Reflections on the Southern African HUB Meeting: Lusaka, Zambia

Southern African HUB: Lusaka, Zambia

By Noah Schermbrucker, SDI Secretariat 

HUB meetings are gatherings that bring affiliates together to collectively set the agenda for the region. They are used as a mechanism to share collective learning, devise targeted support strategies (e.g. exchanges) for individual countries and concretize planning, on a regional scale, for the next period. The Southern African HUB recently took place in Lusaka, Zambia. Delegations from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Botswana and Malawi attended the 3-day meeting. A team from Uganda, who had recently hosted the East African HUB, participated in order to promote continuity. Ghana was also invited as the West African HUB has been indefinitely postponed due to the Ebola outbreak. 

Below find my reflections on the meeting. I hope that they provide some insights not only into SDI processes at a regional level but also the “nuts and bolts” of which this process is comprised. This is hence not an exhaustive description of the meeting but aims to give the reader a “practical flavor” of SDI’s work as it plays out in the interactions between slum dwellers, support professionals and government.

Day 1: Engagement with Ministry of Local Government, field visit to Garden Park community under threat of eviction (only some delegates) and meeting at Lusaka City Council (LCC).

The Zambians were clear that the first day’s agenda was about taking their process forward, especially in terms of achieving tangible outputs from government. South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Malawi and Ghana all stressed the actual outputs of their relationship with government to both the Ministry of Local Government and LCC. As was noted, “ An M.o.U with government is just a piece of paper unless it has actual tangible outputs attached”. 

Making the first day about taking the Zambian process really orientated us within local challenges and used the HUB as an instrument to open space with government for the Zambians (which they are now following up on). The Southern African HUB has previously been very “talk” orientated and not substantively relevant to the local process so this shift was refreshing to see. A trick that we missed out on was not inviting government officials from the countries attending as the Zambians felt that this would have deepened the impact in these engagements with government. As a federation member noted “governments like to talk to other governments”. 

Through the site visit to Garden Park, evictions were placed on the table as a key issue with the HUB committing (on the final day) that each federation will draft guidelines on evictions sharing their experiences and strategies used (this emerged out of a separate federation only session) 

Women from Garden Park, Lusaka, Zambia

Women from Garden Park meet to discuss eviction threat

Day 2: New Secretariat systems (L,M&E, New Secretariat structures) 

Day 2 was spent at the Zambian federation’s resource center in George compound with significant participation from the Zambian federation. Mara (from the SDI Secretariat) and Muturi (from the Core Team) did a fantastic job in taking everyone through some of the new systems developed by The Secretariat including the L, M &E worksheet and call for support. There was a vibrant discussion about these new systems and some very important suggestions made as to how they could be refined (e.g. definitions of certain terms such as “secure tenure” need to be clarified). These issues were noted and will be shared with the secretariat team.

A very critical issue was raised around the learning center and its role within the HUB, a number of people felt that the HUB itself was serving as the learning center. We need to think carefully about how the learning center fits into the HUB-especially in the case of Southern Africa were conditions and experiences in Cape Town are quite different to the rest of the countries. People felt strongly that different countries had different strengths (e.g. Namibia and Zimbabwe around collection of their savings number & indicators).

 Day 3: HUB Business

The day was focused on collecting country reports that were compiled previously by each country. These will be used to aggregate a set of Southern African HUB figures that can be taken to the Board & Council (B&C) meeting. Each country handed in their reports but then spoke about the “burning issues” and what support was needed. This led to suggestions for further exchanges that have been noted. The HUB also discussed progress made on exchanges decided at the B&C. In general this approach was well received as countries did not use up time providing long lists of figures but rather focused on the key issues that they wished to raise. The exact role and nature of the CORE team was also explained at length. 

Throughout the meeting the participation of members from Kenya, Uganda and Ghana was extremely helpful. Their insights were valuable and contributed to the discussions with government. The continuity between the East African HUB and this HUB was definitely beneficial and something that we could take forward.

An issue that emerged from some was how we can include more “voices” in the HUB and encourage everyone to participate and speak more fully. It seemed that when we broke into country teams it allowed for more even discussion and participation as opposed to just a few people speaking in the bigger forum.

A HUB report is currently being drafted by Zambia and will be shared shortly. 

Carrying Water Home in Chazanga, Lusaka

“Carrying” water home in Chazanga, Lusaka

Reflections from the Kampala Learning Centre: What does it mean to Know Your City?

