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Friday 26 April 2019
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Urban poverty troubles Namibians

Poverty has always been a growing concern among many countries, especially in Africa where many people are found to be poor because of population growth. Namibia has shown an annual population growth rate of 2.2 percent. In 1990 the country is said to have gone from a total population of 1.9 million to 2.3 million in 2010 and of recent 2.5 million in 2018.
It is evident that the increase in population comes with an increase in poverty and those who are most likely to be affected are women, children and the unemployed youth. These are likely to be the most vulnerable and find it difficult to fend for themselves.
According to the World Bank, Namibia is classified as a high middle income country. However its poverty levels when it comes to inequalities of wealth distribution are among the highest.
The National Planning Commission in a report, published that about 28.7 percent of the country’s population are considered poor while 15 percent are extremely poor. The report has also noted that poverty is highest in rural areas totalling up to 37 percent than the 15 percent in urban areas.
However compared to rural poverty, urban poverty is a topic that is usually over looked in many cases because much focus is given to the rural areas in this regard.
It is no secret that in recent year’s urbanization has become a common practise among Namibians. With the idea of leaving rural areas in search of better living standards because it is believed to be the best alternative for better life opportunities. Those who leave their rural homes in search of it are most likely to always be met with the harsh reality of their dreams amounting to nothing but hardships in the city.
In most cases this is due to the fact that measures to accommodate people properly are rarely ever put in place and with the number of unemployed people specifically the youth that can be found in urban areas in search of jobs, it is just a matter of time before urban poverty vastly sneaks up on them.
Figures shown by Namibian Statistics Agency in a report titled ‘The Namibia Labour Force Survey 2016 Report’ highlighted that there was a total of 854 567 youth aged 15 to 34 in Namibia, of which, 320 737 were employed, and 246 262 were unemployed.
Out of the highlighted unemployed figures, the report revealed that a total of 129 281 were from urban areas and 116 981 were from rural areas.
It also further showed that there was a 4.5 percent increase in the overall youth unemployment rate estimated to be 43.4 percent, compared to the youth unemployment rate of 2014 which was reported to have been 39.0 percent.
These figures are that of the year 2016 as recent figures are yet to be published.
Individual dreams in urban areas are shun down by various factors such the lack of job creation which creates a lack of funds to cater to needs such as food, transportation and accommodation expenses which are with no doubt pricey in Namibia.
Just like Manuel Mingeli’s dream of getting a better life in Windhoek ended before it took off, this has become a reality for many Namibians who find it hard to make ends meet in the city.
The days when city lights sold and delivered a better life when compared to the dusty streets of the village are becoming few in number. Namibia’s teetering economy has seen many flourishing industries bowing to the pressure coupled by more retrenchments than recruits. With a limited number of jobs and a growing influx of people moving to urban areas, there is little to improve lives.
The dream was to get a job in Windhoek and to be able to support his family back home at Epupa. Two years ago, Angolan-born Mingeli, decided to seek for better employment opportunities in the much-talked about ‘City of Many Faces.’
To his surprise, the best he could get was to work for a month at a construction site, two months at a Chinese shop in the Northern Industry’s China Town and now as cattle herder in the Mix Settlement. “I never thought I would be herding cattle in Windhoek. This is what I used to do in the village and it has become my reality in Windhoek today. Things are just too tight in Windhoek and at the moment I have no choice because if I do not work, I will not have anything to eat,” said Mingeli.
Research also shows that urban poverty is caused by droughts, floods, illiteracy, unequal distribution of income, improper training, financial crisis and inadequate social infrastructure.
Speaking to a Town planning consultant, Ritta Khiba, highlighted that it is no secret urban poverty is a major challenge for policy makers at any given time. She noted that policy makers will have to come up with strategies that will alleviate poverty in urban areas.
“This is not a task that one sector can handle but we need an integration and alignment of policies, sectors as well as government institutions to address the challenges facing the urban poor.
Access to opportunities by the urban poor can only happen once equity is brought into the equation of inequality and we need policies that are inclusive. The urban poor are at risk because they lack the income, the assets and the social connections that protect them from the impact of unexpected stumbling blocks to make a living” she said.
With very little being done to accommodate the urban poor even though governments has made housing a national development priority, Khiba states that current policies and initiatives to address the housing problem are not coping well with the huge demand of people stemming from the informal areas. “That is why there are so many shacks in areas such as Ombili and Hakahana, this is for sure not the best alternative but at this moment, this is perpetuated by the huge gap between the wealth and extreme poverty, the affordability levels of the settlers as a result of a high unemployment rate, the inflexible policies and rules and regulations to allow for softer ways in dealing with informal settlements.
Even after the democratization of Namibia in 1990, informal settlements still exists.  There is need to review policies again that allows the informal settlement dwellers access to funds that allows them equal opportunities to be part of the local economy as well” Khiba explained.
Khiba further stressed the importance of government needing to rethink the manner in which development policies and initiatives are implemented to address social issues and eradicate poverty.
“This is indicative that it is not a phenomenon that urban town planning can address in isolation. Sound planning principles not integrated and aligned with development policies and initiatives is a chase after the wind” she concluded.




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