I have just got back from a meeting of the Cities Alliance Assembly in Jinja in southern Uganda. Urbanisation is growing in Africa and South Asia at a rate much faster than occurred in Europe or North America. It creates a real opportunity for development and economic growth but is also spreading slums on a massive scale. It is also taking place without the growth of industrialisation that created jobs for the new urban populations elsewhere.
The growing urban populations are largely dependant on informal settlements that often lack water, sanitation and electricity and also on informal work. Young people are increasingly educated and informed about the situation globally but unemployed and frustrated. It is wise for us to remember that our urbanisation led to slums squalor, disease, and corruption and it took a long struggle for the vote and for legal trade unionism to bring benefits to the poor. So often we pontificate to developing countries and forget our own history.
Cities Alliance has been working in a large number of secondary cities in Uganda – including Jinja – to bring together slum dwellers, local government and central government to increase capacity and agree together what needs to be done to ensure that urbanisation brings benefits to the people. There has been progress. You can see it in Jinja. But a lot remains to be done and this is a considerable challenge.