The term “World Class City” refers to a city that is considered safe and secure. It is a city that is inclusive and has access to basic services including water and electricity. It is a city that is ideal for its dwellers. Rubbish is collected on time and maintenance of buildings is always up to date. The City Council of a world class city is conscious about the health needs such as the fresh air and relaxation provided by paths and greenbelt and exercise – provided by walking and cycling tracks and playgrounds for children.
As such, Harare has committed itself to being a world class city by 2025 and other cities such as Gweru, Mutare and Bulawayo are expected to follow suit.
We Deserve Better Cities
World Cities Day and World Town Planning Day are days that commemorate world urbanisation and how cities have transformed thus far. The overall theme for the two days is “Better City, Better Life”, and the sub-theme for World Cities Day is ” Changing the World : Innovations and Better Life for Future Generations”. World Town Planning Day calls for Town Planners to be innovative, to rethink their strategies and to get excited about developing cities whilst World Cities Day calls for planners to be forward thinking. With 50% of the world’s population living in cities, one can see why this day is of importance.
In Zimbabwe, 16% of the overall population is believed to live in Harare, whilst 5% in Bulawayo, 67% in rural areas and the remainder scattered around other towns and cities. In 2012, Zimbabwe indicated in its Report to UN Habitat that its cities are growing at a rate of 4.3% annually. The Business Insider named Harare the second worst city to live in 2019. The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Harare 135th out of 140 on the Global Liveability Index meaning only 5 capital cities in the world are considered worse than Harare in 2018. The reason for this was mostly owed to poor infrastructure, economic instability and poor healthcare.
As mentioned above Harare City Council has expressed its wishes for the city to become a world class city. This is to be done by 2025. For the goal to become a reality considerable change in how the city operates needs to take place. The Harare City Council as well as property owners need to commit to revamping and renovating buildings and spaces. Roads need to be maintained and pathways need to be fixed. Maintenance should not take place once something falls apart. Constant improvement and development needs to take place so as to not overwhelm the City Councils of tomorrow. All City Councils in the country need to take heed of this as well.
Cities For Future Generations
In his statement on the subject, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres said that “how our cities develop will have significant implication in realising the futures we want.” This is a call by the SG that in the development of cities we must consider sustainability, the overall environment and to better the health, mental and social needs of the people in the city. To date there have been growing trends of people building on wetlands. Land formerly reserved for recreational purposes has been issued out as housing stands and more and more we are turning our city into a concrete block without any places for children to play and general social development. In desperately catering for the population growth in cities, we are sacrificing town planning and development that is sustainable, eco-friendly and healthy for the inhabitants of the city.
Echoing the Secretary General’s remarks, a generational perspective needs to be adopted in town and city development. We need forward-looking municipalities that seek to solve long term problems. We should not seek to just satisfy the needs of the community of today only. Future generations must be kept in mind.
The government, Members of Parliament, municipalities and urban dwellers are called to work together for sustainable development that is sensitive to climate action and the quality of life for the generations to come. As we have seen rapid expansion with no sure plan comes with poverty and unemployment. We need discipline, transparency and efficient systems in our municipalities in order to improve the cities and earn our spot back on the world stage as having world class cities. The time has come to adapt and remodel the template of cities we were left with decades ago into one that is suitable to the populations and conditions of today.
Responsible City Development
As we commemorate this day we call upon municipalities to apply fresh perspectives when developing Master Plans and carrying out urbanism projects. We implore all players responsible for city development to remember that the change begins with them. If we are to realise our goal to become a world class city by 2025 there needs to be greater equality and access to services throughout the country. We need to map a practical and feasible way forward with our infrastructure and actually implement visible developments.
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