Participatory Workshops as a Tool for Building Inclusivity in New Towns in Africa
Keywords:African cities, inclusive urbanization, New Towns, participatory workshops, stakeholder participation
Africa is currently the fastest-urbanizing continent in the world. As part of this rapid growth, New Towns are increasingly employed by private developers as a means of providing well-serviced urban environments to middle- and upper-income groups. These comprehensively-planned New Towns are often seen in contrast to the perceived ‘chaos’ and ‘congestion’ of large African cities. As a result, two urban forms, the highly controlled New Towns and the unregulated settlements at their edges, engage in complex social and economic exchanges, but remain spatially segregated and socially exclusive. Current research points to the need for an alternative approach to top-down New Town planning in Africa.
Participatory workshops are one alternative that can offer planners access to local knowledge that is otherwise difficult to access. This paper explores the potential of short-term reflective, design, and serious gaming workshops by reflecting on the experiences of the authors in four recent workshops. The paper evaluates the effectiveness of these workshops as useful tools to increase inclusivity in African New Towns by bringing together stakeholders with competing agendas and supporting open discussion, negotiation, and informed decision-making. The paper concludes that participation from stakeholder groups that would normally be marginalized from the planning process (such as current residents, temporary users, and residents of adjacent unregulated communities), can offer new insights to planning bodies and inform more inclusive New Towns across the continent.