News that Cabinet has approved and elevated 15 municipalities to cities excited many residents across the country because several see this development as a major breakthrough that will bring growth to their doorsteps.
According to the Ministry of Local Government, the first five of the 15 cities that Cabinet approved on recently will start operations in July 2020. The first lot is comprised of Arua, Gulu, Jinja, Fort Portal and Mbarara.
In the second cohort, Hoima and Mbale will be elevated in 2021, while Lira and Entebbe will be in the third lot of the city elevation. Others to be elevated include Nakasongola, Moroto, Masaka, Soroti, Kabale and Wakiso.
Known characteristics of a standard city include having good parking, better traffic management, effective street lighting, appropriate waste management, and generally city maintenance, among others.
Cities should also come with green belts and an interactive population to spur growth. If we go by how Kampala City has tried to manage the above benchmarks, we might be a long way from realizing the kind of cities we envisage to have across the country. A good city is as a result of good planning based on a long-term vision and coordinated implementation with well paved streets, good waste management and good infrastructure.
Therefore, city planning is going to be the bedrock of what will turn out a good smart city. The recent clamour for cities might not have been accompanied by the projection of amenities that come with them, but to meet political demands of different political shades.
So in implementing these components that make a good city, planners need to benchmark so that they realize the perspective they are looking at. We should not suffer the embarrassment of calling some town council a city yet it reflects none of its cosmopolitan nature and we get ridiculed for such approvals.
It’s commendable that the ministry is now developing guidelines for the operations of the approved cities which will help in running the administration of the cities. And to this, government has set aside a budget of Shs130b to make the city operational. We should also look forward to developing smart cities.
The next plan should be how to turn the created cities into employment avenues to absorb the growing number of youth.