12th East African Hub Meeting

EA Hub Meeting

The 12th East African Hub Meeting was held from 4-6 August 2014 in Kampala, Uganda. Approximately 85 participants from Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania participated in the meeting. The purpose of the quarterly hub meetings is to bring the three countries in the East African community together to learn from each other and reflect on experiences and challenges of their respective countries to improve and grow the federation in a sustainable way throughout the region. One of the focus points of this hub meeting was the importance of understanding and monitoring the activities and progress of the federation at a regional/hub level. In order to do this, the federations first sat together and scrutinized their country indicators. Each federation was able to breakdown their data to city level to understand where their national data comes from and use this data to help monitor their progress. An interactive session was held to deepen the knowledge and understanding of how federations learn, monitor, and evaluate their progress. The federations agreed that:

Learning: Is “learning by doing,” exchanges, sharing, reflecting on past experience, and documentation

Monitoring: Is visiting, reporting, auditing, country indicators, budgeting and work plans, tracking, and communicating

Evaluating: Is “the WHY?” which includes reflecting, understanding capacity and weaknesses, reviewing challenges, adapting, and looking at the way forward

The conclusion was that this is work that the federations are already doing but there is a need to tighten lose ends to make their systems more practical. It was also noted that concrete data should always be sought for credibility of the federation work. 

Another key discussion being held across the SDI network is the critical importance of growing youth membership and building a second tier of leadership to facilitate the growth, evolution, and sustainability of the slum dweller movement. At this year’s East African Hub three Ugandan federation members, Sumaiya Nalubulwa, Basajjabaka Twaha, and Alan Mawejje became the first youth documenters in the National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU). The youth documenters produced a report on the East African Hub, conducted interviews with key stakeholders, learned to upload photographs and video to social media and learned the difference between reports and blogs. We are confident the role of documenter will build their understanding and articulation of federation work and as they teach their peers this learning will spread throughout this powerful demographic.

To read the full report on the hub meeting, click here.


Reflections from the 12th SDI East African Hub Meeting

EA Hub

**Cross posted from the Muungano Support Trust blog**

By Shadrack Mbaka and Rashid Mutua

The Learning, Monitoring and Evaluation systems are just like a skin, not your heart not your organs, these systems are meant to help communities do better, create transparency and enhance accountability of the Millions of Slum dwellers out there and more importantly to change our settlements and support the urban poor. -Joel Bolnick, SDI Manager

The Logic

Within diplomatic and international relations circles, when two or more nations convene to address key thematic issues affecting nations within the global arena; government delegations would be seen in sharp executive suits, serious gadgets at hand enveloped with tight security details.

Bilateral and Multilateral contracts and deals are signed, such high end meetings under the banner of what is for the best interest of “my country and my people”. This scenario begs the rhetorical question, “Suppose every government sets aside 20 percent of the “goody bags” to address urban poverty through an all inclusive integrated urban development plan, would we have so much urban poverty and squalor in our midst?

In the meantime, as this question bogs my mind, a contrasting scenario unfolds at the 12th Slum Dwellers International East African Hub (EAH) meeting, in Kampala on the 3rd to 7th of August 2014.A delegation of Slum Dwellers federations from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania convenes in Rubaga, Kampala on a mission; to share knowledge & strategies and more so learn from one another with the objective being; to go back to fellow slum communities and make life better for all of us.

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The EAH recognizes the importance of cooperation on human settlement development; Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (KUT) share similar objective, approaches, practices and challenges pertaining to human settlements. Close cooperation under the KUT umbrella envisages leading a greater articulation of progressive developing countries’ housing and human settlements strategies and identifying new ways of engaging relevant players to allocate sufficient resources and support for achievement of the MDG goal for Informal settlements.

The 12th edition of EAH was officially opened by the Commissioner of Lands and Urban development, Mr. Samuel Mabala. His pronouncements were clear; the urban poor in informal settlements are a neglected constituency who hold the key to better planned and inclusive cities. “I am an adent supporter of slum dweller movements. I believe it is not a calling but a duty. I learnt about the slum dwellers movement five years ago, Jockin Arpathum (SDI President) and Joel Bolnick (SDI Secretariat Manager) begun sharing how things work in the slums and how communities take up the responsibility of implementing solution oriented for slum development,” recalled Mr. Mabala.

