One year on from its declaration that Harare will be a world-class city by 2025, City Council remains positive in its resolve. The recently approved Greendale developments, called Plan 56, add gravity to their convictions. Greendale residents can hope to see improved facilities in the area, with an emphasis on businesses through shopping centre regeneration.
Plan 56 forms part of Council’s longer term four-phased strategic plan to achieve world-class status for Harare. These ambitions for the City were put in place in 2012 and will run until 2025.
According to UN-Habitat, a world class city is one that has effective urban planning and management, decentralisation policies and appropriate institutions, a system that creates equal opportunities for all, participation of civil society, elected local officials, a favourable business environment, access to basic amenities and public transport and mobility.
Some City Fathers have expressed optimism at attaining a world-class Harare. City of Harare (CoH) spokesperson Leslie Gwindi called on all stakeholders to step up to the vision: “The City is fully geared to achieving a world class city by 2025. The duty rests on all of us, the City and its stakeholders. Everybody has to play their part.”
This view was echoed by Precious Shumba, the director of Harare Residents Trust (HRT), who believes that Harare does have the capacity to achieve world-class standard by 2025 if the participation of city residents is strong: “Focus must be to revive the collapsed service infrastructure for water pumping, water distribution and sewer reticulation. Citizen participation is critical and must be respected,” said Shumba.
However, some stakeholders have raised questions about the capability of the City to accomplish a world-class status in the time frame. Prosper Chitambara, a researcher and PHD Economics candidate at the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ), said that Harare’s capacity to attain world-class status was limited as the project requires huge capital outlays. “The City Council itself does not have the requisite capital to actualise. Ideally, these kinds of projects require Public Private Partnerships (PPPs),” said Chitambara.
It is a fact that the municipality right now is facing a revenue collection crisis, which has left it highly dependent on foreign loans. Locally, PPPs are unlikely considering the state of the capital’s economy.
Mick Pearce, an architect with 45 years’ experience working in the private sector agreed: “The project requires huge amounts of money which is not available at the moment. Harare is only reliant on commuter transport; the city needs to have other transport sources. We need to build more roads and railways. At the end it all rests on the performance of the economy,” he explained.
The council’s plan, though admirable on paper, is widely thought of as being over ambitious. An economist who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “To achieve world-class status when the municipality is still battling with the basics of service delivery is surely far-fetched. It is concerning also that the City Fathers’ blue print appears to be dwelling on correcting mistakes from the past rather than focusing on the future.”
According to the municipality 3,102 houses are under construction in Budiriro under the $15 million joint venture between council and CABS. Another 480 housing units are under construction in Dzivarasekwa under a $5 million slum upgrade project that is aimed at getting rid of informal settlements in Harare.
Rehabilitation of roads as well as water and sewer systems are some of the areas the City has already started working on. With no major roads or flyovers under construction in and around the city centre to ease traffic congestion, pothole filling is still the major activity.
Urban planning and local governance expert, Percy Toriro, said that it is a tall order for Harare to attain world-class status considering the extensive capital requirements.
“As stakeholders we are obviously happy that they are aspiring that high. Of course the issue becomes that do they have the capacity and the willpower to achieve it. It is not going to be a stroll in the park, it is going to be very difficult and it will take a lot of commitment and resources,” he explained.
“Correct approaches to urban management require that there is programmed maintenance of existing infrastructure but there is also future planning for improved infrastructure,” added Toriro.
Nonetheless, whether this can all be attained in 11 years so that Harare achieves world-class city status by 2025 remains debatable.
Speaking to Harare News, the Mayor of Harare, His Worship Bernard Manyenyeni said that since the crafting of the vision the City has actually moved backwards, despite noting some good improvements in health services.
Harare has ranked poorly in previous world cities ‘livability’ rankings. In 2013, The Economist Intelligence Unit survey on 140 world cities ranked Harare 136th with an overall rating of 40.7%. However, the City showed good performance in education (66.7%) and culture and environment (55.8%).
Global experience shows however that achieving world-class status does not equate to benefits for all residents of a city. The danger is that such a goal becomes a process for gentrification, pushing low income citizens out of sight while prioritising the needs of the business community. If all citizens are considered then the process becomes a much more sustainable endeavor.
As Harare News went to print, the media was awash with revelations about salaries at Town House. These will need to be addressed before there is any chance of a world-class badge.
Whatever the likelihood of the Council reaching its goal, the fact that achieving the status is sited as a major reason for clean up campaigns and other activities, means that trying to get to this goal should at least have some positive outcomes for Harare as a whole.