18 May 2017

Namibia: Urban Inclusivity Hot Topic At Swakop

THE Swakopmund municipality is hosting a three-day workshop for local authorities and urban development specialists on planning to achieve urban inclusivity.

The aim of the workshop is to strengthen the capacity of local governments to deal with the challenges of urbanisation.

According to Swakopmund's deputy mayor, Maria Elago, the workshop's objectives are in line with President Hage Geingob's 'Namibian house' and Harambee visions, which see all Namibians working together to ensure all are included in the nation's prosperity.

According to the United Nations Habitat III agenda, urban inclusivity is about empowering urban communities to develop their towns' sustainably, and for all to have access to urban resources without discrimination.

For urban areas to provide opportunities and better living spaces for all, inclusivity speaks to the provision of affordable housing, water and sanitation; the guarantee of equal rights and participation of all, including the most marginalised communities; and creating jobs and giving urban residents the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of economic growth.

Elago said Swakopmund will be celebrating 125 years as a town in August, and the town has established itself as a key local authority in Namibia in terms of corporate governance and infrastructural development.

"Swakopmund is strategically located for tourism and job prospects, but not all are fortunate enough to secure employment. As a result, Swakopmund is experiencing large migrations from rural to urban areas, which lead to housing and sanitation challenges, and fuelling crime and poverty," Elago stated.

"Hopefully through this workshop, we will gain more knowledge and experience in developing strategies to improve the livelihoods of everyone in the community."

Recent United Nations reports predict that cities and towns will be home to up to 70% of the world population by 2050. Cities are often focal points for activities that are critical to the development of an entire country, such as trade and commerce, governance and transport.

Cities currently account for approximately 80% of GDP generated worldwide, according to the UN.

According to Frieda Andreas of the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development, there are 57 local authorities in Namibia which are growing primarily due to population migration, as people seek jobs and wealth in urban centres.

Windhoek, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay are especially under pressure, as many people do not find jobs, and end up in informal settlements without services. This results in poverty and crime.

"We are hoping to translate these plans into action," said Andreas.

According to her, planning was key to improving the living standards of people.

"We are dictating living standards through planning, and so should bear in mind that we are tasked with the living standards of the people we are planning for [sic]. We should not restrict certain segments of society because of the way we plan," she said.

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