Kampala City Forum_Profile Report Launch

By Skye Dobson, ACTogether Uganda 

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? , TS Eliot

The time for nonsense as a source of popularity is over , Tony Owana

This year, SDI launched an initiative called, Know Your City in partnership with the Cities Alliance and United Cities and Local Governments Africa (UCLGA). The initiative has generated a lot of attention, particularly following its launch at the World Urban Forum in Colombia. But what does it mean to Know Your City? In this, the second blog reflection from the Kampala Learning Center, I will examine this question in light of the recent launch of the Kampala Slum Profiles by the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) and its support NGO ACTogether Uganda.

At workshops, conferences, and seminars across Uganda and internationally, it seems there is no need for any additional effort to know anything. It seems the confident presenters with their big words, fancy Power Points, and compelling statistics already know everything that could possibly be known. I’m sure I’m not the only one intimidated by these folks. Glossy reports reemphasize how much various donors, governments, and NGOs understand about the cities in which they operate. So why, in this sea of data and information, is SDI calling for a campaign to Know Your City?

To explain, we can reflect on an observation by Walter Lippmann: “a boy can take you into the open at night and show you the stars; he might tell you no end of things about them, conceivably all that an astronomer could teach. But until and unless he feels the vast indifference of the universe to his own fate, and has placed himself in the perspective of cold and illimitable space, he has not looked maturely at the heavens. Until he has felt this, and unless he can endure this, he remains a child, and in his childishness, he will resent the heavens when they are not accommodating. He will demand sunshine when he wishes to play, and rain when the ground is dry, and he will look upon storms as anger directed at him, and the thunder as a personal threat.”

It appears that, despite there being no shortage of people who can teach us about “stars”, many still predict we are destined to be a Planet of Slums. It seems that informality, unless felt, will continue to be resented by city authorities for not cooperating with the fantasized growth and modernization of our cities. The Know Your City initiative aims to bridge this gap between information and knowledge and set a path toward collective wisdom as the foundation for greater inclusivity and creativity in urban development. It envisions data and information becoming part of the collective discussion, moving out of the reports, databases and Power Points of professionals and into the every day discussion and reflection of communities and local governments.

In Uganda, the NSDFU began city-wide profiling in 2009 as part of the Cities Alliance-funded Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU) program. Five secondary cities were profiled, catalyzing a new era of community organization in Uganda. Not only had such data never been collected on slum settlements before, but also the nature of data collection methods was such that knowledge was produced collectively and in real time by the urban poor and local government as they gathered and interpreted the information for themselves.  This year, with support from Comic Relief and SDI, the NSDFU took on the challenge of profiling and mapping the capital, Kampala. As is the case with profiling throughout the SDI network, the federation in Kampala first mobilized to identify all the slum settlements in the city (62 were identified at first) and then formulated and administered a questionnaire on topics ranging from to demographics, to land tenure, to service access etc.  In addition the federation members are trained to use GPS devices to map the boundaries of their settlements.

Map of Kampala’s Slums

Kampala City Informal Settlements Map

The first step in the conversion of data to information takes place at the settlement level where the federation and its partners reflect upon and verify settlement profile information in community meetings. It is here that the data begins to serve as a reference point for community thinking and planning. The next step is for the support NGO to assist with the compilation of profile reports and maps using satellite imagery for refined aggregation and presentation to a wider audience. An example of the information presented is shown below.

Land Tenure in Kampala Slums

Kampala Land Tenure Map

This month, the profile reports were officially launched and handed over to the KCCA at the launch of the Kampala City Forum – another initiative of the federation in partnership with Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).  Municipal forums were also piloted under the TSUPU project and the federation championed their expansion to Kampala and an additional 9 municipalities this year. In order to build collective wisdom this sharing of information is essential. As the federation always says, “Information is Power” and in the first ever Kampala City Forum this month it was clear that the urban poor wield tremendous power as a result of this knowledge generation. The reports were presented by the federation to a representative of the Executive Director, to the Director of Gender, Community Services and Production and to the Mayors and Town Clerks of each of Kampala’ 5 divisions.

Kampala City Council_KYC Profil Launch

The forum moderator, renowned Ugandan journalist and political commentator, Tony Owana, remarked that, “The time for nonsense as a source of popularity is over.” This comment, a clear indictment of much government politicking was also a call to action for the urban poor: you have this information, this knowledge, now demand more from your city.

And indeed, this is the essence of the Know Your City initiative. City-wide profiling is about much more than gathering data and information on cities. This is in and of itself extremely valuable, but it is not enough for transformative change. To Know Your City means taking that data and information and creating knowledge in communities of the urban poor, in the halls of city council, and in the donor community. Only then can we create the collective wisdom required to appreciate that the storms and thunder of informality are not merely a threat to our play.  As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” and SDI is banking on the Know Your City initiative reaping large dividends for the residents of developing cities.



