 N and 150 N Latitude or 330 E and 480 E Longitude. The country occupies an area of approximately 1,127,127 km2.

According to article 49 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa is the capital city of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia [59]. The specific law to manage the administrative affairs of the city is the Addis Ababa City Government Charter Proclamation No. 87/1997 revised by the Charter Proclamation No.361 of 2003 which under Section 9(8) provides one of the objectives of the City Government to make the City a naturally balanced, clean, green and favorable spot through the prevention of environmental pollution [60]. Section 11 (1) empowers the City Government to make laws and exercise judicial powers as well as executive powers and functions over different matters within its jurisdiction, which empowers the city government to legislate on matters that promote sustainable development of the City [60]. The City Government has the powers and functions under Section 11 (2) (g) to administer the land and the natural resources located within the bounds of the City; and under Section 14 (1) (c) to issue the Master plan of the City [60]. Some of these include the Addis Ababa City Government Immovable Property Registration and Information Agency Establishment Proclamation No.22/2010, the Addis Ababa City Government Procurement and Property Administration Proclamation No.17/2009, the Addis Ababa City Master Plan Preparation Issuance and Implementation Proclamation No.17/2004, the Addis Ababa City Government Civil Servants Proclamation No.6/2008, among others.

Section 11 (2) (1) of the Revised Charter Proclamation, provides that the City Government has the powers and functions to: (a) issue and implement policies concerning the development of the City; (b) approve and implement economic and social development plans; (f) identify, ascertain, and organize municipal services to be delivered at the city, sub-city, and Kebele levels; to provide efficient, effective, and fair services by the use of a variety of service delivery options and public participation; and to make sure that a standardized, acceptable system of service delivery is in place. Some of these functions actualize the achievement of the sustainable development goals related to urban development and management. Some of these functions actualize the achievement of the sustainable development goals related to urban development and management.

In addition Section 11 (2) (1) of the Revised Charter Proclamation states that the City Government has the powers and functions to: In addition Section 11 (2) (1) of the Revised Charter Proclamation states that the City Government powers and functions include the following to administer, develop, and sell houses nationalized under the Government Ownership of Urban Lands and Extra Residences Proclamation No. 47/1975 and administered by the City Government, as well as other houses developed or obtained lawfully by the City Government. This is in line with achieving the New Urban Agenda of 2016. The implementation of the New Urban Agenda implies that governments should establish a legal framework for regulating adequate provision of common goods such as streets and open spaces, together with an efficient pattern of buildable plots.

4.5 Challenges of sustainable development of cities in africa

There are several challenges that affect promoting sustainable development of cities in Africa.

First, most cities lack a holistic urban legislation to regulate key issues to sustainable development of cities especially physical planning framework such as physical infrastructure for human settlement or area and public services such as transport, economic activities, recreation and environmental protection. Most cities lack a holistic urban legislation to regulate key issues to sustainable development of cities especially physical planning framework such as physical infrastructure for human settlement or area and public services such as transport, economic activities, recreation and environmental protection.

Second, due to a multiple of pieces legislation that creates conflicts and duplications of mandate there is limited coordination at the various hierarchies of planning by the different authorities which creates a conflict of interest when making decisions that involve consultations from more than one planning authority. For example, in some cases there are conflicts and duplications between Planning authorities and local authorities. The uncoordinated planning and development leads to uncontrolled sprawling of the major towns, growth of slums and informal settlements, lack of public space and weak coverage of basic infrastructure services, notably water, energy, and sanitation, which makes it difficult to improve welfare in either urban or rural environments.

Third, the emerging rapid increase in urban population poses great challenges leading to overcrowding, traffic congestion, growth of slums and informal settlements, dilapidated housing, food security concerns, and poor sanitation.

Fourth, the existing infrastructure and service provision do not correspond to the growing population demands. Investments in urban infrastructure and services have lagged behind the expanding demographic and economic importance of cities, resulting in the expansion of unplanned settlements, urban poverty, insufficient fundamental urban services, and a deteriorating urban environment. Most slum settlements are inaccessible because of poorly planned transport infrastructure and lack access to clean water and waste management systems.

Fifth, there is limited funding of urban development and management as a result in most cities, there are inadequate financial deal with the escalating urban infrastructure challenge.

Sixth, many cities lack the sufficient human resources to develop and implement plans. Developing such capacity within local planning departments, by using other agencies and engaging the community and interest groups, is the key to producing good plans.

Seventh, high level urban poverty has led to the development of slums characterized by the poor housing conditions, high urban crime rates, homelessness, poor medical care, among others.

Eighth, in some cases, there is political interference in urbanization programmes. Political interference sometimes affects enforcement of action plans for example where the development control decision by the planning authorities affects the political position of the government or individuals, such decisions are revoked and authorities instructed to act on the contrary to their directives.

Lastly, corruption of politicians and technocrats leads to poor decision process and increases the cost of and reduces the benefits from development programmers to the society [61]. As a result, the gap between the potential and realized achievements continue to widen thereby further undermining the country’s chances of achieving sustainable development [61].


5. Conclusion and recommendations

The analysis in the paper has demonstrated that characteristics of the most cities in the Sub-Saharan Africa include limited regulation of physical planning which has led to widespread illegal and informal development and this has hindered the extension not only of water, electricity, and solid waste collection services but also of adequate sanitation arrangements and road networks. Further, many African cities have not developed legal and regulatory framework that address the realities of urban life. This is in addition to limited ability to implement existing laws and regulations. In most cases, City governments do have adequate legal experts to develop the appropriate regulatory framework that is enforceable. As a result, the citizens are compelled to follow informal methods to conduct land and property transactions, undertake business, acquire means of a livelihood, and even access fundamental services due to the number and rigidity of laws and regulations. Uncoordinated decision making and implementation as well as political interference led to the failure of City Authorities to cope with the challenge of urban growth in Africa. This is in addition to limited financial and human capacity to support sustainable development of cities.

There are recommendations that can be proposed to improve the urban legislation development and implementation in the African cities. First, it is necessary to develop a holistic urban legislation that provides predictability and order in urban development, from a wide range of perspectives, including physical planning framework such as physical infrastructure for human settlement or area and public services such as transport, economic activities, recreation and environmental protection viewpoints. Second, there is need to strengthen the institutional framework on urban development and management so as to stimulate capacity building to sustainably develop cities. This can be done by establishing appropriate urban planning departments with appropriate mandates and governed by the experts. Third, there is need to strengthen capacity of the physical planners, engineers and architects, decision makers and urban dwellers through training and education on issues designed to meet each city’s particular circumstances, although most cities and towns share some urban problems whose solutions may be similar. Fourth, there is need to increase funding for activities for cities development and management at various levels in cities. Lastly, development and planning in cities should be participatory at all levels to facilitate more transparent and collaborative decision-making development decisions. This should involve empowerment urban poor communities and provision of pro-poor services.


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Written By

Kasimbazi Emmanuel

Submitted: 16 July 2021 Reviewed: 23 January 2022 Published: 15 July 2022