The declaration of a city in itself does not bring along the much-anticipated benefits. It is rather the planning and developments associated with a city that creates an environment conducive enough for everyone to gain profitably.
By Dr. Isaac Mutenyo
There is excitement about the creation of new cities. This is understandable because of the anticipated benefits that come along with living in a city.
However, the declaration of a city in itself does not bring along the much-anticipated benefits. It is rather the planning and developments associated with a city that creates an environment conducive enough for everyone to gain profitably.
Since the commencement of the Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development (USMID) Program in 2013, leaders from the 14 program Municipalities have been agitating for the elevation of there Municipalities to cities.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the declaration has been received with excitement. Indeed over the five year program period, there has been a clear improvement in the institutional capacity and infrastructure development in the USMID Municipalities. Therefore, the elevation of nine out of 14 of the program Municipalities to cities is welcome and is a testimony that these Municipalities have improved there institutional capacity and service delivery.
But to manage a city is different and much more demanding than running municipalities that's why it is imperative for those who will be in charge of the newly elevated municipalities to change there management strategies and plans if they are to reap from the abundant benefits that a city status can attain.
The first change that must happen is for municipality leaders to change their mindset. Cities are built to make people happy and comfortable to live in. Each city must have one single vision that will be at the centre of every strategy or action they intend to pursue.
City leaders need to come to terms with some hard facts about the management of there respective cities. They must understand that running a city is a lot more costly and rigorous than running a Municipality; city life is fast and cities are open to all including investors, the youths many of whom are in search of jobs, criminals, fraudsters- all of whom must be managed.
Under the USMID program, the 5 municipalities of Arua, Fort Portal, Gulu, Jinja and Fort Portal which are to be elevated to city status in July 2020 have received about 187 billion Uganda shillings between them over the five year period 2014 – 2018 for both infrastructure development and institutional capacity strengthening.
There are obvious visible improvements in infrastructure especially rehabilitated roads, street lighting, and urban greening. However, considering the geographical boundaries of the proposed cities, resources of this magnitude are just a drop in the ocean.
With these resources, hardly any municipality has managed to upgrade more than 10% of its road network. Even the highly resourced and performing ones like Gulu have managed to improve less than 20 km of roads.
The resources that will be required for cities infrastructure development are enormous and therefore both proposed cities and central government must develop strategies of how to source for funding for infrastructure development.
They must equally identify sources of revenue for maintaining the improved infrastructure. Municipalities must transit with strategies on how to raise resources and importantly on how to maximize city status benefits from the available resources.
This is possible only if the upcoming city managers and their overseers-central government have clearly crafted strategies for the transition and eventually the masterplans for the cities.
Considerations for city status
As Municipalities celebrate their elevation to cities, it is important that all relevant stakeholders ponder on the cities they wish to have and start sooner rather than later to strategize on how to transition and manage them to the required high standards.
The writer is the USMID Program Coordinator