An Urban Poverty Reduction Process. Anglophone Africa Regional Analysis


Based on the objectives can be drawn from the Anglophone Africa CONGO project case studies.

Expansion of people’s potential and capacities

A people centred approach is best in which the people living in an area are involved in every stage of the settlement process from planning and design to actual building of the houses. The Mozambican and South African cases demonstrate the beneficial effects of such an approach. The same can be said if the culture and tradition of the communities is also respected.

People’s potential capacities can be realized through mobilization and making of the communities aware of their capabilities. With a little boost by the NGOs, this is possible as is the case with Ethiopia, Mozambique and South Africa. However, where too many partners are involved and where they arc not working at the same wavelengths, the capacities of the people can be undermined as in the Zambian case where the programme ‘Food for Work’ did not lead to self-reliance and sustainability in meeting the basic needs.

Efforts of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community based organizations (CBOs)

One approach by CBOs and NGOs towards combating urban poverty is to combine CBOs together into an umbrella organization. Such an organization has more power in terms of relationships with the government and also has more say and its voice is heard by the government. This means that if the CBOs are unified in their demands instead of each CBO trying to get the attention of the government, there can be quantitative and qualitative progress. A clear example is the case of South Africa and to a lesser extent, Namibia.

The probability of success is greater if the central government is involved in the project since the impact is nation-wide if the project is successful. In all cases, the effectiveness of the local government is enhanced if the central government gets involved. To get the local government involved is a strenuous exercise as was observed in the cases of Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Ethiopia.

An urban poverty reduction process not only involves provision of funds per se for building but also ensures sustainability of the projects in the long run. This can be achieved through training for purposes of employment creation as in Kenya and Mozambique and also in the use of low cost technology, mobilization of the communities in voluntary work as in Ethiopia and savings schemes, which are for purposes of building of houses and for income generation as in South Africa and Namibia.

Actors, Roles, Interactions and Relationships

Interactions between the government and non-governmental organizations have had positive results in all the case studies although the level of success in all of them is not thee same. But it is apparent that working hand in hand with the government builds up effective and equitable relationships.

Partnerships between the local NGOs and the government become sustainable if consistency is maintained in terms of relationships with the same officers from the government. The chances of success are far better than when different people are contacted.

Partnerships between the local NGOs and foreign NGOs do work in some cases and not in others. In the case of Mozambique, the foreign NGO imposed ideas on the community, which were not in the cultural context of the areas. In the case of Zambia, the concept of self-reliance, which the NGO (HUZA) was trying to instill in the community, was thwarted by the WFFs PUSH programme.

Links with the private sector also help in increasing the standard of living of the communities concerned. This was the case in Tanzania where the NGO convinced the private sector of the
profitability of providing transport to the squatter settlement in Dodoma.

Participatory Development Respecting Human Rights

If the rights of the communities are given the due consideration they deserve (as in the cases of South Africa, Mozambique and Ethiopia), then substantial progress can be achieved not only in quantitative terms, but also in terms of self-respect

The participation of women in the construction of settlements is vital since majority of the households in the informal sector are female-headed. The proportion of single parents (mostly women) is also high in these settlements for instance, in Namibia 97% of the households comprise single parents most of whom are women.

Orientation of Policies and Strategies Through Lessons Learnt

The government/ non-government partnerships resulted in a number of important lessons being learnt which could be applied to future NGO activities.

  • Simultaneous activities housing programmes and empowerment of the communities through income generating activities, makes a project more successful than if the settlement question is tackled in isolation. The Ethiopian case study, with its holistic approach, has managed to have the project going for some time. In the Kenyan case, tailoring and automobile courses were part of the income generating activities.
  • Training programmes for the communities should be more or less mandatory in all programmes since in all the case studies the benefits of the training programmes are very clear- the training dealing with either one or more of the following: physical upgrading projects, savings schemes, income generating activities, relating with different actors, etc In Zambia and Mozambique, training the community members in construction has created employment for these members while the training given to government officials regarding the problems besetting poor communities makes them more aware of what is involved in the project.
  • Exchange programmes within and amongst countries to find out how similar problems can be resolved using different strategies is very important for policy purposes. South Africa has shown how this can benefit all parties concerned.
  • Costs can be reduced drastically if local technology is applied wherever possible and negotiation rather than confrontation with the government takes place (Namibia and Tanzania). This is apparent in all the case studies where the standards are high; informal settlements cannot be upgraded since the required resources are not sufficient. The case of Zambia is typical where the drop-out rate of the participants was dose to 100% owing to the high building standards set by the government.
  • Dialogue and forums on a continuous basis between the different actors leads to successful partnerships as seen in South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique.


Each case study has recommendations. A summary of these recommendations is given in the annex of this report. These recommendations are compiled from the case studies and integrated into a common heading wherever appropriate.

Central and local government Involvement

All projects in (lie field of human settlements should involve the government, both central and local, since the case studies show that such partnerships have had very positive results. This recommendation is generally valid since formal approval from the government is always required for any legalization of a settlement. This could be applicable to NGOs/CBOs working in any area. Another factor is that, for government to provide services to a settlement, a formal settlement status is mandatory.

Bottom-up approach

A bottom-up approach should be used wherever possible. The communities concerned should be motivated and mobilized in all aspects of the project. If the people themselves are directly involved in the project (as in South Africa and Mozambique), then any conflicts arising can be solved by the people themselves. The approach should be applied by NGOs, the government and even the private sector wherever possible.

