Slum Issues

Uganda’s population has been growing at an annual rate of 3.2% to the current 30 million people while the urban areas have registered an annual rate of 5.1%. At this rate, Uganda will have a population of about 68 millions by 2035, 30% of which will be in the urban areas. Uganda is among the top 10 countries with the highest fertility rates and the third highest rate of natural population increase in the world. A stable macroeconomic environment, sustained high population growth rates and huge dividends from the liberalization policy translated into impressive poverty reduction during the 1990s and the early 2000s, income-poverty headcount fell from 56% in 1992/93 to 34% in 1999/2000 and then rose to 38% in 2002/03 but declined again to 31 % in 2005/06, however the incidence of income poverty in urban areas rose from 9.6% in 2000 to 12.2% in 2006 The poverty levels in the urban areas have remained the same over the two survey years at 14%

The current urban population in Uganda is about 3.23 million people. Applying some of the UN-Habitat slum definition attributes to results and findings of empirical studies, or surveys shows that the number of slum residents is 49% to 64% of the total urban population, which gives a total of 1.58 million people to 2.1 million people as slum residents in Uganda. All estimates fall within this range of slum populations, for instance, using the state of housing as a defining attribute, results from the 2005/06 National Household Survey indicates that tenements (“muzigo” which is the typical housing structure for slum area) accounted for 64.3% of the dwelling units in Kampala. Taking the attribute of living space, the survey further shows that the percentage of overcrowded dwellings in Uganda (i.e. with more than 2 persons per room) is 49% in the urban compared to 56% in the rural. According to Action Aid International, over 1.5 million people out of Kampala's 1.8 million populations live in slums, out of these; 1.2 million do not have access to latrines (for human excreta disposal)18 which is one of the attributes for defining slums. Slums in most urban areas in Uganda are not only for the poor, but for the rich as well, as characterized with unplanned and un-serviced areas. In most urban centers including Kampala, wealth and poverty coexist in close proximity.



Currently, it is estimated that Uganda has approximately 6 million households living in 4.5 million housing units. At national level, there is a backlog of about 1.6 million units of which 211,000 units are in the urban areas. The biggest problem is that the growth of housing has been left to market forces which don't favor massive investment in affordable shelter. As a result, the formal private sector has responded to the needs of the high and middle income earners, leaving the low income earners and the poor to be catered for by the informal sector. This has partly contributed to the spontaneous growth of informal settlements.

According to the Uganda Population and Housing Census (2002), the housing conditions were generally substandard: nationally more than 70% of the dwelling units were built out of temporary building materials that cannot maintain their stability for more than three years, urban areas account for 27% of these while 60% are built of permanent materials. Overall, 48.8% of the dwelling units are overcrowded; more than 56% of the dwelling units were occupied by tenants compared to about 30% which were owner occupiers. Results from the slum profiling study (2008), that informed this situation analysis, it was found that in all the four sampled slums, 39.9% of the houses were permanent, 31.6% were semi permanent while 28.5% were temporary. Owner occupiers accounted for 22% (only 64% of these owned the land on which the house was situated), while rentals were 75% as the form of accessing housing. The cost of rental per unit (size 3feet x 4 feet) varied between Uganda shillings 15,000/= to 30,000/= per month.

Most of the slum houses are predominantly single-room commonly known as “muzigo”, a local description of a tenement. These structures are built in such a way that there is virtually no space between them. Clusters of shelters are just separated by a corridor or verandah. In this type of housing, a single room acts as a bedroom, sitting room, store and so on. Pathetically, four people and in some circumstances more than four may share a single room. Where some houses have some space, which passes for a compound, in the strict sense of the term they are actually more of public paths and mini playgrounds than compounds. The foundation of the dwelling units is poor, leading to many houses assuming slanting postures, without ventilators and characterized by breaking walls and wearing away.


The emergence and mushrooming of informal settlements (slums) in Kampala City has been gradual and sustained over a long period of time and can be attributed to the following:

1. Inadequate Policy Framework: Kampala City Council was until 1994 using the Kampala Development Plan which was initiated in 1972 to guide developments in the housing sector, city centre and local centre, water supply and sewerage, transport, land and future planning. However, the 1994 development plan still remains on the shelf and not much has been achieved in terms of implementation. This has resulted in unplanned settlements in most urban areas, evidenced by the numerous informal settlements.

2. Land Tenure Issues: Kampala has diverse land tenure systems in and these have been found to have considerable influence on slums development. This is because certain types of tenure easily support planned development on land while others work to the detriment of orderly growth. Following the abolition of statutory leases by the 1995 Constitution, Kampala City Council lost its 199 year lease; the land reverted to customary owners. Majority of the slums are now currently on private mailo or on former public land which customary tenants have taken over as owners. Consequently, planning is no longer a compulsory condition that is adhered to by the people and this has resulted into construction of poorly planned housing facilities, with little consideration of the sanitary conditions.

3. Rapid Urbanisation and Urban Population Growth: The population of Kampala City is growing at annual average rate of 4.1%, and over 60% of Kampala’s population lives in slums. The annual growth is mainly attributed to migration rather than natural rate of increase. Consequently, there has been an increase in unplanned settlements even in prohibited areas such as wetlands.

4. Poverty and Low Incomes: the number of the poor and low income earners continues to be steadily on the rise despite impressive economic national performance indicators; sustained high GDP growth rate of 7.8%, low inflation, and stable exchange rates etc. In fact, statistics show that poverty in the suburbs of Kampala district is on the rise. The poor lack supportive social network and infrastructure, safe water, sanitation, roads, secure tenure and high rates of unemployment. Slums are the most conspicuous manifestation of urban poverty in Kampala today, because people can hardly afford decent housing.

Urban Slums areas are rapidly expanding throughout the developing world More efforts have been developed to improve these slums. These slum upgrading initiatives entail improvements of the following- water supply, sanitation, drainage, roads and secure tenure.

Slum upgrading consists of physical, social, economic, organizational and environmental improvements undertaken cooperatively and amongst local citizens, community groups, businesses and local authorities. It’s a programmatic response to existing slum communities, it is the opposite of slum clearance or eradication.

Our programs have emphasized community involvement with special focus on women’s involvement. There is a call for well-conceived and long-term planned slum upgrading initiatives. Fitted to the socio-economic conditions of the slum dwellers Able to bring sustainable structural change in favour of the urban poor in urban development processes.

Putting the community at the centre of our slum upgrading strategies So they become the ACTORS rather than the BENEFICIARIES of our solutions.