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Last Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006, 12:53 GMT
Is there a roof over your head?
Luanda slums
Are you struggling to find a place to live?

In the next 30 years the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, Habitat, estimates that two billion people or 31.6% of the global urban population will be living in slums unless substantial changes are made.

They describe a slum household as "a group of individuals living under the same roof that lack one or more of the following conditions: access to safe water, access to sanitation, secure tenure, durability of housing, and sufficient living area".

Do you live, or have you ever lived, in such conditions? What stops people from living elsewhere? Are rents too high? Are landlords making unreasonable demands? Why aren't people buying their own places?

Thank you for your views. This debate is now closed.

Your comments:


I have been away from Nigeria for more that 2 decades. Recently, I visited the new capital of Abuja and was surprised to see how modern the city was. But when I went to see some of my relatives in shanty towns, I became so depressed that I could hardly eat at my hotel. I cannot understand how the government can build this major city without making provision to accommodate the "supporting cast" who are more that 60% of the population of Abuja. I would sincerely recommend that members of the National Assembly find some time to visit these Shanty Towns in order to assess their course of action.
Jay Omoighe, Laurel, USA/Nigeria

I always shiver when the owners say they are paying me a visit
Joe Mlenga, Malawi
For over 20 years I lived in a run-down slum in Blantyre, Malawi due to poverty. It was a miserable life. During the rainy season water seeped through the ramshackle and rusty roof to soil and wet everything in our little house. But then my parents could not afford a better place. Now I live in a semi-urban area of Blantyre, but in a rented place. I always shiver when the owners say they are paying me a visit - usually it is to announce a hike in the rent! They are visiting this coming weekend! I wish I had enough money to build something on my piece of land, which has been idle for the past five years!!
Jow Mlenga, Blantyre, Malawi

In response to Sardinha: of course that is what people do - there are no other options. Only recently was moving out of city an option: nobody can live in a minefield, there are no money to buy a decent housing and there were no decent houses for sale. Let the government build decent housing and offer it cheaply to the population. Health, productivity and life-expectancy will go up! I have myself lived in Luanda for several years, been around it, know people there - rich and poor - and know the country's situation well.
Bjørn Hallstein, Sandvika, Norway

In Nigeria, it is somewhat safer living in the poor slums, despite the health risks, than living in a simple and comfortable house. Why? Because when violence erupts you become the target. No one bothers the slum dwellers. Civil strife is an indispensable part of a plan to put up a house in Nigeria.
Ashi, Brazil/Nigeria

It would be good if everybody could have his or her own good house. In Ghana estate agents try to put up low but decent accommodation. It would surprise you to know that one person could buy as many or nine or more of these houses and resell it.
Akpene, Accra, Ghana

There is no way the conditions of the people living in slums will improve. The reason is that low cost housing units intended for them are always taken over by the big shacks for the girl friends. In Liberia, there are six housing estates that were constructed for low income earners and slum dwellers, but they are occupied by well established people. I lived in a slum community for ten years.
E. Julu Swen, Monrovia, Liberia

They are made homeless because of greed
Ann, UK
Lucas Kaxingadoes built his home and lived in Bairro Cambamba for 30 years. He had worked hard and the policemen destroyed his home in front of his eyes. The same for other residents. They are made homeless because of greed on the part of the government and middle classes who walk over the poor people. The love of money is the cause of evil, evil spreads like cancer damaging the country. I admire Lucus and the inhabitants of Bairro Cambamba, they are the salt of the earth.
Ann Walker, Banbury, U.K.

I come from Cameroon, precisely from the north-west province, from a village called Tabenken. I have been there and the kind of houses I find people living in was such a sorry site. You see a house with kitchen and bedroom in one. The number of people you find coming out of that house, you begin to wonder if it is a meeting house or they are all members of one family in their rightful home. Most times those houses do not have any toilets, which is one of the most important things in a house. Talk less of drinking water.
Sylvia Shambo, Bamenda, Cameroon

There's no hope to build my own house
Fabian Miye, Cameroon
Africa Governments are so corrupt and they don't care about their citizens' housing conditions. I have been managing two rooms with my wife and three children for over ten years, no hope to build my own house.
Fabian Miye, Bamenda, Cameroon

