Africa: Albert Mumma on “The role of local residents and (house owner) associations in co-management of urban common pool resources.”

Prof. Albert Mumma is the head and founder of Prof. Albert Mumma & Company Advocates. He holds a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, a Master of Laws (LL.M.) from Yale University, and a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) from the University of Nairobi. He currently holds the rank of Senior Counsel in Kenya. Prof. Mumma has also held various appointments including Professor and Associate Dean at the Faculty of Law, University of Nairobi, Chairperson of the Water Services Regulatory Board as well as member of the National Environment Tribunal and is an active member of the boards of community- based organizations and charities in Kenya.

The African Union’s Agenda 2063 is Africa’s blue print and master plan for transforming Africa and delivering on its sustainable development goals. It envisages a 50 year long term trajectory.

Over the 50 year plan period Africa’s urban population is projected to grow exponentially. Already over 40% of Africa’s population live in urban areas. In the coming years, urbanisation will be one of the most profound transformations that the African continent will undergo: the number of cities is expected to double and, by 2050, Africa’s cities will be home to an additional 950 million people, over half of its total population.

The impact of such rapid urbanisation on Africa’s economic, social and, above all, environmental, landscape is likely to be profound. It entails serious challenges in planning, managing and financing urban growth to limit negative externalities, with potential devastating adverse consequences on urban common pool (natural) resources.

Intense and rapid urban population growth in the context of weak and under-resourced state centric governance systems that is characteristic of Africa’s land use planning and regulatory frameworks will – almost inevitably – precipitate the onset of the “tragedy of the commons” as well positioned urban residents jostle to appropriate what they can for themselves at the expense of sustainable management of common pool resources.

Drawing on the author’s experience, this paper explores the role that local residents (and other house owner) associations can play in co-management of urban common pool resources. Local residents associations have cropped up in many African cities, primarily as a coping mechanism in the face of an alarming shortage of, or deterioration in, municipal services coupled with weak common pool (natural) resources management and regulatory systems.

The paper endeavours to apply Ostrom’s design principles for the management of common pool resources to the co-management of urban common pool resources in the context of an African urban setting. The paper argues that polycentric governance systems, in which local residents (and other house owner) associations play an active co-management role alongside municipal and national government actors presents a practical and cost effective mechanism for managing urban common pool resources in the face of rapid and – often uncontrolled – urban growth.