Role of Cities and towns as engines of Regional planning in Kenya
THE UNIVERSITY OF NAIROBI
SCHOOL OF BUILT ENVIRONMENT
COLLEGE OF ARCHITECTURE AND ENGINEERING
DEPARTMENT OF URBAN AND REGIONAL
BUR 301: REGIONAL PLANNING PRICIPLES AND
MR. MALECHE ZACHARIAH
ROLES OF TOWNS AND CITIES
THURS9TH JAN. 2014
Regional planning is a type of public or societal planning that deals with the efficient placement
of land use activities, infrastructure, and settlement growth across a larger area of land than an
individual city or town.Regional planning capitalizes on synergies and opportunities across
multiple-authorities helping to coordinate and access resources that may otherwise not be
Regional planning is the process is driven by cities and towns areas characterized by higher
population density and vast human features in comparison to areas surrounding it. According to
Urban areas and Cities Act, 2011, an area may be classified as a city if it satisfies the following
If an area has a population of at least 500,000 residents according to the final gazette
results of the last population census carried out by an institution authorized under any
Urbanization has been an essential part of most nations’ development towards a stronger and
more stable economy.
ROLES OF TOWNS/CITIES AS ENGINES OF DEVELOPMENT IN KENYA
Roles of towns/ cities as engines of development in Kenya can be subdivided into two:
i. Regional roles
ii. Primary functions
1. Regional roles
Regional roles include: social-cultural roles, economic roles, environmental roles and political
a) Social-cultural role
Towns are centers of innovation in the production of ideas, knowledge, and their
commercialization. People can absorb knowledge from contact with more skilled individuals in
their own industry.This is as a result of in migration of people from different parts of the world
who come to invest in that particular town hence spreading different ideas production and
development within and outside that particular town or city.
Towns/ cities are in a way products and stores of social values, traditions and other local cultural
requirements. Towns/ cities would reflect such important socio-cultural organizational systems
such as housing, land distribution and use, social distribution and distribution of services such as
health and education.
These tend to shape how settlements are developed, including the systems of building and other
technological aspect. To this end towns/ cities are both a process and a product. Thus towns are
not merely points of growth, but also critical entities through which societies can be organized
High concentration of people in cities generates more opportunities for interaction and
communication hence promotes creative thinking, creates knowledge spillovers and develops
new ideas and technologies. Therefore Cities and towns provide more opportunities for learning
and sharing. Also they facilitate trade and commerce by providing super market places.
b) Economic role
The process of urbanization is often accompanied by a process of economic growth. Through
their spatial organization, cities and towns provide a structural framework which seeks to
promote and sustain an efficient process of economic growth.
Towns are expected to become and serve as important nuclei of economic activity. Towns serve
as production and services centres because the production of many goods and services is more
efficient in a high-density urban environment. These therefore provide consumers with more
choices of goods and services.Most importantly, cities should provide access to adequate
productive assets and opportunities for better livelihood and wealth, as well as the required
c) Environmental role
Towns/ cities often organize and even transform their physical and natural surroundings. They
could reshape land, fill valleys and swamps, extract and move large volumes of materials, tap
water resources and Channel Rivers and streams.
These transformations can have serious impacts, encroaching on prime agricultural land and
degrading sites with valuable ecological functions. Water bore, air borne and solid pollutants and
waste find their way to surrounding regions.
Towns and cities however, can contribute positively to their environs by maintaining safe and
health water and sanitation systems, drainage and other relevant measures to minimize
environmental hazards. Cities could also form part of the regional recreation network.
d) Political role
Towns that have grown to become important cities were often constituencies of elaborate
political processes that steered public investments and enterprises to such places. The extent to
which towns/ cities received public investments was often influenced by the status of their
The development of towns is now based on the widest of partnership between the public sector,
the private sector and the towns themselves as autonomous decision makers.
Good urban governance is crucial for regional investment, as well as the stimulation of regional
economies by exporting producing sectors.
Political instability is often a hindrance to economic growth.
2. Local roles/primary functions
Local roles of towns/cities include: dwelling/ residential/ housing, work, recreation,
transportation and communication.
a) Dwelling/ residential/ housing
This is regarded as the first urban function. Towns were born out of the primary needs of shelter
and mutual-shelter against exterior factors like those of climate.
Fundamentally, a town/city unit is the result of man’s desire to live a better life. Thus, it should
function in such a way as to help its inhabitants attain better life and promote social living and
The towns provide a framework that shapes the living conditions in urban dwelling. Town/ city
dwellers occupy both good and bad sites, more or less crowded, follow the alignment of both
regular and irregular streets.
In most cases the town centres are the background of industry and trade. It is the hope of finding
a job that usually brings people to urban centres. Here they seek a livelihood that will permit
them to improve their living. Such opportunities are deemed to be limited and less spectacular in
the village and farm. Thus, work in itself to most people justifies the existence of town/ city
Our modern towns have become centres of trade. Nearly all of them have been conceived on the
basis of factories, office buildings and shops. Towns and cities are not only centres of industry
and trade but also of various services.
Towns and cities have a crucial role to play in provision of opportunities for leisure and
recreation capacities to dwellers/ residents. Inhabitants of many these centres lose contact with
the nature due to crowding out in these areas. There is urgent need to renew this contact of man’s
communion with sunlight, open spaces and the green of nature.
Open spaces and natural green can offer relaxation and peace: whether resting in the garden,
walking or playing amid greenery or admiring natural beauty.
Open spaces are usually said to be the “lungs of the city/ towns”, by them assimilating carbon
from carbon (IV) oxide, plants increase the amount of oxygen in the air.
d) Transportation/ communication
Movement and accessibility are crucial functions of towns and cities and also have a direct
relationship with the nature of land use and development. Transportation draws people to the
heart of town and cities centres, and later distributed them towards the outskirts.
The new means of transport and communication has increased the interaction of one town with
another, the exchange of products and ideas.
Urbanization is an inevitable force of development. Cities are more productive than rural areas.
They provide efficient infrastructure, services, communications and skilled labor forces.
In conclusion, urban economics is the economic study of urban areas. It uses the economic tools
to analyses urban issues such as city growth, housing, land, employment, transportation, health,
education, crime, urban environment, local government finance, and social issues. This report
illustrates the importance of the economic roles of cities. They can achieve the economies of
scale,agglomeration and urbanization. Cities are the driving forces of national economic
development. Cities generate positive externalities of agglomeration, scale, diversity and
specialization. Cities have demonstrated productivity, efficiency and the multitude of
development opportunities and advantages.
1. Takahiro Miyoshi, MA (Econ) (1997). Successes and Failures associated with the
Growth Pole Strategies. University of Manchester
2. Lasuen, J.R, 1971, Multi regional economic development an open-system approach.
3. Allen, K and Hermansen, T (1971), UNRISD, Growth Poles and Growth Centres in
Regional Policies and Planning, Geneva.
4. Republic of Kenya (1970), Kenya National Development Plan 1970-1974, Government
5. Republic of Kenya (1974), Kenya National Development Plan 1974-1978, Government
6. United Nations Centre for Human Settlement, year..Regional Development Planning
and Management of Urbanisation.
7. Boudeville, J (1966), Problems of Regional Economic Planning, Edinburgh U. P
8. Website: http://www.freshplaza.com