Citywide Data Collection and “Knowing Your City”


SDI launched the Know Your City campaign at the 7th World Urban Forum in April 2014. The Know Your City campaign is a global campaign for grassroots data collection and inclusive partnerships with local government for citywide community networks of urban poor communities. The campaign urges affiliates to scale up data collection processes and outputs and demonstrate that SDI’s arguments for community-driven data collection are about more than just information and data; they are aimed at building inclusion of the urban poor into city policy.

Know Your City speaks to active awareness, engagement, and understanding of the urban space that you occupy. It encourages citizens and local governments to move beyond the shelter you call home to the level of your street, neighborhood, and ultimately, the city as a whole. To gain a sense of familiarity through information and experience that can inform both theoretical and practical understanding of space and the relationships various inhabitants have to it. When information moves to knowledge and understanding it comes to stand in opposition to narrow opinion. It then becomes a powerful tool in the hands of those who own it. Slum dwellers have come to learn the power and value of information that moves to knowledge and understanding as they engage their city officials or those others who own the land which they occupy. A large and growing number of urban dwellers live in poverty because most city development plans exclude informal settlement. This is in spite of the precedents set by organisations of citizens such as SDI’s urban poor federations; in spite of evidence that conventional city planning is unable to meet the demands of rapid urbanisation and only exacerbates urban informality and poverty.

In practice, the core of SDI’s Know Your City campaign is a standardisation of our settlement profiling data collection methodology for informal settlements. Settlement profiles are different from household enumerations in that they allow a whole settlement to look at itself as a collective rather than as households in isolation. Whole communities then have the possibility to build relationships with their local governments or land owning authority for the improvement of the physical conditions of their settlements and lives as a collective.

The settlement profile gives settlement leadership and city authorities a glimpse of the big picture at the settlement level. The standardised profile allows for an aggregated view of the types of land occupied by informal settlements in a given city, as well as the physical conditions of the spaces in terms of and in relation to infrastructure.

SDI has developed a standardised settlement profile questionnaire based on the questionnaires developed and used by federations across the network. This questionnaire forms the new baseline for all historic and future data collected for settlement profiles within the network. Both quantitative and qualitative in nature, the profile affords possibilities to compare and aggregate settlement level data across a city and, where federations work in multiple cities, across the region. In maintaining an emphasis on the nuances of local contexts, federations have the opportunity to supplement the standard questionnaire to improve the qualitative descriptions of individual settlements.

Both the process and the resulting data become tools of communication, dialogue, and building relationships. Drawing on SDI’s guiding premise to make ‘visible’ the invisible communities of the urban poor, the data communicates quantifiable facts about the physical conditions and scale of informality and urban poverty on a citywide scale while at the same time adding nuance to the particular conditions of poverty and exclusion as experienced in the daily lives of slum dwellers inhabiting these spaces.

The Know Your City campaign also aims to emphasise the spatial, social, economic, and political relations between slum dwellers and their cities over time. To date, we have a total number of 6,343 historic data sets in standardized format available. This data forms the baseline for conditions of informal settlements from 2009 – 12 across cities like Mumbai, Nairobi, Kampala, Johannesburg, Harare, and Freetown. As these datasets were collected via an array of forms they remain in various states of ‘completeness’ in terms of the standardised form. On a federation-by-federation basis, the SDI network will ‘complete’ these as far as possible over the next year. The importance of this data is twofold. It constitutes the first point for developing longitudinal comparative data of informal settlements at the city level, as well as an opportunity to monitor and evaluate SDI federations’ work and engagements within these cities. It offers the foundation from which informal communities can develop citywide arguments at scale and over time.

Seven national federations in Africa (Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia, and Ghana) have committed to field test and further improve the rigour of both the new standardised profile form and the data collection process. At present, 377 new settlement profiles have been uploaded to the central web based data platform. These are the beginnings of SDI’s learning around citywide profiling with a standardised tool to take the SDI methodology and process of data collection to scale at a citywide level in slums/informal settlements and enhance the rigor and verifiability of our data. 

An increasing body of evidence suggests that the major cities of the Global South are overwhelmingly “slum cities,” in which a majority of residents live in neighbourhoods understood as “slums.” The objective of our work is to bring slums into relation with the ‘formal city’ and into the centre, rather than confined to the margins, of policy and development debates. The aim is not for inclusion by emphasis on the subaltern identity of slums and their dwellers in the city, but rather a shift to the recognition of the role and part of slums and their dwellers in the complexity of the city.

