Kampala. Growing slums, overwhelmed city health centres and schools, uncoordinated housing facilities, heavy traffic jam, and unemployment are a reality of Kampala’s swelling population that is influenced by the rural-urban migration.
The bee-hive of activities coupled with an impressive commercial boom gives Kampala a mention, at least by every household.
And being the capital city, the influx of new comers daily is in hundreds as they search for better employment opportunities to make ends meet.
They spread across the expansive boundaries of the city while some have stretched as far as the metropolitan areas of Wakiso, Mpigi and Mukono.
But do these people meet their expectations after arriving in Kampala? Unfortunately, their hopes are quashed by the unfriendly city environment, among which is the consistent unemployment as those graduating from Kampala’s universities, rarely go back to the villages.
Those running away from the rural areas mingle on the streets with the learned but unemployed youth, hence competing for unskilled jobs such as street vending.
As the urban poor struggle with the reality of life, the rich continue to gain immense wealth. The rich are a threat for the urban poor because they are targeting the areas where they are assured of cheap accommodation to put up big establishments.
With the city’s population soaring up by the day, the demand for social services such as health, education, safe water and roads shoots through the roof yet the resource envelope is small.
According to the 2014 National Population and Housing Census, Kampala’s day time population was at four million while its resident population was at 1.5 million people. By 2050, the population of Kampala is projected to hit 12 million, according to a recent World Bank Report.
Such predictions, according to experts, paint a pale picture on the future of the city and its metropolis if government does not embark on strategic planning.
Ms Jennifer Musisi, the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) executive director, says Kampala’s sprawling population is a national issue.
“One of the biggest challenges we have is the immigrants who are flooding the city from all corners but this is not a KCCA matter but a national one. As KCCA, we are working on mitigating the effect but not the cause because it is national,” Ms Musisi says.
She adds that KCCA will go by what the National Planning Authority (NPA) has in plan for Kampala and the metropolis.
For instance, KCCA runs eight health facilities in Kampala. KCCA also runs 79 public primary schools. However, the funding for both sectors, Ms Musisi says, is meagre, hence they have to operate on a shoe-string budget.
Ms Musisi acknowledges that city schools, universities, health centres and other public facilities are overwhelmed yet such people cannot be chased away.
Additionally, plans by KCCA to improve the city’s transport system by introducing buses have not yielded any fruit because of the funding gaps.
The city transport is managed by private investors but they do not have the capacity to cater for the current numbers of city dwellers.
Government this financial year allocated Shs461b to KCCA to run the affairs of Kampala. However, only Shs3 billion was allocated to the physical planning directorate, which is the engine of the city’s development. City leaders argue that this allocation is too small to cater for Kampala’s physical planning.
Mr Samuel Mabala, the acting director of urban housing at the ministry of Lands, attributes the surging population and Kampala’s current challenges to poor planning. For instance, Mr Mabala says colonialists had earmarked some places such as Nakasero, Kololo, Nakawa and Bugolobi for specific classes such as Whites, Indians and highly-skilled Africans.
But the surrounding suburbs such as Kisenyi, Nateete, Kasubi, Namungoona, Kawempe and Rubaga among others, were left unplanned and, therefore, led to the construction of illegal structures.
“City authorities that came in after colonialists could not manage to plan for the rapid urban population,” he said.
He notes that the cost of unplanned urbanisation leads to increased urban unemployment, a desperate population and crime.
Mr Mabala says to mitigate such challenges, urbanisation must be recognised as a powerful transformational force that can trigger development if properly managed.
Dr Fred Muhumuza, an economist at Makerere University, says the economy has to be revised to ensure that it caters for the demands of an ever-growing population not only in urban cities but also in rural areas to reduce urban migration.
“We need to deploy government resources to trigger production and improve the economy for better services. We also need to revamp corporative groups because they cater for many people instead of only catering for few,” he said.