By Mutabazi Sam Stewart


Key important messages City Managers should know

  1. Every city has its unique challenges
  2. No city can be like the other
  3. Cities are powerful complicated machines
  4. Cities are like a human body,
  5. Cities can live and die when not looked after
  6. Like human beings, cities can’t live in isolation. They must have friends
  7. Cities must be livable – productive and lively
  8. Cities are dynamic



Cities are engines of growth. This statement has been made severally and no amount of repetition would make sound more important. It’s the most important statement for one to understand the importance of cities and the role they play in human development and betterment. Words don’t build cities. They are built by action and it has to be harmonized. When it comes to building cities, the bottom up approach is the best as it is sustainable. People determine how they want to live and what type of city they want to have.

Place Making becomes handy when building sustainable cities PM is about Communities taking their own initiative and contributing towards making their places of abode more enjoyable and pleasant to themselves. Cities that are built with input from the people themselves tend to be more resilient and sustainable.

Cities are normally spontaneous. It is in rare cases that we find cities being built from scratch and by individuals. Cities are built by many actors, sometimes unknowing of each other’s actions. We only keep seeing the city expand without knowing exactly how to touch the ways and means it’s expanding. This is because the process is gradual and rather slow. No matter how fast a city grows, it cannot be built in one day. The visibility of the city’s expansion can only be noticed after a long time. Very few cities are started on purpose. Even few more are started by an individual.

Cities that started on purpose and by individuals often suffer from the challenge of being accepted and embraced by the population. Once people do not warm up to the idea of a city, it either dies or shifts to another place where it will thrive. Once a city starts, its Population can only increase. You must be ready for population surge. When there is population increase, other attendant problems emerge. These may include crime, poor sanitation, inadequate infrastructure, poor waste disposal, unemployment etc.

In a budding city it’s important to determine early the issue of who owns the land and how issues thereof are going to be solved. This is very important because a city is built on land and being an immovable item, no body wants to invest resources in a city only to be told later that the land on which they built had issues.

It is important for city managers to determine how they will engage the private sector in building the city.  Private sector plays a major role in city building. Cities are built by the private sector and not the public sector.  A conducive environment therefore must be created for the private sector to thrive. As the private sector thrives, so will the city. Private sector is a better mobilizer of capital and investment inflows. They are the major stakeholders in a city. Never overlook them. They determine how far the city will thrive. They facilitate business and create jobs for the people. If the city is the engine of growth, then the private sector is the fuel that feeds that engine. Without the fuel, the engine goes silent.

How are decisions made in your city? Is it always managers at the top who do so without any input from other stakeholders? Every city must decide in robust manner how it is supposed to be run. How important decisions will be made. Never leave anything to chance. A good predictable environment is good for the city. No one wants to invest in a place when most things happen by chance.

Like an engine, a city has systems and components all of which function for the good and welfare of the whole. Urban systems: water, transport, sewerage system, power must all be planned and synchronized to ensure the city is well serviced. Hospitals, schools, sanitation, electricity, infrastructure:  roads are vital for the functioning of the city. These must be well planned to ensure they are well functioning all the time.

Poverty is a major problem to many cities and it’s mainly caused by low productivity levels. :  You must decide early on how to deal with unemployment especially of young people. Starting income generating activities especially for the poor is very important. Do not wait for the poor people to pause a problem of insecurity before you think about them. Unemployment is top cause of security problems in a city. Young unemployed people are more likely to resort to uncanny behavior compared to the employed. Keep them busy to keep them away from crime.

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