Policy led Synergy Amongst Slum Upgrading Actors will make or Break This Agenda

By Shadrack Mbaka

Kambi Moto Slum Upgrading Project demonstrated by Muungano wa Wanavijiji
Kambi Moto Slum Upgrading Project demonstrated by Muungano wa Wanavijiji

The Kenyan government through a change of mindset on how the slum upgrading agenda needs to be achieved through an all inclusive participatory process, the government is now more than ever committed to speedy implementation of slum upgrading initiatives to secure affordable shelter for the urban poor.

Kenya’s urban cities and towns are at the moment grappling with informal and unregulated people’s settlements due to rapid population growth occasioned by rural to urban migration. Kenya has accelerated the implementation of flagship slum improvement projects to improve livelihoods and contribute to social and economic development. Kenya is among African countries with the highest population living in slums.

Experts say towns and cities are growing today at unprecedented rates setting the social, political, cultural and environmental trends of the world, both good and bad. They say sustainable urbanization is one of the most pressing challenges facing the global community in the 21st century.

Government statistics indicate that currently more than 60 percent of the urban dwellers in the country live in slums which lack most of the social amenities and the government plan is to have the mushrooming of slums stopped by the year 2030.

Kenya’s government’s Commitment has so far been demonstrated through the implementation of the Kenya Slum Upgrading Project (KESUP) and the Kenya Informal Settlements Improvement Project. These projects intend to address housing, infrastructure and cross- cutting health and environmental issues to improve livelihoods. However, this will not be utterly achieved if there is no synergy synchronization between slum upgrading stakeholders, Civil Society, governments and the communities who are a target of these mega slum upgrading projects.

The slum upgrading and modernization of cities is often a process split into two. On the one hand, the institutional principles set by national and local policy makers, and on the other side, the poor settlements in cities who have difficulty fitting into the formal principles. The inclusion and non-marginalization of the urban poor are esstential to the modernization of cities.

The completion of slum upgrading projects will not set a good precedent in the provision of affordable housing for the poor. The Slum Dwellers International East African Hub predicts the East African region is about to experience slums expansion due to a rural urban influx. Commissioner, Urban Development from Uganda, Sam Mabala, notes that an average of 65 percent of urban population in the East African cities live in slums.

In a past forum hosted by University of Nairobi-"Eastern Africa is among regions lagging behind in curbing the growth of slums and improving the living conditions of slum dwellers while Asia leads the pack in best practices," said Mabala.

Uganda has experienced rapid urbanization and currently 19 percent of the countries' 33 million people are in cities. Mabala revealed that 60 percent of urban population in Uganda is living in deplorable conditions in shanties.

Public private partnerships (PPP) need to adequately promote access to affordable shelter for the poor. An effective slum upgrading process requires financing, institutional capacity building and scaling up of successful local project.

Kenya’s New Laws and County Governance Structure to Slum Upgrading.

The Kenya supreme Law, 2010 has set a new framework of governance that seeks to devolve power and development to the people of Kenya by establishing 47 counties which shall serve as the basis for national governance and planning.

47 Counties
47 Counties

Social and economic rights of all citizens of Kenya are guaranteed by this constitution document, which gears to better the quality of life. Precisely the right to accessible and adequate housing is explicitly guaranteed by the Constitution.  The Constitution also requires all levels of government to take policy and other measures to achieve the realization of the right to housing.

In a measure to institutionalize the new form of governments and fulfill the requirements of the constitution, various Acts have been put in to place. Of interest to slum upgrading is the Urban Areas and Cities Act, 2011; County Government Act, 2012; National Land Policy; and the Public Finance Management Act, 2012.

The Urban Areas and Cities Act, 2011

The Urban Areas and Cities Act, 2011 explicitly states that  every city and municipality  shall operate within the framework of integrated development planning which shall-contribute to the protection and promotion of the fundamental rights and freedoms contained in Chapter Four of the Constitution and the progressive realization of the socio-economic rights which include the right to housing; and be the basis for overall delivery of service including provision of water, electricity, health, telecommunications and solid waste management.

County Government Act, 2012

According to the County Government Act, each county shall prepare a county integrated plan which shall be the basis for all budgeting and spending of public funds. The acts clearly states that  “A county government shall plan for the county and no public funds shall be appropriated outside a planning framework developed by the county executive committee and approved by the county assembly”  The county integrated plan shall focus on economic, physical, social, environmental and spatial planning.

Public Finance Management Act, 2012

According to the Public Finance Management Act, 2012 the budget process for county governments in any financial year shall begin with an integrated development planning process which shall include both long term and medium term planning which will in turn inform the county budget estimates and establish financial and economic priorities for the county over the short, medium and long term.

National Land Policy

In dealing with informal settlements the National land Policy requires that the government: “take an inventory of genuine squatters and people who live in informal settlements; determine whether land occupied by squatters is suitable for human settlement; put in place appropriate mechanisms for the removal of squatters from unsuitable land and their resettlement; facilitate planning of land found to be suitable for human settlement; ensure that land subject to informal settlement is developed in an ordered and sustainable manner; facilitate negotiation between private owners and squatters in cases of squatter settlements found on private land; facilitate the registration of squatter settlements found on public and community land for purposes of upgrading or development; develop, in consultation with affected communities, a slum upgrading and resettlement programme under specified flexible tenure systems; and put in place an appropriate legal framework for eviction based on internationally acceptable guidelines”

So what are the implications of these policies?

Slum formation and growth in Kenya can be largely attributed to poverty and inadequate urban and regional planning. Complex land tenure systems and restrictive housing finance have also contributed to less investment in formal housing thus limiting the housing choices available for poor urban households.

a) Urban and Regional planning

According to the Urban Areas and Cities Act and County Government Act, service delivery and urban and regional Planning rests squarely on county governments. Requiring counties to develop integrated plans and setting up such plans as the basis for fund allocation and spending means that counties have no choice but to develop proper integrated plans. Such plans are likely to curb the development and growth of slums.

b) Land

Inefficient land management and transfer has been one of the main barriers to land security thus limiting private investment and development. According to the constitution, all developable public land shall be under the jurisdiction of county governments. Both public and private land management shall be under county governments. Devolving land management powers to the counties is likely to ensure efficiency in land management, promote land tenure security therefore fostering private development and investment especially in housing.

c) Finance

Financing for County Government will largely be from the National Government. The County Revenue allocation proposes allows that 35% of the national budget goes to county governments. National funds will be allocated to county governments based on: population, poverty index, land area among other issues. Big cities with large populations are home to the largest slums and are likely to rank high in terms of poverty levels meaning. They are thus likely to receive substantial funds enabling them to focus on slum upgrading.

Proposed County Revenue Allocation
Proposed County Revenue Allocation

The constitution and the Public Finance Management Act also give counties the mandate to borrow from other sources for the purpose of development. However, the national government has to approve and guarantee such loans. Past slum upgrading funds have chiefly been derived from multilateral organizations (World Bank and UN HABITAT) in form of loans and grants to national government.Over and over the years Slum Dwellers International and its global networks, especially the urban poor federations in more than 38 countries have been able to prove and demonstrate that indeed that through the formulation of progressive policies and legislation alongside communities, through a bottom up approach fostered by appropriate technologies are key to development of low cost shelter for the urban poor