As We, the Invisible: a census of pavement dwellers in Mumbai asserted in 1985, “a society which permits and in fact depends on a large mass of unskilled and underpaid labour must also live with slums and pavement dwellers” (SPARC, 1985). Since then numerous other community-led profiles and enumerations of SDI federations, ranging from Joe Slovo in Cape Town to Old Fadama in Accra, have shown that slum/informal settlement dwellers are part and parcel of the dynamic of the city. These settlements and their residents contribute to the history and sociality of cities and fuel their economies, not just with their labour, but also with their own consumption. The data SDI federations collect about their lives and living conditions in the world’s informal settlements and slums concretises and legitimises what is at the core a political argument for both social and material change and a voice for the urban poor in the policies that affect their lives and living conditions.

Why This Matters

From a number of federations we are beginning the see and understand the power of standardised and aggregated data at the city level. The Uganda Federation has completed and verified settlement profiling for 62 identified slum settlements in the city of Kampala. A map of Kampala has been produced from data collected by the federations. The Kampala map shows the location and extent of the slums in the city. These areas cover an estimated 11,000 acres across the city and are home to a total estimated population of 2.5 million people. In Kampala, federation members using GPS devices mapped the settlement boundaries on the ground. Later these boundaries were verified by means of high-resolution maps and the settlement identification landmarks collected via the profile. As more often than not, a number of households, on average 5 but up to 10, may share a structure, the federation estimates the population based on the number of households multiplied by the average household size. Based on the federation data, the approximate population density of slum/informal settlement areas in Kampala would be 227 people/acre. The total area of Kampala city is 46,702 acres of which 43,490 acres are land and the remainder taken up by surface water bodies. This means that slum settlements, based on federation data may take up to 1/4 of available land in the city. The most recent census of Uganda was conducted in 2002. Accepted statistics estimate the city’s population at fewer than 1.7 million people and thus an estimated people to land ratio of 39 people/acre. According to a discussion paper delivered at the 2014 Annual World Bank Land and Poverty Conference, the National Slum Dwellers

Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) and support NGO ACTogether reports that “data cited in the Kampala Physical Development Plan […] claims there are only 500,000 people living in Kampala’s slums [and it] identifies 31 slums in Kampala – half the number identified by the NSDFU and ACTogether.”

In Zimbabwe, the Federation, alongside their local authority, “profiled the entire city of Harare, settlement by settlement” to identify peoples’ needs on the ground. This led to the transfer of land by the city to the communities for the construction of upgraded houses in Dzivaresekwa Extension, one of Harare’s largest slums.

The profiles completed by the Kenyan Federation thus far indicate that the central concerns for slum communities in Kenyan cities are access to land and access to adequate and safe sanitation. As most of the land occupied by slums in Kenya is privatized, and under high threat of eviction from developers looking to take back the land as land values in Kenya’s cities continue to rise, living space for the poor becomes increasingly precarious with little hope of engagement around upgrading and security of tenure. Interventions around sanitation, especially, have been nearly impossible and continue to threaten health and security of slum residents, especially women.

The Know Your City campaign marks a historic shift in data collection activities across the federation network. While maintaining a settlement-by-settlement approach, we are scaling up our arguments to encompass citywide scales of poverty and informality. We are putting renewed emphasis on the right of urban poor communities to collect and own the information and data about their lives and livelihoods and leverage these as powerful assets to claim inclusion in the cities in which they work and live. Moving from the local, based on our data, we are developing comprehensive and composite indicators to illuminate both the general and particular conditions of poverty and inequality in cities to challenge and simultaneously inform global sustainable development indicators proposed for the post-2015 development agenda.

Check out SDI’s 2013 – 2014 Annual Report for more on the Know Your City campaign. 




SDI Announces 2013 – 2014 Annual Report

Annual Report cover

SDI is pleased to announce the 2013 – 2014 SDI Annual Report!

This annual report reviews a set of activities that extend beyond just a year. For SDI, the past year has been the culmination of a multi-year process to achieve citywide scale in all regions where we work. The past three years have enabled SDI to have a unique breadth of international experience in building participatory, developmental institutions at the local government level that is unparalleled across the urban development sector. We are presenting this annual report under the theme Know Your City because it serves as a bridge from where we have been as a network, to where we are heading next. The experiences of the past, and the plans for the future, underpin a very practical vision of building cities that are inclusive of the voices, needs, and aspirations of the poor through the planning knowledge, financial capacities, and political will of those who are often rendered informal, expendable, and invisible. Indeed, it is the fate of the informal majority of urban residents in the South, upon whom our urban future will rise or fall.

To read the full report, click here.