I pay 200,000 naira for a roof over my head. Behind my bedroom window, an open gutter carries sewage from the septic tank into the street behind. The landlord says it's very cost effective.
Aguiyi, Kaduna, Nigeria

I wonder where the next generation will live?
Catherine, Tanzania
Dar-es-Salaam city is so small and all areas that were once open in the 90's are now occupied. I sometimes wonder were we " the next generation" will live!!!
Catherine, Dar, Tanzania

Yes, I have lived in the slums. Most people who live in slums have no choice due to low incomes. Housing in Dar-es-Salaam is very expensive for the common person and besides most landlords ask for a year's rent. As for buying a place, how can one buy one's own place if you cannot afford to pay several month's rent?
Gladys Fahari, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

I have seen a lot of slums in Africa and Asia, but none has left a vivid picture in my mind like the one close to Cape Town International Airport. I believe it is the responsibility of governments to see that their citizens are under standard decent roofs. Where is the government assistance for the homeless?
Bah Abdulai, Conakry, Guinea

I am from Gabon and in the process of trying to buy land to build a house. There are too many difficulties that I am losing hope. The government is not doing anything to encourage people who want to build houses. I have money, but nowhere to build that house everyone dreams of because I decided not to corrupt someone to get a land.
Placide Matsiaba, Port - Gentil, Gabon

Nairobi is ranked among the top five most expensive cities on the continent
Valerian Atieno, Kenya
I live in a one-room house called a bed-sitter, for now this is enough for me till I get a stable job. Without a proper salary of about Ksh15,000 and above every month, not many can afford to live in a self-contained house within Nairobi. In a recent research Nairobi was ranked among the top five most expensive cities in the continent ,hence housing, land and daily needs are very expensive.
Valerian Atieno, Nairobi, Kenya

African governments should look into the idea of a secondary mortgage market. The lack of a secondary market has seen many borrowers shy away from seeking loans to buy or build their own homes, for fear of losing the properties in case of a default. While lenders tend to focus more on middle-income housing, secondary markets could focus on the lower income area.
Mutebi Mubiru, Albany NY, USA

You need to see the kind of houses people do live in. Very sad. Rents are so high, many properties are in terrible condition, landlords are not able to renovate houses and building materials are so expensive. If half our salaries go for our houses, how do you expect our lives to be?
Arnaud Emmanuel Ntirenganya, Bamenda, Rwanda/Cameroon

Love and peace are everywhere no matter the environment
Takuro, Japan
Living in Tokyo, at my parents' house, we lead a small and busy life. Occasionally I think some complex feeling of complaints or envies. However, as I read this article, I'm lucky in terms of living in a proper house and can eat every day. I learned that Love and Peace are everywhere, no matter the environment.
Takuro, Saitama, Japan

Rents are very high. Our rich men prefer building a nice home abroad instead of in their home town, because of insecurity.
Plato Owulezi, Nigeria

When those who live in southern California complain about a housing shortage, this really puts our privileges in perspective.
James Giller, San Diego, California USA

The reality of slums in Africa is a big smear on the conscience of political leaders. While the measure of poverty continues to increase in most parts of Africa, and governments refuse to decentralize social services, the only realistic option for piecing together a life is to live in the slums of cities.
Rev. Bosco, Leuven, Belgium

House rent in this town is perpetually increasing. I really look forward to the day I will get my own house, but there is no easy source of financing. I would love to get a place of my own, and pay over time, say five years, because I know that my rent within this period will pay for the house. However, long documentation, and high interest rates mean this will remain a wish.
Kingsley Ezenekwe, Lagos

How can one man own over ten houses and the other none...in the same country? Take Nigeria for instance, it has become more and more difficult for the poor to rent even a room in any city. The landlords most often require a minimum of two years rent up front. It's about time the government created subsidised housing projects for low income families.
Gold, Nigerian in NYC, USA

I have lived in a slum and it is really pathetic
Tabe Besong, Cameroon
I have lived in a slum and I wish to say here that it is really pathetic. People live in such condition because rents are too high elsewhere. Buying their own places is out of the question. Such people live by the grace of God.
Tabe Besong, Douala, Cameroon

Sometimes living in a slum has nothing to do with poverty or joblessness. It has more to do with personal standards. In some typical slums here in Lagos, you find people with relatively high income frolicking in the squalor of the environment. In other words, living in a slum may well be the personal choice of some individuals.
Maduabuchi Agbo, Lagos, Nigeria

