14 Oct 2010
Sustainable Urbanization: The Missing Bottom-up Dimension
ATDF Journal 7(1/2): 44-53.
Sustainable urbanization in developing countries will be one of the major challenges of the 21st century. Especially in Africa where the current rate of urbanization is fastest and cities are least prepared to offer poor migrants decent living conditions through innovative solutions in housing, urban design, education and infrastructure. Sustainable urban planning in African cities requires a willingness to learn from past mistakes and greater recognition of all the privately organized public services that make living in the overcrowded informal settlements bearable. Supporting the informal activities of these local entrepreneurs and helping them to gradually improve their management practices as well as the range and quality of their services would not just improve the livelihood of the urban poor but also create new economic opportunities. Such public-private partnerships represent the bottom-up dimension of urbanization because they tend to be inclusive and sustainable. But they must also involve innovative academic institutions in the design and implementation of sustainable local solutions in cooperation with local private and public actors. In this context, incentives must be designed for universities to make them more responsive to the needs of the local urban economy. This would require the integration of the science and practice of entrepreneurship into the student curriculum especially in the area of architecture and urban design. Such academic institutions have the potential to facilitate effective collective action in efforts to improve environmental and health conditions in informal settlements and helping local entrepreneurs to get access to public funds and better connect with the formal economy. The following article will illustrate how that might work in the case of the city of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia