Working around the world: Somalia

Published: 31 Aug 2017

Ishaku Maitumbi square [square]Ishaku Maitumbi MRTPI, is a spatial planner and programme manager for the United Nations Human Settlements Programme based in Nairobi, Kenya. Here he talks about his work and the issues facing Somalia, where he works.

Working in post-conflict countries – such as Somalia, you get to contribute to what the system will look like in decades to come in a way that you cannot in the UK, where the system and governance are well established. 

This is very rewarding from a planning practitioner point of view. 

I manage two United Nations Habitat programmes in Somalia, one strengthening local government to improve service delivery and the second supporting local government to provide solutions for the reintegration of returning refugees and internally displaced persons with a focus on urban settings.    

As with most international organisations working in Somalia, I am based in Nairobi, Kenya, but I travel there frequently. 

This usually means getting up at 3am for a 6am flight, followed by a full day’s work, and returning a few days later. 

The working week in Somalia is Sunday to Thursday, so I often end up travelling and working at the weekends too.

Traffic, urban sprawl and limited public spaces are some of the challenging issues associated with Nairobi. 

Better public transport would help to ease the traffic and the rail line to link Nairobi with the coastal city of Mombasa is a significant step in the right direction.

There are three things related to planners’ training and practice that could be strengthened to improve the profession. 

First, equipping planners with substantive negotiation skills to better engage with developers in a constructive and meaningfully way. Second, better training in communication with politicians. 

Third, a better understanding of how public investments are financed.

The best thing about being an RTPI member is the global prestige: everywhere I go, being an RTPI chartered planner gives me professional recognition.

This article first appeared in the August 2017 issue of The Planner.

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