Sharing experiences on building City Funds


By Walter Fieuw (on behalf of CORC)

African cities are characterised by informality, as the rapid urbanisation from rural areas are transforming cities. Within informal settlements, residents are investing incrementally in their households, despite the lack of tenure security in many cases. A large gap exists between household investment and government spending on infrastructure and social support. Government expenditure is often times locked into medium term budgets which might or might not be adjusted on an annual basis, and procurement of goods and services follow time consuming processes. There are also various interests competing for government spending, and low income groups’ influence over the direction of spending is often times weak. Slum dwellers often times do not have access to loans from financial institutions, even considering the popular held belief of an emerging African middle class, which is still highly speculative. Hence new instruments are needed to build on and support the incremental upgrading of informal settlements and support for livelihoods and small income generating loans.

Shack / Slum Dwellers International supports the notion of creating local “city funds” which acts as a mechanism for building city-wide agglomerations and networks of the poor, creates partnerships between organisations of the poor and city governments, and gives voice and power to the urban poor. Following a meeting of country Federations on various experiences in building city funds in January 2014, SDI reported that,

Flexible citywide urban poor funds need to change existing systems of exclusionary finance.  Local government is a change vector that cannot be dismissed and their inclusion in these funds has the potential to create citywide political impact. Organized communities, who can clearly articulate their demands and the rationale for their financial decisions, can negotiate this space ensuring that funds remain relevant to the poor.

Between 1 and 3 September 2014, the Slum Dwellers Federation of Uganda (NSDFU) and support organisation Actogether hosted a meeting on city funds bringing together three African cities: Kampala (Uganda), Lusaka (Zambia) and Cape Town (South Africa). These cities have in common grant funding agreements with British donor Comic Relief, part of the “People Living in Urban Slums Programme”, which is also supported by the DFiD AidMatch initiative. Freetown (Sierra Leone) is forth city in the Comic Relief initiative, but were unable to travel due to the Ebola epidemic.

Comic Relief’s funding strategy of bringing together organisations and communities in city-wide partnerships have been lauded by participating grantees. In this way, according to Triple Line Consulting, who has been supporting Comic Relief in developing responsive city-level Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) frameworks, the impact of the grants could possible achieve: a) a deeper understanding of the context than it might normally have b) a complementary portfolio of grants across the city c) improved collaboration between the grantees within a city d) a city level monitoring and evaluation framework and e) identified areas of learning across the 4 cities that can be shared with the broader sector.


Katana Goretti, a Federation leader, demonstrates the construction phases of the eco-san toilet being constructed in Kampala

Reporting on country experiences to date:

Kampala, Uganda

The joint work to which NSDFU and Actogether are a part of is called KASTI, Kampala Slum Transformation Initiative. The Ugandan Federation will be actively engaging local government counterparts in five districts of Kampala, with dedicated settlement forums which feed into municipal forums, and ultimately city forums, to which the guests were exposed to on 3 September (more on this later). Such forums have proved tremendously useful in the past, as this blog article indicates. The Federation’s primary data collection of “settlement profiles”, which are captured on Geographic Information Systems (GIS), will be used to collaborative design a slum upgrading strategy. Comparisons with existing data from Kampala Capital City Authority and the National Water Department has revealed many informal settlements that were not on government’s databases. This is where the city fund becomes important, and seed finances both capital projects, especially innovations in sanitation, and livelihoods projects.


On 3 September, NSDFU and Actogether hosted the first City Forum with Kampala Capital City Authority, which was lauded as a success

Lusaka, Zambia

In Lusaka there are 30 slums known as Improvement Areas, home to about 70% of the population. In 1996 the Government’s Housing Code allows for participatory approaches to slum upgrading, and the Housing Statutory Bill gives the minister power to declare and upgrade slums. However, there is a policy disjuncture in the sense that the Urban and Regional Planning Act does not have the right policies and instruments to recognise and upgrade slums. Tiyende Pamodzi, which means “working together” in local vanacular Nyanja, is the working title of the Comic Relief funded initiative in Lusaka, of which the Zambian Homeless People’s Federation and support organisation People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia are a part of. According to PPHPZ, Tiyende Pamodzi’s

main aim of the project is to gather accurate and reliable information of all the slums in Lusaka in order to inform participatory slum upgrading strategies which will see the regularization of slums and improved service delivery. Lusaka City Council (LCC) as the responsible authority for slum upgrading in the city cannot go it alone and as such will bank on the strength of the federation to mobilize their fellow slum dwellers to enumerate and map their settlements and use this as a basis for planning for the upgrading.

The Federation and PPHPZ has a strong working partnership with the University of Zambia, and in the programme will develop GIS courses to improve spatial mapping and profiling data as a basis. The city fund has not yet been defined, and the Federation and PPHPZ with the University as partner is still looking for the appropriate partners to serve on the board and advisory committee.

Cape Town, South Africa

In Cape Town, CORC secured a donor funding arrangement with Comic Relief, with community partners ISN and FEDUP. At the heart of the proposal is the setting up of a city fund, which is currently still being developed and constituted. The initiative is called Khayalethu, and joins the Alliance with Isandla Institute and Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU). At the Kampala meeting, community leaders Thozama, Tamara and Nozuko reflected on the current work in Khayelitsha, where Khayalethu is focused. In the first year, communities have profiled 47 settlements, enumerated 7 settlements, and developed community capacity to plan projects. However, challenges have been experienced in getting project approvals for community-identified settlement upgrading projects from the City of Cape Town. Livelihoods is also a primary focus, and experiences were shared around issuing short term loans for livelihoods development.

The South African delegation to Uganda (left to right): Thozama, Tamara, Walter Fieuw (CORC), Nozuko, Michael Krause (VPUU - Comic Relief partner)

The South African delegation to Uganda (left to right): Thozama Nomnga, Tamara Hela (both FEDUP/ISN), Walter Fieuw (CORC), Nozuko Fulani (FEDUP/ISN), Michael Krause (VPUU – Comic Relief partner)

The common experiences, opportunities and challenges experienced by the three cities in the first year of the Comic Relief funded initiative is instructive in developing locally responsive and appropriate city funds, which can enable and support communities in united networks to design, manage and upgrade their settlements. Moreover, building financial partnerships between city government, organisations of the urban poor and other stakeholders can lead demonstrating that people-centred urban planning and development, based on flexible finance, is vital to the creation of inclusive, pro-poor cities.

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