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Mr. Samuel Mabala, Commissioner of Lands, Uganda addressing the KUT members

Solving the Puzzle

Government urban planning programmes, have a similar script; secure funding, hire heavy weight consultants, develop a contingency plan and implement a project that affects millions of lives and livelihoods. In his speech, Mabala recognizes that governments and supporting departments ought to work with urban development stakeholders to… “Mobilize people’s potential in changing slums; as a result of this realisation we partnered with SDI and National Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) to improve informal settlements in Uganda. The second objective is to influence policy on urbanization, the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development is finalizing on the details and soon it will be tabled in parliament for adoption- the policy focuses more on redevelopment of slums, build and harness Private Public Partnerships and improve towns access to basic services in municipalities; sanitation, access roads, water provisions, electrification of informal settlements etc. The third objective is to empower the people on policy formulation, participation and implementation. Uganda has 400 Municipalities, this seems a daunting task, which will take time, and we need to expedite this process. In the spirit of the East African Corporation let us share strategies to improve our towns, learn lessons from others and implement them in our own towns.”

From the officiating remarks three key pillars emerge;

  • Unity-For communities to address settlement priorities they must be united, but how..?
  • Mobilise savings-For communities to attain unity it is important for communities to have a stake and a voice in community processes through savings for solving settlement problems
  • Partnerships; let’s all partner with stakeholders in order to benefit from the synergies

The Power of Data and Information

“Governments lack adequate data to plan for informal settlements. This therefore offers a starting point for the SDI global networks to harness partnerships with other stakeholders to achieve community goals.” -Josephine Lubwama, Kampala City Capital Authority

The Hub improves capacities of urban poor communities to remain true to the urban agenda by negotiating for space to be part of the city. Of course this wouldn’t be easy if these communities are not organized, lack proper learning, monitoring and evaluation Systems, membership, financial and information systems, plans to aide their vision and most importantly, concrete data to state their claim to the city.

Splashed on the conference hall at the Pope Paul Memorial Hotel in Kampala, were sheets of paper, engraved with analysed data, giving a holistic purview of informal settlements in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (KUT).

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Does data wield power? Communities took to the floor to give practical testimonies of how data has transformed their settlements and built bridges between slum dwellers and their governments. It was notably clear that data transforms into the kind of power urban poor communities can utilize to negotiate, leverage resources and work together with government for development.

Collection of community-led data, packaging and understanding this information remains a primary asset for negotiation with city-governments and their compiling becomes an opportunity “to learn to mobilize” communities towards communal actualization.


SDI is a network of community-based organizations of the urban poor in 34 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In each country where SDI has a presence, affiliate federations network at community, settlement, city, and national level rooted in specific methodologies such as ; Savings, mobilization, advocacy and problem solving strategies. Key areas of focus are; Learning exchanges, Projects, advocacy, Monitoring and Evaluation, Evictions, partnerships and linkages. Some of the key areas that federations capitalize on are;

  • Strengthening federation systems
  • Learning, Capacities and Exchanges; Some of the Learning Centres are ;Kampala, Accra, India, Capetown
  • Settlement Insitu upgrading
  • International Advocacy
  • Long term sustainability

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Do Federations need to Learn, Monitor and Evaluate?

Learning: federations learn by doing, practicing, sharing, and reviewing past experiences, clear documentation strategies and through well thought out and planned exchanges. Well defined LM&E frameworks build strong and functional systems for federations to create opportunities for learning and creating good and implementable plans that will result to better outputs. Clear vision not only impact settlements but empowers communities to position themselves to address city wide issues.

Monitoring: This sounds big, however, to communities monitoring involves; field visits, reporting, auditing of community groups and financial systems, generating activity and project reports that tracks growth, impact assessment, budgeting and developing work plans, tracking and proper open channel communications.

Evaluation involves analyzing whether planned activities and projects have taken place and if not why? Federations most often reflect on the project/activity, the capacities involved, review possible successes and challenges and outputs and adopt strategies to endvour the projects/activities. Through the country indicators, federations are well aware of the country reports on different federation fronts. This therefore enables the federations reflect on the positive and negative changes within the federation.

