Making Room For African Urban Expansion

A Focus On The Basics

Patrick Lamson-Hall, a Research Scholar at the NYU Marron Insitute of Urban Management, wrote an article in the African Technology Development Forum about the spatial planning implications of growth in African cities. Lamson-Hall has been working with the Ethiopian Ministry of Urban Development and Construction (MUDC) since July 2013 to create and implement the Ethiopia Urban Expansion Initiative.  

This program is currently supporting eighteen medium-sized, rapidly growing cities in the creation and implementation of 30-year growth plans. The goal is simple – to leverage orderly urbanization to spark widespread economic growth.

The program relies on an empowering and locally driven methodology called “Making Room for Urban Expansion,” largely developed by Dr. Shlomo Angel. Plans are developed and implemented by local officials, including mayors, economists, and planners, with support from the national government and periodic visits by NYU consultants.

Cities focus on four steps when making their plans:

1) Creating accurate maps that project future growth;

2) Implementing generous municipal boundaries to create an expansion area that reflects those projections;

3) Designing and securing a network of arterial roads, spaced 1km apart, to service the expansion area; and

4) Designating and securing a hierarchy of public open spaces that will protect environmentally sensitive areas as the city expands.

Work is in advanced stages in four Ethiopian cities – Hawassa, Adama, Mekele and Bahir Dar. Land for arterial grids and public open spaces have largely been secured, and construction of over one hundred kilometers of arterial roads has taken place, opening up vast new lands on the peripheries of these cities.

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