Envision Africa without Slums: How Slum Upgrade Can be achieved
Some African governments have tried to get rid of slums in vain. What they don’t realize is that slums are an end product of majorly their own making. They try to force-gentrify estates in the name of slum upgrading, only to increase other social ills like crime which in turn hurt their overall goal.
There are factors that influence the development of slums, and to do away with such settlements, these factors need to be addressed.
When the government plans for urban development, the slum dwellers are often left out. And if they are considered, they are never involved. More and more slums develop but the provision of social amenities seems to be focused on other areas of the urban settlement.
Population increase among the low-income earners contributes largely to the growth of slums. Most of the slum residents have large families, and some of them are headed by single mothers. This population is ever-growing hence the demand for more housing in the slums.
People live in slums because they cannot afford better housing. Most slum dwellers are house helps, cleaners, hawkers, motorcycle riders and such. And in a bid to save whatever little they get, they came up with their own housing structures near the leafy suburbs or near the cities, where they mostly find their clients.
With the promise of a better and a more promising future, rural settlers migrate to urban areas in search of greener pastures. Some are in search of better jobs, while others come for better health services. With no one else to depend on, they find themselves starting over their lives in slums.
How Slum Upgrading can be achieved
Affordable housing is one of the big four agenda in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government. The Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, Urban Development and Public Works need to consider slum residents in the housing plan too. A budget needs to be set aside specifically for the upgrade and not just the gentrification of estates. Some of the things that can be done to achieve slum upgrading include:
Slum-dwellers should be involved in the slum upgrading
For slum upgrade to be a success, the government and the community members must be on the same page. The members need to understand the importance of slum upgrading, and they also need to be allowed to participate in the upgrade process. They must be involved in the planning and execution phases. The government can offer some of them free training on construction and have them supervised by professionals.
They should also be given tenders to supply the materials and services needed, and if they don’t have the finances to come up with the materials, the government can lend them low-interest loans. This will also make the houses more affordable since the dwellers themselves will provide the manpower as they earn and own homes.
Making the dwellers involved will make them be on the lookout and see to it that no money goes to waste, no substandard materials are used and no one loots the cash meant for the upgrading.
It will be hard for slum residents to invest their time, resources and efforts in building something that they cannot and do not own. They need to be assured that they own the land and that their houses will not be destroyed for any reason. There has to be some form of tenure security that will protect them from land grabbers and other fraudsters.
Prioritize the Important Aspects First
Infrastructure and water provision should be the first to be considered. Residents don’t have to walk long distances to buy water. Schools and hospitals should accommodate the increasing populace. The upgrade is a process and beginning with the important and most basic needs will help develop other aspects like better houses.
Have Proactive Strategies to Discourage Further Development of Slums
Even when the slum upgrade is in place, the ministry needs to come up with proactive strategies to curb the development of new slum settlements. For example, those who cannot afford to buy should be given a choice to rent houses that suit their financial muscle. Even though some houses will be small, they should be decent and livable.
Slum upgrade does not only benefit the slum dwellers alone, but also the whole urban setup. It should not be done so as to attract investors only, but to improve the livelihoods of citizens. This way, everyone stands to benefit.