Empowering Entrepreneurs and Strengthening Community-Government Ties: A Transformative Visit to Dar es Salaam’s Federation Groups

In a momentous effort to bolster economic growth, foster community development, and enhance collaboration between local entrepreneurs and the government, the Region office, through the Business Officer of Dar es Salaam joined hands with the development officers from Kinondoni District, Temeke, and Ilala, alongside the esteemed Center for Community Initiatives (CCI), in a significant visit to the Federation groups within the region of Dar es Salaam.

The primary objective of this visit was two-fold: to elevate the status and potential of the entrepreneurial groups that form part of the Tanzania Federation of Urban Poor (TFUP) and to establish stronger bonds between these groups and the government. Recognising the vital role these enterprising individuals play in the socioeconomic fabric of Dar es Salaam, the collaborative effort aimed to empower them further, providing opportunities for growth, and amplifying their voices in policy-making decisions.

The delegation embarked on a comprehensive journey across the bustling neighborhoods of Dar es Salaam, engaging with a diverse array of Federation groups. The entrepreneurs showcased their innovative ventures, from local market stalls selling handmade crafts to emerging tech start-ups with a vision to revolutionise the digital landscape. The passion and dedication of these entrepreneurs left an indelible impression on the visiting officials and reaffirmed the significance of their mission.

Through interactive workshops and town-hall discussions, the government representatives and CCI professionals shed light on various support programs, funding opportunities, and business development resources available to Federation members. These initiatives aimed to equip entrepreneurs with the necessary tools to strengthen their enterprises and drive sustainable economic growth within their communities.

Moreover, the visit emphasised the importance of collaboration and communication between the government and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The participating officials pledged to streamline bureaucratic processes, facilitate access to capital, and implement policies that fostered a favourable business environment for the Federation groups.

As the delegation immersed themselves in the vibrant tapestry of Dar es Salaam’s entrepreneurial spirit, they also took the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and aspirations of the local communities. Listening intently to the stories and experiences shared, the officials vowed to address the socio-economic disparities and work towards a more inclusive and equitable future.

SDI Rituals: Profiling & Enumeration through the Vusi Ntsuntsha Project


A piece written by Camila Yanzaguano, Erica Levenson, Manuela Chedjou, with photography by Ana Holschuch. 

Every year SDI hosts students from The New School, as part of their International Field Program. During the internship the students, alongside the SA SDI Alliance and Know Your City youth from the Western Cape, documented the data collection process and community organising of the Vusi Ntsuntsha project. 

Bridging the gap in data surrounding informal settlements is one of the main priorities of SDI. As the profiling process has developed SDI has relied more and more on the community participation of residents of informal settlements. The lack of data on informal settlements is a major issue, and speaks to a larger oversight of informal settlement residents. For this reason, community participation in the data collection process is crucial. Through SDI’s ‘Know Your City’ Campaign (KYC), this profiling and enumeration work is active across 32 different countries, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, serving as an engine for active community participation. The initiative’s main goal is to produce valuable data on informal settlements so that the data can be used to determine what and where service improvements are needed.

Settlement profiling and enumeration is a process driven by the community for the community. The process helps to organize communities and define the most pressing problems in their settlement, as well as provide a space for communities to discuss priorities while encouraging cross-learning. Through social interaction, residents of informal settlements learn from each other and give helpful suggestions regarding the implementation of development projects.

Informal settlements are typically built by the residents themselves, and the conditions of the construction are not always under local or national codes and regulations. In South Africa in particular, there has been a steady increase in the number and population of informal settlements in the last two decades. The lack of information and data on these settlements has made authorities’ attempts at improvements extremely prolonged. Thus, the KYC initiative aims to expedite slum upgrading projects by compiling crucial data, all the while engaging communities in the process.


photograph taken by Ana Holschuch at Vusi Ntsuntsha meeting.

Enumeration, settlement profiling, and mapping are some of the processes that KYC is involved with and led by slum dwellers. Gathered data has facilitated sanitation improvements as well as the construction of transportation infrastructure, such as the paving of roads within several informal settlements across the SDI affiliated countries. As a result, residents of informal settlements have received improvements in roads, potable water, and sanitation- improvements that they have needed for some time. In some cases, communities have been able to get access to health services, construction of community centers, and schools.  

Enumeration is a community-driven process that has been used by the SA SDI Alliance for years. Enumeration is essential to profiling residents of townships: how many residents per household, what resources they have and do not have, and so on. The data gained by enumeration is then presented to governments and used in requests for resource provisions. In other words, by having an exact number of people residing in each area, it becomes simpler and quicker for the government to budget, plan, and implement upgrading projects at the sites. 