Monitoring and Evaluation is important to slum dweller federations because:

  • it provides consolidated source of information showcasing project progress;
  • it allows actors to learn from each other’s experiences, building on expertise and knowledge;
  • it often generates (written) reports that contribute to transparency and accountability, and allows for lessons to be shared more easily;
  • it reveals mistakes and offers paths for learning and improvements;
  • it provides a basis for questioning and testing assumptions;
  • it provides a means for agencies seeking to learn from their experiences and to incorporate them into policy and practice;
  • it provides a way to assess the crucial link between implementers and beneficiaries on the ground and decision-makers;
  • it adds to the retention and development of institutional memory;
  • It provides a more robust basis for raising funds and influencing policy.

Incorporating the Youth in the federation Agenda

Federations have embraced the youth by developing activities and projects targeting the Youth below 35 years, albeit this initiative is yet to gather enough momentum. Movements are geared towards targeting the Youth by innovating programmes/strategy that are attractive and sustain the momentum of the Youth. Youths need the support to take up different roles such as; Profiling, enumerations, documentation, research among other activities as a way of keeping them engaged.

Twaha Bishaverka explains, “We appreciate the platforms federations have accorded the youth but we need to come up with strategic programmes that entrenches the youth to fit in the mainstream agenda.”“Youths need to draw up proposals on IGAs and share for planning. This is a sensitive group with special needs that warrants personal initiative.”-Michael Kasede-NSDFU

Erickson Sunday from Kenya said, “Youth agenda is discussed in low tones since they have not transitioned to engage and occupy the space to assume the first tire of leadership and they lack mentorship and sensitivity to build on their innovations. The Youth need to reflect beyond take up, and improve their capacities to change their environment.”

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EmpowHER in federation building

As curtains closed on the 12th East African hub, one important subject popped up, what the role of women in federation, settlement and city is building? The federations challenged one another to embrace women empowerment and leaderships of the federations. “We should shy away from only appointing few women leaders as symbols of gender sensitivity. It is the women who keep the savings groups alive and strengthened.”-Jockin

EAH took stock of the affiliate growth in every country in result areas such as savings, tenure, housing, sanitation. With this communities compound a level playing field for engagement.



Sharing Data: Getting to ‘Know Your City’

Mama Fatuma demonstrates GPS-app to fellow federation members

By Anni Beukes, SDI Secretariat 

For those bounded and constrained by lines of informality, drawn more often than not as a consequence of exclusion from the formal city, the data they collect about their lives in the spaces they inhabit, has proven a powerful tool and asset for negotiation with city officials and donors. McGill professor in urban planning, Richard Shaermur, commenting on the relationship between data and the urban poor condition in Canada, lends support to SDI’s methodology in terms of our process and reliability of our data. Shaermur argues that “data at the local level can easily be skewed if a survey isn’t filled out by a group that is representative of a neighbourhood” or in the case of our federations, settlements.

Community-led profiling, serves not only as the foundational step from which the lives and living-worlds of slum/informal settlements residents are made visible, but also as a key tool and asset in advocacy and engagement between slum dwellers and their development partners. A community-led profile is a process which gathers/collects “data information of a particular settlement at the settlement level without necessarily having to collect the same information at household level” (Muungano Wa Wanavijiji, 2013). On a city-wide scale, these profiles serve as the baseline information about the history, social and physical conditions in informal settlements and become an asset for the urban poor in their negotiations around access to land, access to services and demands for inclusive planning and housing, as well as increasingly around livelihood options.

The governance and resources for infrastructure in cities are organized around the administrative or political representative units such as wards, locations, parishes and so on. Poor communities are rarely aligned to this city structure. Either the communities are found within the city units, or cut across administrative boundaries.

The profiling process creates a layer of information on the locality of poorly served communities. The profiling is therefore intended to generate a city planning and service delivery strategy that addresses poverty more effectively than the conventional administrative format.

Born as this data is from an almost unique social process, underlined and inscribed by what has become known as the SDI rituals or methods, it follows that it serves as a conduit for the development of relationships. Relationship, refers to “the way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected”. Data in SDI federations connects federation members to each other, because it unveils the shared challenges of lack of access to services and land across borders. Yet, it also connects people. A stalwart of the organization, referring to daily savings, once commented that “we don’t collect money, we collect people.” Drawing on “connect” and its key derivatives, “connection” and “connectedness” as operative words here, we may paraphrase to “we don’t connect data points, we connect people”.

