By Saikou Suwareh Jabai
The Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Lands, Regional Administration and Local Government, Mr. Bulli Dibba, said The Gambia does not have an urban policy and as a result, his Ministry intends to begin the process of formulating and adopting one. He said the rapid urbanization experienced in the Gambia is driven by the pursuit of employment and a better life, which are often lacking in rural areas. This, he said, includes access to better facilities, higher standards of living and perceptions of increased opportunities.
The DPS unveiled this plan during the launching of The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) 15th edition of the Africa Economic Outlook (AEO) Report at the UN House in Bakau on Tuesday, 25 October, 2016, which focuses on ‘Sustainable Cities and Structural Transformation’.
He said The Gambia is one of the world’s smallest countries but nonetheless confronts the challenge of urbanization, which is driving uncontrolled development in the cities and towns. DPS said the Councils are facing challenges associated with population growth, which has surpassed expectations, and requires sustainable, integrated urban planning and good governance.
He noted: “My ministry believes that the development of Gambia’s National Urban Policy is the key step to harness the gains of urbanization. It also provides the required direction and course of action to support urban development,” he said. DPS Dibba noted that in the absence of an urban policy, Gambia fails to provide an overarching framework to address pressing issues confronting urban areas as a result of rapid development, access to land, basic services and infrastructure; urban legislation; delegation of authority to sub national and local governments amongst others. DPS Dibba said Gambia is urbanizing at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom and that the population living in KMC and BAC has doubled. He added that the Urban growth experienced in the Gambia is currently accompanied by slow structural transformation, mainly due to lack of proper urban planning which leads to costly urban sprawl and uncontrolled development.
“The consequent population influx is happening at a faster rate than the delivery of basic services and infrastructure. As a result, the Local Government Authorities are overburdened, creating tenuous living conditions for people who find themselves unable to secure affordable accommodation and livelihoods,” DPS Dibba.
In the absence of a clear focus on how to deal with the rapid urbanization, he said his Ministry would like to develop and implement Gambia’s first national urban policy to promote a more inclusive, productive and sustainable urban development..
According to him, achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), towards the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, will depend partly on how well Gambia is able to manage its urban areas. “In particular, we will need to manage our urban areas in a way that enables accommodation of growth by providing adequate social and economic activities,” he said. This he continues requires national support in the form of accurate projections of future urban growth, high-quality statistics and a good understanding of the patterns and trends of urban changes.”