Informal settlements widely known as slums in the outskirts of urban centres are usually characterised by inadequate housing facilities and squalid living conditions. Basic services such as clean water, good hygiene and sanitation and proper drainage are wanting, yet low income earners can only afford housing facilities in such areas.
Slums are growing because the population is increasing thus a high rate of urbanisation, which many governments lack funds to cope with. Uganda, whose population growth rate is about 3.2 per cent per year has an estimated urban growth rate of 5.1 per cent every year, with most people moving to urban centres with the hope of getting employment and trade. Inevitably, this leads to growth of population in the informal settlements, hence the continuously expanding size of slums. It is the reason 60 per cent of Uganda’s urban population leave in slums.
In order to improve living conditions of slum population, the government’s approach of working with donors, civil society, the private sector and various stakeholders is the way to go. Through public private partnerships, the government has achieved quite a bit in upgrading slums in Kampala, Jinja, Mbale and Arua. About 2,000 households have had their housing needs significantly improved.
However, this type of arrangement can be improved. One group of the private sector that government should work with are the real estate developers. The advantage of working with real estate developers is that they can use their own money. All the government needs to do is prepare terms of reference and oversee the contractual performance. The real estate developers will finance, build, manage and maintain such projects. They have the capacity to provide quality service.
The real estate developers are also able to assist government by continuously seeking new ways of providing services. This method of public private partnership arrangement will satisfy the needs of beneficiary communities who have a role in accepting and owning completed projects. They have got to consent that implemented projects meet their needs.
The partnership with government encourages competition among the various private sector actors and in so doing, will bring out the value for money that everybody wants. It will also ensure the public is protected from exploitation.