By the middle of this century all regions of the world will be predominantly urban. East Africa though presently among the least urbanized (24%) is experiencing very rapid rate of urbanization (around 4.0% per annum). Studies have shown that urbanization has many advantages to a developing country. However, the urban expansion experienced in East Africa is to large extent characterized by the growth of unplanned settlements accompanied by high levels of poverty and unemployment. The urban population in East Africa is highly varied. It varies from a low of less than 10% in Rwanda to 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 UN-HABITAT estimates that a total of 227 million people had moved from slum conditions between the years 2000-2010. Within the same period, the proportion of the urban population living in slums in the developing world declined from 39 per cent (2000) to an estimated 32 per cent (2010). Eastern Africa is among the regions lagging behind in curbing the growth of slums and improving the living conditions of slum dwellers while Asia leads the pack in best practice.
In recent years, Governments in East Africa together with development partners have adopted policies and initiated several programs to counter the expansion of existing slums, prevent growth of new ones as well as improve the lives of those living in informal settlements. However, despite the many initiatives little progress seems to have been made leaving the question
“Where are we going wrong or what are we not doing”? A closer look at the successful countries shows that their Governments and Municipalities have taken responsibility for slum reduction squarely on their shoulders, backing international commitments with bold policy reforms, and thwarting future slum growth with inclusive planning and economic strategies. Effective slum
upgrading also require institutional capacity building, monitoring and scaling up of successful local projects. A number of progressive policies are emerging in the region. For example, Kenya has a new constitution, a new land policy and is in the process of revising the housing policy. However, the general lack of political commitment and lack of coordination of slum upgrading projects have stood as some of the major impediments to slum upgrading in the region. It’s against this background that the University of Nairobi in collaboration with partners within Kenya (Muungano Support Trust (MuST), Akiba Mashinani Trust (AMT) and the Muungano wa Wanavijiji) and outside (UC Berkeley, SDI, and sister Universities in the East Africa region) sought to convene a regional conference to explore approaches and share lessons on sustainable up scaling of informal settlements upgrading in East Africa. The conference drew participants from Universities, Government and Municipal institutions, Civil Society and Local Communities (Muungano wa Wanavijiji).
This publication presents proceeding of the conference. Rather than present well-structured papers the proceedings reflect deliberations as it took place on the floor. It presents brief presentations from key speakers, representing respective countries and conference themes followed by question and answer. We hope the exchange and lessons shared here will be of
relevance to both researchers, policy makers and practitioners in the sector.