Poverty, informality and Slums, finding the balance for urban development and Sustainability for cities in Global South

Poverty, informality and Slums, finding the balance for urban development and Sustainability for cities in Global South

What causes poverty? it’s low incomes. what causes low incomes? it is lack of appropriate skills and lack of education and unemployment. What causes these? It’s is poor planning poor strategy. by who? By those unemployed and partly government. Poverty can also be caused by misuse of resources by individuals. What is poverty anyway? Poverty is a condition where one is unable to afford the basics needs of life. Poverty is closely related to informality. It takes a lot of time and effort to organize a city. It’s worse when most people that live in such city are poor. Poor people tend to use poor methods including building. Poverty is also closely linked to poor infrastructure and general living conditions. Poverty strikes the mind and deprives the person of making better choices. Even where poor people may have some financial resources at their disposal, they tend to be limited in their outlook in as far as better choices are concerned. Poor people live in shanty places, they love putting up temporary structures all of which make their environment unpleasant. Poor people are very difficult to plan for, let alone engage in better futuristic urban plans. Poor people tend to have short term visions which are often individualistic and on small scale.

In Sub Saharan Africa, cities face the challenge of dealing with poverty and informality. Most poor people live informal lives. From the type of work they do, how they earn a living and their places of abode. Urban managers have to contend with the problem that they do not have to discriminate against poor people because they too, have rights to live in the city. If you are a city manager, you will have to make a compromise on ensuring that the city doesn’t deteriorate to such levels almost appearing poverty stricken while at the same time allowing for modernity and better infrastructure to thrive. It’s not easy to plan for slums and it’s even harder to plan for people who live there. The hard question to answer is how to plan for poor people in a modern town. Poor people are part of urban life. They too have a stake in the affairs of the city.

The first step is to recognize their existence. The second is to mobilize them into groups. The third is to organize meetings with the groups to introduce the plans and future strategies. The other is to recruit group leaders who will be influential and help in explaining the key messages to the rest of the members and convince them to adopt the intended practices. Working with informal and poor people in an urban area is very tedious. It calls for maximum patience and understanding. However with the right people and better means to share information, they will soon embrace the initiatives when they get to know that it works in their favour and not against them. Every city in the world has poor people as well as places that are considered as “poor neighbourhoods”. Urban managers do not necessarily have to use force to make these places better. All they need is to employ better tactics with long term plans and working with the occupants to ensure good cooperation which will ultimately lead to a win-win situation. Any urban leader would not want to create animosity with the poor people within a part of the city.

Whenever a group of people feel disenfranchised, they are likely to resort to unpalatable ways and means to ensure their voice is heard which disrupts the smooth operations of the city. Therefore, it’s in the best interest of the managers to ensure that people in the city, including those who may be regarded as the weakest stakeholders, are well listened to and brought on board in creating a strong consensus and harmony for the good of the entire city for both short and long term stability and tranquility. Cities are never built in a hurry! Cities that have been built hurriedly have had to incur greater costs of rectifying the mistakes they made and remedying the situations they overlooked and small common mistakes they forewent which made them take longer time than they would have actually done had they done the right thing in the first place. The best practice is that cities ought to get on the right footing. They have to know the right thing to do. After this, then they go ahead to do the right thing. When cities go ahead to implement policies and programs based on wrong assumptions, the result will be confusion and wrong results in the end. When Cities get it right from the beginning, it becomes easier to implement and such cities are built in a strong foundation because their systems are solid and dependable.

One should never tire of emphasizing the importance of building sustainable systems and structures of a city. A good city is as good as it’s systems. A good city is not built based on resources but rather on dependable systems. When the systems are right, then the city will stand a test of time. The greatest impediment facing coherent urban development in most African countries is failure to put in place systems and structures that deliver on mandates that are themselves predetermined and anchored on known procedures and formulas. The day African countries discover this is the day we shall have better functioning cities as well as better development modes that are sustainable and well serving for the people and countries in general.