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The growth centre strategy in the context of a planning process framework for Africa : the Zambian case Paulson, Phillip Martin

Abstract

The development of African societies will be influenced by the application of national development plans. Most African governments have fully adopted the concept of central planning as a means of guiding the improvement of their societies. However, many of these national plans have proved unsuccessful. This study is an attempt to examine the problems and issue's associated with national planning in Africa and to indicate some of the considerations involved in African development. The principal theme centres on the means whereby national planning and development in Africa might be improved. The methodology employed in this study is based primarily upon a literature review technique. The main emphasis is on theoretical and descriptive material analysis; data limitations also reinforce the qualitative approach applied to this subject. Much of the information is aggregated to provide generalizations about African countries, with the example of Zambia employed to present a more specific study of the general issues. Several hypotheses are tested in order to provide a systematic evaluation of some key issues involved in this study. The complex issues of the study are organized to concentrate on the African planning process, and the growth centre developmental strategy. Based on the general description of the developmental environment in Africa, the key aspects which affect national planning appear to be: the predominantly rural nature of African societies; the high rates of urbanization and their related problems; and the predominance of interregional imbalances within each African country. Another factor which emerges is the amount of diversity between countries as well as within each country. From a review and analysis of African national planning, many problems and constraints to effective planning are evident. National plans are influenced by economic, social and political factors indigenous to each country, but they are also affected by international groups and forces over which African countries have no control. In order to accommodate these forces, a standardized planning process framework is suggested which might lead to more realistic, practical and implementable plans. The growth centre theory is analyzed to test both the applicability of this framework and the viability of this developmental strategy in the context of this process model. This strategy is examined from the theoretical point of view as well as from its application by several African countries. Zambia is used as a case study to analyze the effectiveness of a specific national plan and planning process; it is also used to describe the potential utilization of the growth centre strategy. From this example, it appears that the proposed process framework could have solved some of the problems associated with Zambian planning, and that the growth centre strategy could be an effective means of achieving the developmental goals that were stated by the Zambian Government. The main conclusion which may be drawn is that planning is a necessary, but often insufficient antecedent for development in Africa. Development is a long-term process which should aim at the improvement of society and the movement towards a desired state of being. Planning must be comprehensive in its analysis and application of all factors which affect development in Africa, and this seemingly requires an ordered, evolving planning process. Additionally, because African countries are still subject to exploitation, both by external forces and from within, i. e. the domination of rural areas by the urban centres, there is increasing concern with the spatial and functional ordering of national landscapes. The growth centre strategy, based upon central place concepts, appears to be compatible both with the type of planning and the developmental goals necessary to promote African development. Although there are no guaranteed methods of achieving desirable development, an improved planning methodology and a concrete strategy may improve the opportunity for successful development in Africa.

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