BENEDICT TEMBO, Lusaka
ZAMBIA’s real estate sector narrative is surely becoming the envy of the sub-region as it strengthens the country’s credentials of being one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.
The country is undergoing unprecedented infrastructure development ranging from roads to real estate.
However, despite infrastructure contributing immensely to the country’s economic transformation, more needs to be done to ensure that benefits from the gains reach the desired development growth targets.
While the real estate sector has the potential to contribute significantly to economic growth and poverty reduction, grey areas continue to reverse the gains through improper appropriation of land.
This came to light at a national planning conference and annual general meeting convened by the Zambia Institute of Planners (ZIP) in Siavonga under the theme ‘Creating Livable Communities Through Smart Growth and Development.’
The aim of the meeting was to ensure planners are ready for the rapid urbanisation and infrastructure growth; to sensitise, train and support planners to respond to social and economic challenges in a smart way and to promote climate smart development that is green.
ZIP president Cooper Chibomba underscored the significance of the theme; Zambia is urbanising at a fast rate and growth will occur in every part of the country, including in areas that are environmentally sensitive.
“The theme therefore seeks to ensure that we are protecting the environment and responsibly making efforts to promote health as part of development,” said Mr Chibomba, who works for the Department of Physical Planning in the Ministry of Local Government.
“The theme was arrived at through consultations with the planners on what they want to see in the country moving forward. That feedback was then analysed in line with national goals, the Seventh National Development Plan (SNDP) and other global plans such as the Sustainable Development Goals, Habitat III and Sendoi framework,” Mr Chibomba said.
The Sendoi Framework 2015 – 2030, a global idea on understanding disasters and how they can be addressed at local and national levels, emphasises the need to anticipate, prepare and plan for new disasters.
Habitat III is a global agenda driven by the United Nations to ensure that all slums, informal settlements or unplanned areas are upgraded to improve the quality of life for the dwellers.
“As the most influential professionals in the built environment, we see ourselves as leaders in offering solutions to the development challenges in our communities and as facilitators of smart growth and development. Our role will be to shape places and promote developments that safeguard our resources, advancing the responsible conversion of land from forest, agriculture to other land uses,” Mr Chibomba said.
The role of planners was previously not appreciated, hence the many challenges that the country faces today such as poor road networks, poor waste management, shanties or informal settlements, congestion and lack of productivity in towns.
“This was because we left engineering and business to solve planning problems…we need to bring planners in the forefront of development and to do this, we need to appreciate the role of planners in giving towns their functions,” Mr Chibomba said.
The four-day workshop last week was funded by the Zambia Green Jobs Programme, Finnish Embassy in Lusaka, the National Road Fund Agency (NRFA), UN Zambia Country Office and the Ministry of Local Government.
Mr Chibomba believes the coming together of planners is a clear sign that Government has started to appreciate the role of planners.
“[A] very encouraging and a very clear sign is the enactment of the Urban and Regional Planning Article No.3 of 2015 that repealed the Town and Country Planning Act of 1964. Another sign of positive Government support is the 7NDP which recognises the important role of planning in making integrated plans and decentralising planning to the local levels,” he said.
Nina Nkhuwa-Hamakowa, honorary treasurer of the institute touted the planning conference’s significance for information sharing on topical issues in the profession.
“This particular conference was important as it addressed topical issues on the environment with a shift towards green planning,” Mrs Hamakowa said.
Government through the Local Government Service Commission, the Public Service Commission and the Public Service Management Division has enforced the requirement for all planners in Zambia to be registered with ZIP.
“This is a big milestone in bringing planning under a strong lens for quality and development,” Mr Chibomba says.
The Local Government Commission recently recruited over 105 planners and all were required to be members of the institute prior to the recruitment.
Mr Chibomba sees the recruitment as a milestone for the country in that districts will now have planners to lead the formulation of the integrated development plans (IDPs) in a timely manner.
An IDP is the primary planning document that connects Government, private sector and community plans to funding and brings all under one monitoring framework.
“Now these IDPs are a direct product that planners will be able to deliver on both as part of decentralisation and as a legal requirement for all councils to fully meet the aspirations of the local people. The IDPs are very critical in promoting inclusive development and good governance,” he explained.
With planners in place, ZIP expects district development efforts to be accelerated.
“We are working on introducing a chapter within ZIP to focus on women in planning and how they can lead more and better,” Mr Chibomba said.
Local authorities have both physical and social planners who complement each other.
A physical planner makes decisions or undertakes the planning of land or land use planning by allocating land to the best use while a social planner looks into service provision and access to basic services that make the use of land comfortable and that plans directly promote good quality of life through social services such as education and health.
“The role of planning in the creation of new districts is to ensure that all newly created districts are well defined in terms of boundaries and that all newly-created districts enjoy competitive advantage. The creation of new districts is the preserve of the President and planning advises on the best alternatives,” Mr Chibomba explained.
ZIP had 463 members as at July 31 this year, double what the organisation had in 2016 in the same period.
It is a creation of statute under the Urban and Regional Planners Act No.4 of 2011.
“Planners realised that there was a gap, no planning was taking place and where it took place…there was little coordination and plans were not reflecting the true position of the practice of planning. Everyone was planning but without a code of ethics and a vision,” Mr Chibomba said.
“Not everyone is a planner and therefore the question of why plans are not realising the visions became critical. ZIP was therefore borne out of this gap and opportunity to fight for better planning and coordination and a platform for sharing, learning and networking,” he said.
The association was created in the 1980s but was defunct for many years until 2016 despite the Act establishing the institute having been in place in 2013. Prior to 2013, it was registered under Registrar of Societies.
The challenges of development require a multi-dimensional perspective and a broader more inclusive approach.
Having a strong network of like-minded professionals to fight together