With a huge number of their population living in slums, the onus is on African leaders to provide leadership on improving their compatriots’ lives, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka said on Thursday.
“Some 200 million Africans are living in slum conditions and the burden is on African leaders to rise to the challenge in addressing this huge problem,” she told a press conference at the Fifth Session of the World Urban Forum staging in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Saying that even the developed world faced slum crisis at one point in their history, Mrs. Tibaijuka said that the problem there was solved with resolute leadership. “With political resolve this problem can be solved,” she said.
The Executive Director said one of the ways in which the problem could be addressed was by empowering urban dwellers already living in slums. “You must recognize that the people in the slums are an asset and not a problem and therefore the governments must get into partnerships with these people,” she said.
Mrs. Tibaijuka said African governments needed to improve on legislation so that slum dwellers could be protected. Giving the example of Kibera slums in Nairobi where UN-HABITAT is based, she said that the landlords were making huge profits at the expense of the renters.
“It takes only nine months for a landlord to get back his investment in Kibera. At least the law should stipulate that if you are putting up a housing unit then you must provide sanitation,” she said.
She challenged the journalists to be in the forefront of making their governments accountable on urbanization issues.