Low state of urbanisation and the fast rate at which Malawi is urbanising places the country as Africa’s potential guiding light in urban development practice, London-based urban development think tank, Urban Africa Risk Knowledge (ARK) has said.
Malawi is one of the most urbanising African countries at 6.3 percent annually, three times the global rate and nearly twice the African rate of 3.5 per cent.
Urban ARK principal investigator Mark Pelling said at the opening of a National Urban Stakeholders Workshop in Lilongwe on Wednesday that, being less urbanised, Malawi’s growing cities and towns can lead in providing lessons for appropriate urban administration.
He said this can be achieved by setting the ground for application of research, planning, legislation, policy and practice.
“Malawi is the future of Africa through the research activities and appropriate responses to the finding to be conducted in Malawi with support from Urban ARK. We believe Africa will learn from Malawi how cities and towns can be effective in meeting basic needs of their residents and ensure that economic and social growth are inclusive,” said Pelling.
Secretary to the vice-president and Commissioner for Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma), Benard Sande, said the Urban ARK studies being conducted in Malawi and other countries will support policies that reduce disaster risks in urban Africa by breaking cycles of risk accumulation and building local capacity to respond to risks.
“We all know that investments, which form the key drivers of the economy, are concentrated in urban areas. Key government and industrial infrastructure is also located in the urban areas. Addressing urban and semi-urban risks and vulnerabilities should, therefore, be our key priority in this changing climate,” he said.
Under Urban ARK and Mzuzu University (Mzuni) is undertaking a study in Karonga to understand the main nature and scale of disaster risks in the town.
Pelling said considering its growing social and economic influence and its vulnerability to earthquakes, floods, strong winds and drought, Karonga—the sixth largest town centre in Malawi—is an emerging city in Africa.
He said this was the reason it was selected as an urban research area for Urban ARK.