Saturday, March 20, 2010

cities of slums

Regionally, today, sub-Saharan Africa has the largest slum population where 199.5 million (or 61.7%) of its urban population live in such areas. A new report by the United Nations organisation UN-HABITAT makes intersting reading , full of facts and figures , some of which are quoted below .

Three South African cities top the list of the most unequal cities in the world, when measured on income-based data gathered in a UN-HABITAT survey of cities in 109 countries from all regions.Buffalo City (East London), Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni (East Rand) as extremely unequal.Not far behind are cities with inequality well above the national average. In decreasing order, they include Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (only two-thirds of the population had access to piped water and only 44% to adequate sanitation) ; Nairobi, Kenya; Maseru, Lesotho.All feature income-based Gini values above 0.52, which ranks as “very high”.Nearly two-fifths of Lagos residents live in overcrowded housing, and a quarter have no access to adequate sanitation. The city is also unable to provide jobs for its growing population, with 40% of males and 12% of females unemployed in 2006.

In Namibia and Niger, lack of sanitation and durable housing are also responsible for high rates of diarrhoeal diseases among children, with a prevalence of 17.6% in Namibia and 29.9% in Niger, compared with 11.6% and 16.7%, respectively, among children from non-slum households

Although they can boast some of the highest urban growth rates, East African countries remain the least urbanized in the world and will only begin to experience an urban transition by the middle of this century. Only 22.7 per cent of the region’s population was classified as “urban” in 2007,However, high urban growth rates in East Africa are not anywhere near the “tipping point” where a national population becomes predominantly urban. United Nations projections indicate that by 2030, only 33.7 per cent of the region’s total population will be urban. For most countries – except those already highly urbanized, such as Djibouti, Mauritius, Reunion and Seychelles – the transition will only occur after 2040, with the exception of Mozambique, Somalia and Zimbabwe, where it is expected by 2030.
The low rates of urbanization in East Africa result from a variety of factors, including low industrialization, overdependence on subsistence agriculture, inadequate or outdated land policies, lack of prourban development strategies, insufficient investment in secondary and small cities, past colonial policies that discouraged rural-to-urban migration, and apparent lack of political will to address the “urban question” and turn cities and towns into engines of national growth. Another particular aspect of the urbanization process in the least urbanized East African countries is that of “divided loyalties” – conflicts between communal loyalty and obligations to ancestral rural land, or to clan and family ties, on the one hand, and the need to adapt to and participate in a modern, urbanizing world, on the other hand. This phenomenon prevents many rural migrants from fully embracing the city as their home or engaging with local authorities to demand better services and rights. Consequently, many cities in the region can be described as hosting “transplanted villagers” who are yet to be turned into truly urban citizens whose loyalties, investments, livelihoods and future prospects are intimately linked with the cities where they live.

There are no nice capitalists. Capitalists in Africa are just as ruthless and just as exploitative as their First World brethren. The debate over globalisation is a ruling class debate over how they divide the spoils from their collective exploitation of us. A peasant gets peanuts for growing peanuts because that is the going rate for peanuts in the world economy. If the price of peanuts is raised, the local exploiter will gain at the expense of the First World importer, and the peasant still gets peanuts. The only way to ensure that every single human being on the planet has an equal chance to enjoy a life free from material deprivation is a world where all the resources of the planet have become the common heritage of all humanity. On this basis, these can be used to provide enough for all without plundering the Earth's resources or polluting the biosphere. We are not claiming that this would be an easy task – there will be problems of co-ordination and co-operation to solve, not to speak of having to clear up the mess left by the profit system – but it is technologically possible as well as socially desirable.

Another world is possible but it has to be a non-capitalist – a socialist – world.

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