Cities fail to develop well because of many reasons but the main one is because majority of people are poor. They are not only poor in material things, they are poor because they lack good ideas. When you have a combination of people in an urban area (both the leaders and those they lead) lacking in resources both mental, financial and resources, then you have a real poverty stricken city. When urban leaders are poor in terms of mental capacities, they indeed have very little to offer in terms of urban development. This is so to a great extent that they even fear to share the little information they have with the citizens they lead on what they are planning for the cities.
Cities thrive best through stakeholder engagement. The more city residents are engaged through city consultations, the more likely the city will thrive because of inclusiveness and ownership of programmes and initiatives. When city authorities choose to push down policies without people’s inputs through dictatorial tendencies, the more likely the people will resent both the policies and the leaders. Our leaders ought to understand that our cities are as good as the people that live in them, leaders inclusive. Leaders should thus never assume a higher ground that they know better. It just happens that they only occupy privileged offices at a particular time. The notion that no one should be left behind therefore comes in handy. When leaders work together with citizens in building fairer cities, every one is at peace with each other and everyone benefits from the inclusive decision making process that is beneficial to all. Every time the city authorities choose to ignore people in order to move the development process faster, they miss a very important step which unfortunately must be rectified in the future, which bad enough, makes the process even longer and tedious.
City leaders can adopt a more authoritarian route which of course delivers faster results because it involves quicker decision making. The problem with this process is that it leaves out a great number if stakeholders and does not embrace good governance practice that has come to be associated with sustainable urban development. It’s often associated with a few individuals who thought that their ideas were the best without considering other people’s needs. Cities that have developed along the lines of individual whims have unfortunately come crumbling in a very short period of time. They can’t stand the test of time simply because they are built on skewed foundations. When the owners of the dream finally move out of authority, the real owners of the city begin to bring out their real interests which are often in contradiction with those of the authoritarian authorities that occupied offices thus a contestation of ideas between the old and the new ensues. What happens is confusion with very many contestations with various stakeholder pushing to have their interest win.
At this point in time, it’s very complicated to harmonize positions since no one trusts anybody. The new city authorities lost credibility because of the former office bearers and it’s very difficult to convince stakeholders that the new office bearers will act in the best interest of the citizens. When city leaders fail on their duties in participatory urban decision making, their failure is cascading. It not only affects their own term of office, it also affects those that will hold the same offices in future. The public gets a false sense that every city authority leader is not trustworthy and therefore the city gets to grow in ” to whom it may concern” kind of way. This is not only dangerous to the city growth potential, it completely distorts the overall city growth trajectory. inormality becomes the order of the day and no body cares how the city grows any more.
Democracy is a fundamental virtue not only in national development but in city development too. Cities that grow through authoritarian tendencies are bound to fail because they don’t have firm foundations. They are either one man’s dream or they completely miss out on the advantages of inclusiveness where people own up to the successes and failures of urban growth. Cities ought to put in place structures, institutions and systems through which programmes and decisions are implemented. Failure to do this means that the cities have started on wrong footing and cannot sustain themselves in the long run. In sustainable urban development, one can never over emphasize the importance of stakeholder engagement because it’s the only single important element of sustainable city growth. If one is genuinely interested in growing a place to be called a city, then they have to embrace all the tenets of good governance which calls for inclusivity, participatory decision making, stakeholder consultation and engagement, collective decision making and ensuring that the majority of stakeholders that really matter are never left behind. This is how great cities are built.