The pursuit of modern cities and affordable housing in Tanzania

November 30, 2022

Most African countries will have over 50% of their population living in urban areas by 2050 according to estimates. Dr Tatu Mtwangi Limbumba’s gave her view on this topic.

Dar es Salaam is the largest city of Tanzania and the largest city in eastern Africa. Photo: Yannick Tylle / Getty Images

Dr Tatu Mtwangi Limbumba, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Human Settlements Studies at Ardhi University, gave a keynote speech on the pursuit of a modern city and affordable housing in Tanzania on 17 November 2022. The dialogue was led by Nelson Ekane, Research Fellow in SEI’s Development and Aid Policy Team and Jonas Ewald, SweDev Steering Committee member and Senior Lecturer at the Department of Social Studies at the Linnaeus University, gave welcome remarks.

The dialogue series on development research is an initiative by SweDev and the Development and Aid Policy Team at SEI Headquarters.

Urbanisation in Africa will grow extensively

By 2050, it is estimated that most African countries will have over 50% of their population living in urban areas. This unprecedented urbanisation has not been accompanied by significant economic performance. As a result, informality and urban poverty are an everyday reality.

High population growth and unsatisfied housing needs force many residents to live in informal, inadequate, and substandard housing with poor water and sanitation infrastructure. Every year, 4.5 million new residents move into informal settlements of Sub-Saharan African cities, which are often located in risky areas exposed to climate impacts.

Informality is evident in other sectors too. More than 80 per cent of employment in sub-Saharan Africa is informal, resulting in the informal economy being the main driver of employment growth in urban Africa.

Shaping African cities: where are we heading?

In her keynote, Dr Tatu Mtwangi Limbumba presented the measures taken in the city of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city with about 5.4 million habitants, to improve the city’s housing situation.

Watch the keynote:

SEI and SweDev dialogues on development research. Video: SweDev.

Towards the end of her keynote, Dr Limbumba shared her reflections with the audience. Her main points were that development aid often contributes enormously to urban development projects, for example the Dar es Salaam Metropolitan Development Project (DMDP). Small-scale grants and aid are significant at the community level. However, governments are reluctant to allow international organisations to work directly with local organisations because of accountability and transparency issues. It is also challenging to scale up successful local programmes and replicate them.

Africa has yet to create its own identity that reflects the reality of urban residents and their daily lives to create infrastructure projects that do not disadvantage the needs and desires of the poor, Dr Limbumba believes. There is a need for integrated context-sensitive solutions concerning urban poverty, climate change and globalisation, based on cooperation and networking between national and international actors as well as local communities and poor populations especially.

She also stressed the importance of reducing the gap between teaching, research and practice. This is what Ardhi University is trying to achieve with help from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), by translating research findings into policy and solutions at the community level.

Keynote summarised by Roksana Rotter. Edited by Ylva Rylander and Alice Tunfjord.