By Simon J. Mone
Informal settlements widely known as slums in the outskirts of urban centres are usually characterised by inadequate housing facilities and squalid living conditions.
Basic services such as clean water, good hygiene and sanitation and proper drainage are at all times wanting. Low income earners can only afford to pay for housing facilities in these slums areas. Slums are growing because the population is increasing and, therefore, a high rate of urbanisation.
The increase in slum population is also because many governments lack funds to cope with the high rate of urbanisation. Uganda whose population growth rate is about 3.2% per year has an estimated rate of urban growth of 5.1% every year, with most people moving to Kampala. Many people shift to the urban centres with the hope of getting employment.
In the countryside, other towns and municipalities are also growing. They are motivated by government’s continued intervention in developing infrastructure like roads, markets and hospitals. Many more people are attracted to seize opportunities created. They travel to the urban towns to sell produce and other commodities.
Others move to search for employment. Inevitably, this leads to growth of population in the informal settlements hence the continuously expanding size of slums. It is why 60% Uganda’s urban population leave in slums.
In order to improve living conditions of slum population in Uganda, consistent with MDG goal 7, target D, government’s approach of working with donors, civil society, the private sector and various stakeholders is the way to go. Through Public Private Partnerships, the Government has achieved quite a bit in upgrading slums in Kampala, Jinja, Mbale and Arua.
About 2,000 households have had their housing needs significantly improved. However, this type of arrangement can be improved to hasten the slum upgrade process. One group of the private sector that the Government should work with are the real estate developers. The advantage of working together with real estate developers is that the Government is sure that after signing them up, real estate developers can utilise their own finance.
All that the Government needs to do is prepare terms of reference and oversee the contractual performance.
The real estate developers will finance, build, manage or maintain such projects. They have the capacity to provide quality service to government owing to their empowerment with the equipment, skills and labour. Real estate developers also have good professional and working understanding with financial institutions from where they can borrow money should the need arise.
This would mean the government will be responsible for setting service and performance standards. Government would also have to develop a formular of identifying the category of beneficiaries, type of service to be provided to each category, and also carrying out the monitoring and evaluation of the set performance standards. The real estate developer is also able to assist government by continuously seeking new and better ways of providing services.
This method of PPP arrangement is very much able to satisfy the exact needs of beneficiary communities who being stakeholders have a role in accepting and owning completed projects. They have got to consent that implemented projects meet their needs.
This partnership with government encourages competition among the various private sector actors and in so doing will bring out the value for money that everybody craves for. It will also ensure that the public is protected from exploitation.
The writer is a civil engineer