Although I still reside with my parents but I wonder what the future holds for me in terms of lodging when I finally decide to go on my on. At first getting a comfortable accommodation around Bamenda town wasn't a big problem. But now with the ever increasing rural-urban migration, to get a decent accommodation is a big problem.
Israel Ambe Ayongwa, Bamenda, Cameroon

The government of South Africa has been promising house to the shack dwellers since 1994, but to date nothing has happened, and yet the poor still vote for the same government. Housing will never come to the poor of South Africa. On the flip side house prices have almost tripled in South Africa, moving proper accommodation out of the reach of most South Africans
Dean, Cape Town, South Africa

Most major African cities lack affordable housing and town planning. It is utterly unacceptable to evict people out of their homes without an alternative accommodation for poor people. Developing countries should offer proper and affordable houses to poor people if the standard of living in these countries are ever going to improve. This is how developed countries got to where the are today.
Emmanuel Ngwa, Cameroonian/USA

My brothers and sisters in Europe are practically squatters
Lebo Monyatsi, South Africa
I've been to a number of African countries as well as some European countries. I've come across many Africans in some of those so-called developed countries, yet they often live in flats/apartments that are far worse than the slums in African countries. Whilst slums dwellers in African may have no proper sanitation or access to clean water, my brothers and sisters in Europe are practically squatters in those so-called apartments, living in absolute squalor: It is not unusual to find 8 to 10 people living in a 2 bedroom flat, the building often in a dilapidated state and usually situated in some shoddy, dodgy area.
Lebo Monyatsi, Cape Town, South Africa

It is a struggle in Zimbabwe to find a place to live if you are poor. There is a massive housing backlog and the government's operation Murambatsviana worsened an already catastrophic situation. The government in Zimbabwe like most of the governments in Africa has not invested in rural development hence the migration from rural to urban areas.
Farai Zichawo, Reading, UK

In economic terms, the basic need of any human being is threefold - Food, Shelter, and Clothing. However, inflation is a major factor that affects the cost of living in most cities around the world. Governments in Africa and around the world should concentrate their efforts on controlling economic migration to the cities by developing the rural areas and providing affordable accommodation for people already living in the cities.
Arthur Ngoka, Wimbledon, England

Why should Luanda continue to be a giant slum?
Sardinha, Angola
The destructions of houses in Cambabamba region here in Luanda was justified. In Angola people build shacks and wait for free new houses from the government. Why should Luanda continue to be a giant slum?
Sardinha, Luanda, Angola

Some landlords in Nigeria (which is the only African country I have lived in) epitomise the selfishness that has blighted Africa. Apparently lacking any traces of humanity, they are prepared to throw whole families onto the streets just because they are offered a higher rent by someone else. Such families are then forced to live in crammed conditions with family or friends.
Olumide, London, UK

My hometown Uromi, Edo state Nigeria has a population of over 150,000. The neighbouring Oria farm settlement houses over 10,000 farmers both migrant Ibos and the Uromi people. All the farmers in this settlement have no acceptable roof over their heads, 10 to 15 persons sleep in a thatch hut, no clean water, no sanitation facilities, no electric power supply and no roads. These conditions are absurd, unacceptable, weird and bizarre.
Anthony Okosun, Baltimore, USA

Thinking of the harsh reality of making ends meets in Africa often brings to mind the issue of getting a decent roof over one's head. With salaries barely anything to write home about; the working class can barely pay high rents or at worse afford exorbitant rent advance from unreasonable landlords. You work nine to five and end up burning the candle at both ends because you cannot afford being ejected or be taken advantage of by landlords.
Abubakar Ibrahim, Antwerp, Belgium

The good houses are pretty expensive
Prossy Nannyombi, Uganda
I live in a town where unfortunately people expect no slums but as you go to the outskirts you get the real meaning of urban life. Many people leave their homes in rural areas to go town centres to look for the scarce jobs. The good houses are pretty expensive - if you are earning a dollar a day, you have no choice but to find cheap accommodation in slum areas. With the increasing population, the solution is for people to go and invest their little income in villages where there is plenty of land at a cheaper cost.
Prossy Nannyombi, Entebbe, Uganda





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