Odendaal, Nancy. (2012) ‘Reality check: Planning education in the African urban century,’ in Special Ed. urban Planning in Africa, Cities 29(3). 174–182.



Planning in Sub-Saharan Africa owes much to the colonial legacies that inform the shape and composition of African urban spaces and places. This applies to legislation, institutional systems and planning education. In 2008, the Association of African Planning Schools AAPSs embarked on a 3-year initiative on the revitalisation of planning education in Africa, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. The aim of the project was to propose ways through which the training of urban planners can be more responsive to the special circumstances of African urbanisation. This paper reflects on this initiative.

An initial outline is presented on the main challenges facing planners in urban Africa and is positioned within debates regarding the role of planning and planners more generally. A special case is made for the importance of planning in addressing these issues. It does, however, require a departure from the traditional approaches to planners’ training. There are constraints to this. The circumstances that inform planning education in AAPS member schools and the challenges that underpin this endeavour are outlined, based upon information gathered on visits to, and input from member schools and associated publications on planning education in Africa. Findings inform a number of recommendations made on the shifts required if urban planning is to be relevant and effective in the face of current and future urbanisation challenges on the continent.