Urbanisation Namibia's future

08 October 2018 | Infrastructure

Elvira Hattingh - In the next 30 years, Namibia will have to accommodate another two million people in towns. That is equal to 22 Rundus, five Windhoeks, or a hundred Gobabises.

This according to architect Phillip Lühl who with his colleague Guillermo Belgado of the Namibia University of Science and Technology, said that Namibia is losing the war against urbanisation.

“According to the Namibia Statistics Agency, around 50% of Namibians currently live in towns in comparison to 30% in 1991. By 2050 this will have increased to 75%. As a nation we have failed our people who have moved to towns searching for a better life,” Lühl said.

Informal urbanisation

Belgado said it is essential that the Land Conference recognises that urbanisation is a fact in Namibia. “At the moment we see urbanisation taking place 'informally'. It is not unique to our country; Africa as a whole is experiencing this trend. In spite of this, only one in three African countries has a national plan for urbanisation. Namibia is not one of them.”

Belgado said the time is now to develop such a plan through an inclusive process. “We now have the chance to manage urbanisation so that it improves equality and changes the status quo. We need to talk about the right to adequate housing and not just affordable housing.

Today's informal settlements are tomorrow's middle-class households - providing we empower residents to help themselves,” Belgado said.

According to the Shack Dwellers Federation's national facilitator, Edith Mbanga, 995 000 Namibians live in informal shacks in 380 settlements across the country. “The total population in towns stands at around 1.1 million people, which means that more than three quarters of residents live in towns. This means that the federation works with the bulk of residents. However, the protracted and expensive development of erven in towns means that it remains unattainable for the poor. The monthly income of residents here is less than N$3 000, while the average is around N$1 500 per month.”

The future

According to the permanent secretary of urban and rural development, Nghidinwa Daniel, the servicing of urban land is characterised by a huge backlog.

“Since Independence, new local authorities have grown from 15 to 42, while 411 new townlands have been proclaimed countrywide. This led to the creation of 123 400 new erven.

“In total, 33 619 erven were serviced in the 2013/14 and 2017/18 financial year, while 4 000 government houses were sold through our alienation scheme. Also, through the Build Together Programme, 30 400 houses have been built since 1992,” he said.

Amongst others, speakers at the Land Conference suggested that a national policy around urbanisation as well as a framework for spatial development be drafted, and that regulations for certain town planning and administrative procedures be improved.

One suggestion was that poor people be allowed to build their houses in increments as and when they have money, while the architects felt the servicing of erven should be subsidised.

Daniel recommended that government invests more in the Massive Urban Land Service Project, while affordable home designs and building methods be made available. He also suggested that erven be allocated even though they are not fully serviced and that amendments be made with regards to the sale of town land to foreigners.

“The sale of land to private developers should be regulated to prevent speculation, so too the sale of massive tracts of land to individuals or developers,” he said.

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