However, mobilization of (lie communities into voluntary work is not feasible in all cases since it is dependent on: the composition of the communities (e.g. Mozambique – where one area was settled by civil servants and businessmen who did not have time to get personally involved); level of education (e.g. Tanzania – which needed a push by the NGO); desire to get involved (e.g. Zambia – where the community expected money to be given out instead of working on a voluntary basis); and whether the community is interested in owning or renting land (e.g. Kenya – where the N.C.C.K. area has tenants and owner occupiers and therefore mobilization of (lie community is difficult).

Women’s involvement

Involvement of women in all the projects (since they are in reality the heads of households), is imperative it any project is to flourish as in Namibia and South Africa. This is a very important fact for governments, NCOs and the private sector including religious institutions. It has been found that it is mostly women who are the bread earners in such informal settlements. This is the situation not only in Africa, but also all over the world. For implementation of any project to be successful, both men and women should be involved especially in decision-making.

Gender sensitivity

Creating gender awareness for both men and women is important. This task should be undertaken by NGOs for government officials, CBOs, the public sector and the public at large. This is crucial given the fact that conservative ideas prevail in most countries with regard to the role of women and their capabilities in decision-making and implementation of projects.

Equal partners

All partners in the project should be considered as ‘equal’. Some partners, especially local NGOs, should not be made to feel that they are ‘junior’ partners. The Zambian case study was emphatic on this recommendation as it was fell that international NGOs did not give the local NGOs the credit they deserve and acknowledge their expertise. In genera l, this recommendation does not apply to all cases, but the foreign partners who come into a project should take into account this (act in order to have a smooth working relationship.

Scrutinizing agreements

NGOs should scrutinize proposals for partnerships carefully before getting involved. This point was noted by Zambia and could be applied in all cases as a local NCO may get into a partnership without really knowing what is involved and may end up getting burnt in the process.

Assessment of projects

Assessment and monitoring of the partnership is vital for a project to thrive. An internal and external evaluation undertaken regularly is the only way of handing out where the project has readied and what should be done next. Monitoring by an external agent would also ensure that the project is being implemented in the best way possible.


Self-evaluation must be carried out by the NGOs. Self-evaluation by all the partners concerned can lead to better relationships and necessary adjustments to the project. This is a very important recommendation for all partnerships. The Ethiopian project did such an evaluation and are continuous assessments on a quarterly basis. It has evidently been successful in resolving problems and coming out stronger than before.

Partners’ forums

Forums involving all the partners are essential for a smooth working relationship and a successful partnership. Government involvement is also essential. This would also be a way of resolving conflicts amongst the various actors. South Africa successfully managed to get hold of all the partners in forums, which enhanced the partnership of the communities, the NGOs with the government. This can be a conventional assertion.

From practice to policy

The NGOs should not wait for policy to be made and implemented before attempting to influence it. It is better for NGOs to help CBOs show what they can achieve in practice and then promote these achievements to influence governments, rather than waiting for a model to be developed or imposed upon by the government or foreign NGOs. The local NGO should come up with viable propositions, which have proved to be attainable. South Africa has come up with various options of model houses, which can be built at a low cost and are functional.

Legal recognition Informal settlements

Legal recognition by the government of ‘informal settlements’ which have existed for over ten years would reduce the work of the NGOs considerably, especially in the provision of infrastructure and services to the communities concerned. The NGOs and other actors should aggressively take this stand vis-a-vis the government, both at the local level and at the national level. This action is universally required.

More autonomy to local authorities

More autonomy should be given to local authorities by the central government for any projects under their jurisdiction. It has been found in almost all the case studies that the local authority does not have unrestricted power in their areas of control. The central government should give specific powers to the local government if the issue of informal settlements is to be settled. Bureaucracy in formal agreements should also be reduced by the central government lo ensure that take off of the project is fast and does not lose momentum. This situation is prevalent in all countries.

Enabling building standards

Stringent laws regarding building standards should be reviewed by the government in the light of a people centered approach. Most developing countries still follow old standards laid down before independence, which are not compatible with recent trends, as in Tanzania and Zambia, where affordability is more important than living in a house of a certain standard. The situation should be rectified as soon as possible if more people are to be housed in reasonably decent houses.

Accepting low cost building materials

The same applies to giving approval by the government of the projects, which use low cost materials. Although the materials used may not be sustainable in the very long run, for the long run the local materials are adequate. The NGOs and the communities concerned should lobby the government for approval and if possible make it a policy issue.

Lobby governments to allocate land

The NGOs and CBOs should actively lobby the government in the allocation of land for the urban poor. Upgrading of settlements should also be an issue taken up by the NGOs and the communities. It usually happens that the government is very quick in taking action when it comes to evictions but is very slow when it comes to finding alternative solutions. The NGOs should try to find other options and also lobby tile government to look into the available choices first before it takes any drastic action. When it comes to allocating land, it should allocate land, which is conveniently located. Squatters arc usually given land, which is far from the central business district (CBD) which does not solve the original problem.

Exchange visits by NGOs, communities and government officials

Exchange visits to settlements of the urban poor by communities, NGOs and government officials, especially outside the country, are an eye opener for all concerned and must be encouraged. This was the case in South Africa where a visit to India showed how the urban poor in India make do with the resources at hand. I however, this recommendation may not be possible in all cases since the organization and funds required are considerably prohibitive.

Enabling settlement policies

The governments need to have enabling strategies and a favorable climate in place, which would lead to a harmonious relationship and speed up resolution in the problem of inform al settlements. It is the NGOs and the community who should highlight the problem whenever and wherever possible in all countries. South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia have succeeded somewhat in persuading their respective governments towards adopting their viewpoints. This would be a good precedent for other countries.

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