An SDI profile data matrix is more than just a collection of variables. It is steeped in everyday material life, every point is polyvalent, may veil more than it reveals, but ties together people, space, services and the human condition at work in informal settlements. At the settlement level, the profile lends a sense of belonging and of shared responsibility for the resources available and desired. It forms the basis of organizing communities around communal challenges that require structured collective action. According to federation members their data also offers them a sense of security and “protects settlements from encroachment as communities identify with their borders, enhance advocacy for change and lastly inform community planning strategies for housing and infrastructural development”. A working tap in an informal settlement is not so much about functioning infrastructure, than it may be about the federation advocacy team using the data from their profile to engage with sympathetic officials, donors or astute young planning professionals.

While, historically these relationships were formed on a settlement-by-settlement basis, scaling settlement profiling to the city-level presents new opportunities and challenges. “How do we use and share citywide profiles information with various stakeholders community, local government, donors and academia?” elicited lively discussion and debate at the last East Africa Hub Meeting (November 17-22nd). The Hub meeting drew together federations and their support staff from Uganda, Tanzania and host Kenya around the theme: Community Profiling for Urban Planning.

At the local level and with their central governments, delegates agreed that the opportunities for data sharing included concrete involvement for inclusive urban planning and slum upgrading. The reliability of the data, when witnessed by local authority officials during the focus groups discussions, “creates a bond of trust from government to communities, especially through budget processes to support community projects and processes” (Report prepared by Muungana Wa Wanavijiji & Muungano Support Trust for the 10th East African Hub Meeting held in Mombasa, Kenya, 2013).

In planning schools across Africa and beyond, young professionals training in what may become one of the keystone academic disciplines for African cities in the next two decades, are exploring innovative strategies which speak directly to the spatial organizational demands of cities who like Kampala, Uganda accommodate 60% percent of its population on only about 16% of its available land. The value of data collected by slum/informal settlements is indisputable. But, planners alone do not a city build! Federation data collection teams are looking toward other academic partners eager to engage with and partner in the design of their development. As donors increase their reliance on grounded research and institutions like the World Bank and the UN include data collection as a priority in [their] post-2015 development goals, the question debated so enthusiastically at the East African Hub meeting, may also be turned to the formal world beyond the informal settlement: For whom of you will it become crucial to engage with slum/informal settlement communities in terms of data collection and analysis?


Southern African Regional Hub Meeting

Southern Africa Regional Hub Mtg

In July 2013 the Southern Africa Regional Hub – consisting of the SDI-affiliated urban poor federations from South Africa, Malawi, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, Namibia, and Botswana – met in Windhoek, Namibia. The meeting allowed affiliates to report on the progress and challenges faced by their various processes and plot future strategies and work plans, bearing in mind regional trends. The meeting was an ideal learning platform for new processes such as Swaziland, Botswana and Angola who are being drawn into the SDI fold. Key issues discussed included sustainability within the scope of diminishing donor funding, challenges of loan repayment (especially around housing), strengthening of the community voice and leadership, shared learning across border towns in different countries, the possibility of a regional hub fund and organizing to prevent evictions.

A key aspect of this hub meeting was that it allowed affiliates to think collectively about challenges which they all face (e.g. diminishing resources) and propose actions at a regional level. This scale of engagement enables strategic cross-pollination of knowledge and planning to address challenges that cut across geographical boundaries. The strength of numbers replicated in a broad-based approach to citywide change can be replicated and achieve added political clout when affiliates strategize collectively to meet challenges.

While Namibia used discussions and field visits to critically address the issue of non-repayment of housing loans (a challenge reflected in most Southern African processes) it was felt that the meeting could also have attempted to develop the Windhoek process’ stalled relationship with government. Being used to the political advantage of the local process is also an important component of regional hub meetings. The full report outlines the key activities, discussions and reflections while providing a list of the agreed upon outputs. Discussions are contextualized within SDI’s overarching goals of strengthening local government and building a strong community process. 

Click here to read the full Southern Africa regional hub meeting report.