Experts task government to provide cities that grow economy

Experts in urban planning, renewal and development have urged the government at all levels to tap into ‘enormous potential’ in cities to improve the nation’s economy as a whole.

Speaking recently at an event organised by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, and financed by the Rockefeller Foundation in Nairobi Kenya, two urban renewal professionals and consultants, Melanie Cheary and Royston Martin, pointed out that cities were important generators of wealth and employment. But they said that sadly, many African countries had not been able to tap into the “enormous potential” embedded in cities as many of the continents residents still lived in slums.

They fingered some of the major challenges bedevilling many cities of Africa to include: congestion and parking difficulties; freight traffic, difficulties for non-motorised transport, among others.

These, he said, further leads to increasing inclement weather and health consequences related to long distance driving.

Their views further buttressed earlier remarks attributed to the UN-Habitat Programme Officer, Nigeria, Kabir Yari, who when recently speaking on the importance of urban mobility, had pointed out that there was need to make cities have effective transport system which would be in line with modern demands.

“This is because urban mobility has a lot economic potential allowing effective movement of people,” he had noted.

Yari further had also notably declared that “Mobility is not about providing transportation, it is about removing every barrier, political, economic and physical barriers to mobility, for example gender inequality.”

When commenting on the security challenges facing major cities such as Lagos, Royston Martin, linked insecurity challenges in cities like Lagos to influx of people, including those with no source of income, from different parts of Nigeria to Lagos.

Meanwhile according to the two experts, urban mobility is an essential key to physical, cultural and socio-economic interaction. They pointed out that s city’s economy depends on its viable and effective transport system which they insist is an essential ingredient to development. “Without transport nothing moves,” they remarked.

According to them, transport and urban mobility may be compared to the veins that carry blood to the different parts of the body. Without the movement of blood to different parts of the body there will be various complications – blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, etc. Hence mobility is important to the effective functioning of urban cells and organs communities, land uses and urban functions.

“Urban mobility is important because it can ultimately help in poverty eradication and sustainable economic growth through infrastructural renewal and development,” said Melanie Cheary.

They further suggested that to grow the economy of Lagos into the model megacity in Africa, embracing best practices in transportation/urban mobility cannot be overlooked.

The government of Lagos and its residents must accept the concept of mass transportation as being safer and more economical,” they noted.