The 47 devolved units in Kenya are now the engines of growth and incubators of civilization, and have facilitated the evolution of knowledge, culture, tradition, industry and commerce. A clear vision for a desired future for cities and towns within counties is therefore essential to ensure that they sustain and improve their role as centers of economic and social development.
Historically urban development in Kenya has taken place largely in the absence of policy framework. Large urban development projects such as site and service schemes and settlement upgrading projects drive the planning priority rather than the reverse situation, where integrated planning determines projects and elements to be targeted within urban development.
Aspects of urban development such as water, roads and houses have in the main been treated independently at the expense of an integrated development approach that appreciates the independent nature of issues affecting urban committee. Kenya has operated on the separation between spatial planning and economic planning in the cities and urban areas at the expense of encompassing integrated urban development planning. All these have resulted in the disastrous consequences for urban development.
A notorious characterization of Kenyan urban centers in absence of urban development policy is their spontaneous growth and haphazard development. These are manifested in poor housing and neighborhood quality, deteriorating environmental conditions, shortage and limited coverage of basic infrastructure and services, weak institutional and financial capacity to deal with these problems and a host of social problems reminiscent of a failed city.
The Kenyan constitution now recognizes the position of urban areas and cities and makes a demand on parliament to enact legislation to provide for governance and management of urban areas and cities. It is estimated that the proportion of Kenyans living in urban areas will reach 54% of national population by the year 2030.
Last year in June, the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development conducted a series of consultation workshops with all the 47 county governments to validate the draft National Urban Development Policy (NUDP). The Policy seeks to create a framework for sustainable urban development in the country.