McKinsey & Company, the global consulting firm recently published a report titled How to make a city great, whose contents I thought were quite instructive for Harare City Council; especially at a time when a new leadership has just come into office, the city’s challenges are immense and its resources limited. Residents should read the report in its entirety, but for those who – for one reason or another – are unable to do so, fear not. The next three instalments will condense the three things which – according to the report – leaders must do in order to transform their cities into great places to live and work – achieving smart growth, doing more with less, and winning support for change. We start this month with a look at how Harare can achieve smart growth.
Smart growth depends upon a strategic approach that identifies the very best growth opportunities and nurtures them, planning so the city and its surroundings can cope with the demands which growth will place on it, integrating environmental thinking, and ensuring that all citizens enjoy their city’s prosperity.
1. Adopt a strategic approach
Identify competitive clusters
Council leadership’s vision for the City of Harare must be informed by a sound assessment of where the city’s competitive advantages lie, so that potential clusters that can power growth can be identified.
Invest to support growth
Targeted public-sector investment is required to attract business to the city. Our road networks, water and sewer reticulation systems are clearly in dire need of such investment.
Think client service
Harare can begin to attract companies and organisations to its chosen clusters by holding regular conversations with industry leaders, forging connections between businesses and investors, and organising road shows and conferences. As a business executive in his own right, the new Mayor has a leading role to play by using his convening power and connections in that regard. Soon, we expect him to start leading trade delegations to targeted source markets for Harare’s investment needs. The city must adopt the attitude that investors and businesses are its clients rather than its subjects and do as much as it can to help them thrive.
2. Plan for change
Smart growth means planning for what lies ahead. Harare must ensure its plans are adaptable over time to reflect the changing needs as an evolving city. To be effective, the city must also adopt a regional perspective and make the planning process inclusive and flexible. The city fathers must therefore think about regional growth, not just Harare’s growth alone because as the metropolis expands, the cooperation of surrounding municipalities such as Chitungwiza, Ruwa and Norton will be needed. Without cooperation, there will be competition and conflict.
Make planning an inclusive process
The City of Harare’s planning process must become a dialogue amongst key stakeholders, the process of smart growth must combine top-down as well as bottom-up approaches. Good stakeholder management skills are a necessity for smart growth.
Keep it flexible
Like other cities worldwide, Harare must adopt flexible urban plans that serve as frameworks into which projects can be fitted at a local level. Plans must evolve while ensuring that the city continues to make progress towards long-term targets.
3. Integrate environmental thinking
The way Harare integrates environmental considerations into economic decision-making is vital to smart growth. Environmentally aware growth should recognise the costs of degrading the environment and integrate environmental goals into the planning process. Accordingly, the City must be more discerning when it comes to projects that impact on wetlands, for instance.
Plan and build green infrastructure
Sustainable growth will depend upon Harare investing in infrastructure that reduces emissions, waste production and water use. The way we build this city and renovate it determines its ecological sustainability for decades to come. Improving existing infrastructure, building green zones, and making the most of scarce land resources by, for instance, building high-density communities can help.
The City of Harare can deploy a mixture of pricing mechanisms (both penalties and incentives) as well as information dissemination and regulatory interventions to improve the use of scarce resources such as water and even its own finances.
4. Insist on opportunity for all
A great city’s value proposition is not confined to luring business. It offers opportunities to all residents, seeks to reduce inequalities, and protect the vulnerable. There are myriad ways to promote opportunity and quality of life for all and three of the most important actions are connecting the city outskirts through efficient transportation links, promoting social integration of the most vulnerable members of society and building affordable housing.
Photo: David Brazier