The South African (SA) SDI Alliance has been working in informal settlements for years and has come together with communities to develop the Vusi Ntsuntsha project through community participation. The Vusi Ntsuntsha project was stalled for twenty years, but with leadership commitment and contributions from members of the Vusi Ntsuntsha community, the project was recently re-established. The ultimate goal of the project is to build affordable, proper housing for community members using subsidies from the South African government. With the help of community leaders and the Alliance, the Vusi Ntsuntsha project is making impressive progress. 


photograph taken by Ana Holschuch around profiling and enumeration of the Vusi Ntsuntsha project.

Community members have to be ‘visible’ to the government in order for any project to be planned. Profiling and enumeration create an undeniable visibility of residents and their needs. Through enumeration many important questions are answered: how long respective people have lived in their respective settlements and how they make a living. The data collected is ultimately used to ensure that all residents’ needs are accounted for in planning and service delivery. The data collection work of communities has gained organizations such as SDI and the SA SDI Alliance worldwide recognition. By collecting necessary information, the Western Cape Provincial Government was able to screen all Vusi Ntsuntsha beneficiaries and to provide a response about members who qualify for grants, and set new options for those households who do not qualify. Today, at least half of the 800 beneficiaries have been enumerated and verified, becoming formal members of the Vusi Ntsuntsha project. 

Vusi Ntsuntsha’s process of profiling and enumeration has been crucial to the projects movement and success. Community members not only created valuable data but also gained knowledge during the process. Today, new projects, such as Mossel Bay, are starting with the support of the SA SDI Alliance. Vusi Ntsuntsha leaders and members are exchanging their knowledge on enumeration with Mossel Bay members. Community participation emerges as a key way to give power to the people within informal settlements. Communities are becoming more visible,  capitalizing on their rights as citizens. 


Creating Organised Communities of Slum Dwellers in Uganda

Construction in Nakawa

**Cross posted from the World Bank website**

By Skye Dobson, SDI Secretariat, Uganda 

In the slum dweller communities of Uganda — where over 60 percent of the urban population lives – the purported benefits of urban agglomeration are not being felt. Despite rapid urbanization, urban areas are characterized by rising unemployment and inadequate access to basic services. Rather than waiting passively for the benefits of urban agglomeration, Uganda’s slum dwellers have adopted a proactive strategy that is harnessing the potential of collective action.

The strategy is one that has evolved within the Slum Dwellers International (SDI) network. It involves the clustering — or federating — of community saving groups into urban poor federations. The National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) is one of 33 federations in the SDI network. Founded in 2002, the NSDFU today comprises almost 500 savings groups and approximately 38,000 members. Savings are used to bring people together, build their capacity to act collectively, and build organizational capacity and trust.

When savings groups begin, they often focus solely on livelihood issues and income generation. But, with time and greater exposure to SDI rituals, such as enumeration and peer-to-peer exchange, communities formulate an urban agenda that looks beyond group members and toward transforming the settlements in which they live. This is when benefits to service delivery begin to accrue as part of a collective upgrading agenda. The spatial proximity of urban savings groups allows for the agglomeration of collective capacity necessary to create a critical mass of urban poor to hold public officials accountable, to collaborate with municipalities and leverage their savings. This critical mass is required to make community participation more than a platitude and aid more effective, and it is uniquely possible in the urban setting.

Focus group discussion in Arua

The positive externalities of this agglomeration of collective capacity are not hard to see. The NSDFU is the key community mobilizer in the Government of Uganda’s Transforming Settlements of the Urban Poor in Uganda (TSUPU) program. The NSDFU has capitalized upon the opportunities of this Cities Alliance-funded program to expand from Jinja and Kampala to Arua, Mbale, Mbarara, and Kabale. Within this national program, the NSDFU has demonstrated that organized communities can: improve urban governance by organizing citizens to demand accountability; improve urban planning by generating information on slum populations; improve living conditions for members and non-members alike through slum upgrading projects; and improve the environment by upholding their responsibilities to keep cities clean and maintain public services.

Over the past 10 years, the NSDFU has constructed sanitation units and community halls the slums throughout the country. Last year it began extending clean water and improving drainage, while in Jinja it has commenced construction of a low cost housing project. In almost every case projects were built upon land provided by municipal council, demonstrating true partnership.

The increasing returns to scale for the agglomeration of collective capacity are also evident. The more the federation grows, the easier it becomes to negotiate with government, mobilize members and savings, leverage funds, and implement projects. Because the NSDFU is part of SDI, the returns to scale also benefit tremendously from the growth of the global urban poor movement.