The fifth urban_net meeting took place at the ActionAid Malawi office this morning, featuring two presentations. First up was Asayire Kapira from WES Network, speaking about Water Users Associations (WUAs) in Lilongwe. WUAs are cooperative societies where communities establish a legal business entity and register it with the government to operate all water facilities – usually water kiosks – in a designated area. Through its Tilitonse Project, WES Network works with a number of WUAs mainly in Lilongwe’s peri-urban areas, seeking to improve accountability of the WUA model through participatory tools and approaches. While the project has met successes, including establishment of a WUA network and de-politicisation of existing associations, there have also been some challenges. A key challenge has been lack of responsiveness and even resistance by duty bearers, namely the Lilongwe Water Board, to be accountable to their customers. You can download Kapira’s presentation here.
The second presenter was John Chome of UN-Habitat in Malawi, though speaking in his private capacity. Chome delivered a thought-provoking historical presentation on urban planning in Malawi, and the failures of both past and current planning policy to address the challenges of urbanisation (and take advantage of the opportunities). He concluded that urbanisation in Malawi now occurs “outside of planning” and challenged the participants to deliberate on whether current planning in Malawi is addressing the real issues facing the country, and if the appropriate models to address these issues are being used. This lead to a lively discussion on the anti-urban bias at the government level, the need for Lilongwe City Council to take on a leadership role when it comes to city development, and how Lilongwe as a city needs to densify and grow upward, not continue to spread and sprawl. You can access Chome’s presentation here.
The next urban_net meeting will take place on Dec. 4. Join us!