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Rapid urban growth and an increasing number of climate change related disasters, such as the recent floods  in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, have put the importance of sound urban planning in Africa in the spotlight.

Urban plans are seen as the key to achieving inclusive, safe and sustainable cities. But urban scholars have argued for decades that for plans to be effective we need to move away from the traditional way of doing things. This requires dropping a top down approach – master planning – and opting instead for strategic forms of planning that are targeted, flexible and participatory.

There are good reasons for arguing for this shift. Master plans are often viewed as colonial legacies, modelled on modernist visions of utopian urban futures. Strategic planning on the other hand responds more directly to local needs and realities, especially in the context of cities in the global South.

This article is republished from The Conversation Africa under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.