On 11th July 2012, the University of Nairobi, School of the Built Environment, in collaboration with partners organized a regional Conference to explore approaches and share lessons on sustainable up-scaling of informal settlements upgrading in East Africa. With only an estimated 23.5 per cent of the population living in urban areas, East Africa remains the least urbanized sub-region in Africa. The urban population in East Africa is highly varied but overall experiencing one of the highest growth rates in the world. It varies from a low of less than 10% in Rwanda to about 40 % in Kenya. What is notable is the generally high percent of the urban population living in informal settlements, around 65 per cent. Furthermore the rate of growth of urban slums in the region is among the highest in the world at around 5 percent.
The following are the key resolutions emanating from the conference:
- Acknowledging that East Africa’s future is unquestionably urban there is urgent need for Governments, Municipalities and stakeholders to urgently reverse the negative phenomenon and inhuman conditions presented by informal settlements in the region’s rapidly growing urban areas.
- To counter the expansion of existing slums, prevent growth of new ones as well as improve the lives of those living in informal settlements requires adoption of innovative approaches in tackling the dynamic issues within the region’s emerging urban areas and concerted implementation of progressive policies for informal settlement upgrading.
- -Sustainable informal settlement upgrading requires visionary leadership and goodgovernance in the management of emerging urban areas, building synergy in partnership for informal settlement upgrading and broad collaboration of all urban actors and needfor multi–disciplinary teams
- Community led planning and development to address basic needs for infrastructure, housing, and livelihoods is critical in order to avoid hijacking of programs meant for the urban poor
The conference was without doubt a successful event, being the first of its kind in East Africa. The general feeling as the conference came to an end was that the East African region which has the highest proportion of people living informal settlements with the worst living conditions urgently need remedy of this dubious identity. It was further noted that countries in East Africa though they have popular visions for national development have extreme inequalities which make those visions unsustainable. A close look at successful countries shows their Governments and Municipalities have taken responsibility for slum reduction squarely on their shoulders and sustainable development must be people centred.