Using geographic information system to analyse the divergence of urban development from spatial plans in Harare, Zimbabwe

Danai Machakaire, Nigel Tapela, Masilonyane Mokhele


Africa is experiencing rapid urbanisation, which calls for well-considered urban and regional planning efforts to cater for the current and future populations. However, as it is typically the case in the global South, African countries are characterised by a lack of quality spatial economic data required for planning and evaluation processes. Using the study area of Harare, Zimbabwe, the paper demonstrates ways that, amidst the paucity of data, geographic information system can be used to measure urban development’s congruence with spatial plans. To prepare for the analysis, the base map preparation process entailed a laborious digitisation of hardcopy material obtained from the authorities. This was followed by land-use surveys and land-use change investigations whose data were analysed in ESRI’s ArcGIS 9.3. The analysis compared urban development patterns in 2014 with the proposals of two applicable spatial plans, which were approved in 1990 and 2000 respectively. The investigations uncovered that urban development patterns and trends did not correspond with the aspirations of the plans. The paper proposes that follow-up research be conducted on factors that influence the misalignment between plans and development, particularly in African countries that are characterised by rapid urbanisation.

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