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“The challenge of sustainable upscaling of informal settlement upgrading in East Africa"


On 11th July 2012, the University of Nairobi, School of the Built Environment, in collaboration with partners organized a regional Conference to explore approaches and share lessons on sustainable up-scaling of informal settlements upgrading in East Africa. With only an estimated 23.5 per cent of the population living in urban areas, East Africa remains the least urbanized subregion in Africa. The urban population in East Africa is highly varied but overall experiencing one of the highest growth rates in the world. 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; border: 1px solid rgb(169, 169, 169); padding-left: 18px; background-position: 0% 50%; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat;" title="">

The Conference was officially opened by Mr. Tirop Kosgey, PS, Ministry of Housing, Republic of Kenya, represented by Ms. Leah Muraguri, Director KENSUP, while Dr. James Nyoro, Director, Rockefeller Foundation Africa,Prof. Tom Anyamba, Dean, School of the Built Environment, and Prof. Peter Ngau, Director, Centre for Urban Research and Innovations, University of Nairobi made the opening statements. One of the highlights of the opening session was the launch of the Mathare Zonal Plan prepared by the residents of Mathare Informal Settlement in collaboration with University of Nairobi and University of California, Berkeley, the civil society, and City Council of Nairobi and other service providers.

It was organized into three major sessions:

Session 1: Slum upgrading approaches: lessons and experiences;

Session 2: New opportunities presented by national constitutions and policies for implementation of informal settlement upgrading;

Session 3: Group discussions - towards sustainable informal settlement upgrading.

The following are the key resolutions emanating from the conference:

  • Acknowledging that East Africa’s future is unquestionably urban there is urgent need for Governments, Municipalities and stakeholders to urgently reverse the negative phenomenon and inhuman conditions presented by informal settlements in the region’s rapidly growing urban areas.
  • Adoption of innovative approaches in tackling the dynamic issues within the region’s emerging urban areas
  • Design education and practice to realize livable cities’
  • Concerted implementation of progressive policies for informal settlement upgrading.
  • Building synergy in partnership for informal settlement upgrading.
  • Visionary leadership and good governance in the management of emerging urban areas in East Africa.
  • Collaboration of all urban actors and need for multi–disciplinary teams
  • Broad Community led planning and development to address basic needs for infrastructure, housing, and livelihoods;

It was without doubt a successful event, being the first of its kind in East Africa. The general feeling as the conference came to an end was that the East African region which has the highest proportion of people living informal settlements with the worst living conditions urgently need remedy of this dubious identity. It was further noted that countries in East Africa though they have popular visions for national development have extreme inequalities which make those visions unsustainable. A close look at successful countries shows their Governments and Municipalities have taken responsibility for slum reduction squarely on their shoulders andsustainable development must be people centred.

UN HABITAT, 2006, State of the World’s Cities 2006/7;  UN HABITAT, 2010, The State of African Cities 2010.

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