Kenya must also learn from its failure in land banking, which has made implementation of designed plans expensive, with enormous public funds use to buy land.
However, putting up realisable plans can help recoup the investments as reliable services and infrastructure will make urban areas to function optimally.
Planning is a data-intensive process and Kenya should invest in reliable data collection, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.
Anami Daudi, 21, lives in the impoverished Mukuru kwa Njenga neighbourhood, where he was born. He is the chairman of Amusha Mukuru Youth Group (wake up Mukuru), an organisation founded by locals in 2005 to voice their problems.
The area’s challenges include lack of a clean living environment, clean water, sanitation, good roads, healthcare, schools and economic opportunities.
The settlement, located to the east of Nairobi and marooned within the expansive Industrial Area, is home to an estimated 301,000 people.
Mr Anami says he joined the group because he felt the urge to press for change in his life and that of fellow residents.
“We take part in community development projects and civic and political education for possible solutions. When I marry, I would like to live in a clean and safe environment with access to basic needs” he remarks.
Mr Anami says the only significant public school in the area, Kwa Njenga Primary School, cannot accommodate all pupils.
“Parents have to seek admission in private schools. Fees in those schools are out of reach of most parents hence the number of school drop-outs is high”.
Prof Isaac Karanja Mwangi, head of the Urban and Regional Planning Department at the University of Nairobi, warns that Kenya is in a crisis due to lack of modern planning laws and policies.
The battle of prioritising planning was lost during the Constitution-making process, the don says.
“The Bomas delegates concentrated more on political and institutional reforms, failing to incorporate planning, which is an integral part of policy and institutional reforms and a key factor in realising social justice and equity,” he says.
While the Constitution created the National Land Commission to deal with land registration, administration and conveyance, the Bomas team failed to consider land in the greater context of progressive planning.
On the other hand, political patronage has continued to inhibit planned development.
“This neglect of planning presents current and future generations with the daunting challenge of balancing socio-economic welfare with mushrooming environmental concerns, especially in the face of global warming, food security and good standard human settlement.
“In countries that have realised rapid growth for their people, land and planning are taken as complementary concerns,” Prof Mwangi notes.
He warns that lack of a clearly defined role of planning in the Constitution has left county leadership vulnerable to haphazard planning.
“Even if citizens are empowered by the Constitution to have their say, it matters very little if county executives don’t engage planners during strategic development mapping,” he says.
Wafula Nabutola, an associate professor at the Kenya School of Government, calls for coordinated planning from the grassroots to the national level.
“Planning creates economic opportunities. From the city fathers to village elders, all must learn from failed planning in the past,” he states.
Prof Nabutola served as chairman of the Nairobi Central Business District Association between 2005 and 2008.
The business community lobby pressured the defunct Nairobi City Council to solve the mess created by a largely unplanned city.