Considerations of urban land use planning under Kampala’s land tenure system

Kampala is a city that was originally planned for 150,000 inhabitants. Current estimates predict that the daytime population already exceeds 4 million people. Furthermore, the city is rapidly urbanising and the World Bank estimates that the population will reach over 20 million people by 2040. However, much of the urbanisation to date has happened in an unplanned fashion, leading to a series of challenges of the city as well as the overall result that cities, including Kampala, remain increasingly unproductive.

To reverse this trend and better plan for the two-thirds of the city that are still to be built, KCCA would like to ensure better planning. As a start the Kampala Physical Development Plan (KPDP) was developed in 2012, to provide a comprehensive plan for the plan for the city. To date, however, the plan has faced implementation challenges as a result of the fact that it is too complex and high level to be actionable. Therefore, as a next step the KCCA is looking to break the plan down and look at neighbourhood planning for different parts of the city.

Land use planning is one of the most useful non-fiscal measures that governments have to be able to guide, plan and thus promote the productivity and liveability in their cities. Furthermore, effective planning can also increase tenure security in cities, which in turn supports the emergence of a more formalised property rights system. Clear property rights are of critical importance to unlocking the potential of successful urbanisation.

As with most cities in developing countries, Kampala also faces the challenge of a continuum of land tenure categories all co-existing in one city. These range from freehold (privately held titles managed by the Uganda Land Commission), and leasehold (managed by the Kampala District Land Board under the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development), to the public and private mailo land, owned and managed by the Buganda Kingdom (through the Buganda Land Board) and formalised as part of the 1903 Agreement under the British rule. Most of these tenure systems are further characterised by unclear land rights and this is a primary reason that urban land re-development in Kampala has been slow. In this case, even if neighbourhood planning dedicated a specific zone for industrial development, for example, this is may not be very effective if industries cannot purchase and invest in the land due to the complexities of the tenure. A further complicating fact is that KCCA does not own the majority of land in the city and therefore there are a number of different stakeholders that need to be taken into account in any type of planning that takes place. Therefore, for Kampala’s transition into a productive city, planning will be essential. However, planning will only be successful if it is responsive to the tenure structures in the city, which is what this project will focus on. The results aim to feed into the future of neighbourhood plans that are currently being developed.

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