The editors of Town Planning Review (TPR) have selected the following paper as a Featured Viewpoint in TPR 92.2:
‘Calling for Responsible Inclusive Planning and post-pandemic Healthy African Cities‘ by Lauren Andres, John R Byrson, Stuart Paul Denoon-Stevens, Hakeem Bakare, Katrina du Toit and Lorena Melgaço.
When asked to describe the paper and highlight its importance, the authors stated the following:
The COVID-19 pandemic constitutes a turning point for planning and planners across the world. It has returned infectious diseases to the centre of urban debates and triggered a range of calls to reconsider how healthy cities can be delivered in the future (Bryson et al., 2021). Whereas the pandemic was a global phenomenon, significant differences have been observed from one continent, country, city to another. Local context matters here, and this is the focus of this review which explores healthy African cities.
From cholera, measles, and malaria, 45% of African countries experience at least one annual epidemic (Talisuna et al., 2020) partly related to dense informal and unplanned settlements, with minimal access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities acting as contributing factors to the spread of respiratory illnesses (Pardeshi et al., 2020). Tackling the current and future pandemics resonates with existing efforts that have been applied across Africa, but COVID-19 has been transformational given its duration and reach. Whereas the African continent, at the start of 2020, was considered at high risk of COVID-19 deaths, most recent WHO figures suggest that Africa, except for South Africa, has coped better than expected (Tembo et al., 2021). The danger is a second or even third more aggressive wave linked to the spread of new variants (typically the South African variant) (Salyer et al., 2021). A number of factors have been hypothesised to explain some forms of health resilience from younger population demographics, rapid early quarantine measures and lockdowns, pre-existing immunity along with limited testing, existing experience in dealing with infectious diseases along with limitations regarding data quality and difficulty in closely monitoring cases (particularly the asymptomatic ones) (Maeda and Nkengason, 2021).
The latest studies, particularly in the medical field concur that “ it is still important for African countries to adopt aggressive and bold approaches against COVID-19, in case the nature of the pandemic changes” (Musa et al., 2021), along with being ready for dealing with future pandemics. Whereas world leaders have very recently called for an international pandemic treaty, we, in this paper, call for urban scholars and experts to develop a responsible, inclusive, planning approach to facilitating healthy cities in Africa. This approach needs to account for the key challenges that will need to be overcome: dysfunctional transport and planning systems, urban fiscal crises, polarisation and limited resource capacity, and lack of localised approaches. This needs to be placed in the context of existing societal challenges experienced by nearly all African cities combined with a focus on the decarbonisation of urban lifestyles.
A systemic and localised approach to planning across Africa is required that rests upon people, place and governance and which resonates with the role, dynamics and processes within which planning sits. It needs to include concrete small-wins to visible challenges as part of a step-by-step approach to generating large-win outcomes intended to deliver health-orientated planning strategies, tackling health challenges inclusively and responsibly. The scale of the challenge that needs to be overcome is overwhelmingly. Perhaps the only solution is to adopt a citizen-centric approach to urban place-making based on the incremental accumulation of small-wins and creating ‘fit for purpose’ planning systems that acknowledge African states’ resource scarcity.
Bryson, J., Andres, L., Ersoy, A., Reardon, L. 2021, Living with Pandemics: Places, People, Policy and Rapid Mitigation and Adaptation to Covid-19, Edward Elgar, in press.
Kapata N, Ihekweazu C, Ntoumi F, et al., 2020, Is Africa prepared for tackling the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) epidemic. Lessons from past outbreaks, ongoing pan-African public health efforts, and implications for the future, International Journal of Infectious Diseases, 93: 233–36.
Maeda, J. and Nkengasong, J. , 2021, The puzzle of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa. More data are needed to understand the determinants of the COVID-19 pandemic across Africa, Science 371 (6524), 27-28. DOI: 10.1126/science.abf8832
Musa HH, Musa TH, Musa IH, et al., 2021, Addressing Africa’s pandemic puzzle: Perspectives on COVID-19 transmission and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa, International Journal of Infectious Diseases, 102:483-488. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2020.09.1456.
Pardeshi, P, Balaram J, Ravikant S, et al., 2020, Association between Architectural Parameters and Burden of Tuberculosis in Three Resettlement Colonies of M-East Ward, Mumbai, India, Cities & Health, 4:3, 303-320, DOI: 10.1080/23748834.2020.1731919
Salyer, J., Maeda, S., Sembuche, Y.K. et al. , The first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa: a cross-sectional study, The Lancet, March 24, DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00632-2
Talisuna A.O., Okiro E.A., Yahaya A.A., et al., 2020, Spatial and temporal distribution of infectious disease epidemics, disasters and other potential public health emergencies in the World Health Organisation Africa region, 2016-2018, Global Health, 16, http://doi.org/10.1186/s12992-019-0540-4.
Tembo J, Maluzi K, Egbe F, Bates M. 2021, Covid-19 in Africa BMJ, 372 (457), doi:10.1136/bmj.n457