Seizing “that” Moment for African Cities



Arif Hasan, a renowned Pakistani Architect, Planner, Activist was on a visit to Nairobi, Kenya on the request of The Slum/Shack Dwellers International to join African cities affiliated to SDI to discuss ways of seizing opportunities by analyzing trends in Governance, economic and social systems to foster development projects in their respective cities, to start with informal settlements.

Arif  Hasan(Left) compares notes with Rudith King(Left) of Ghana’s Kwame Nkuruhma University at the conference

The Urban poor, residing in cities in Africa face major challenge in accessing water, toilets, electricity, and security of tenure has remained a pipe dream to millions of people living in informal settlements across cities. In most cities the development of urban policies has been left to politicians to define cutting of the poor from the equation.

The Need for Change

Delegates attending the Conference from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana and South Africa

The conference brought together government officials from different African countries, utility companies, slum dwellers federations from Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania and Ghana. The deliberation at the meeting was to empower the African urban poor to seize the moment and take up their space of bringing about change and install a new governing order. According to Benson Osumba, Chairperson Muungano wa Wanavijiji, termed the conference as,” a forum meant to identify emerging trends in urban cities in Africa, by bringing about policy formulation that caters for the urban poor.”

Partnership Formation and Collaborations

It is indeed beyond human notion that for a success shift to occur , team play is essential to the realization of the objectives set. This was demonstrated by the working relationship between Muungano wa Wanavijiji and the Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company. Abdillahi Chebii, a federation member from Kisumu, Kenya, amused the delegates, at one instance; the Community dug trenches for laying of water pipes without the approval from KIWASCO, so as to speed up the process.

The community and the utility company then agreed on a model known as the Delegated Management Model (DMM). Milly Otom, an official from the Kisumu based utility company explains, this as “a bulk infrastructure where by the company supplies water to community through master operators who then delegate the water service to the communities through individual/communal connections.

Then the roles of the master operators who are part of the community ensure payments of the water bills to the company are done promptly.”This type of a model has never stood the test of time in the history of the utility company. Muungao wa Wanavijiji is in the verge of replicating this model in other towns.

Interfacing and Strategy Formulation

Interactions between the urban poor, planners/professionals and the politicians/government officials are beginning to register success stories that materialized through negotiations. This is because stakeholders have chosen to go beyond set standards and regulations.

Ben Bradlow, a member of the SDI secretariat expresses that, “One strategy popular among SDI federations is the need to build relationships that break down walls in communities. One of the strategies is the community- led information collection, sometimes known as “enumeration.” In Stellenbosch, a small municipality in the outskirts of Capetown, South Africa, an informal community called Lanrug is home to approximately 1, 800 households. After residents conducted their own enumeration, both the municipality and the community found space to engage whereas the previously the relationship had been full of protest, unmet expectations and little change on the ground.”

Left:A water Project between Nairobi Water Companyand the Mathare, Kosovo Community

A times achieving this kind of change, which is often small at first, means creating “a spirit of trust among all actors in this drama,” Hasan argues.” Trust will lead to better laws, less laws and less bureaucracy.”

Communities and professionals should therefore gear towards acting in new ways and letting be the relationships of exclusion and conflicts and characterize urbanization of poverty in our cities. Tools for community organization such as daily savings and enumeration, are working perfectly for Muungano wa Wanavijiji.

At the closure of the conference, Arif Hasan proposed a set of ethics that are useful for all actors regardless of their status;

  • Development should cater for the needs of the majority population, which is usually low and lower-middle income.
  • Planning should respect and promote the tangible and intangible heritage of the communities that live in urban settlements.
  • Planning should respect the ecology of the region in which the city is located.
  • Land use should be determined on the basis of social and environmental considerations and not on the basis of land value alone.
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