Yaounde, 14 December 2017 “I call on you to explore knowledge, experiences and practices that further enhance our cooperation in slum upgrading,” said Honourable Jean Claude Mbwentchou, the Minister of Housing and Urban Development in Cameroon, during the 2nd International Conference on Canadian, Chinese and African Sustainable Urbanization that took place from 8-14 December 2017 in Cameroon. Government and non-governmental representatives from across the world highlighted the benefits as well as importance of cooperation amongst regions in the global north and south to end poverty through slum upgrading by the year 2030, if the Global Goals are to be achieved. Participants from developing and developed countries shared approaches being utilised to mobilise, finance, execute and institutionalise slum upgrading initiatives.

An estimated one billion people are currently living in developed and developing countries, and require urgent action inorder for then to access basic urban services that include water, sanitation and shelter. It is against this background that the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme (PSUP) facilitated training, round table and panel discussions at the conference. The exchange of tools, policy initiatives and development actions that are people centred offered slum upgrading solutions that can be replicated. Participating countries located in Africa, Pacific and Caribbean regions are benefitting from south-south and triangular cooperation through which financial, institutional and technical capacities in slum upgrading are being strengthened.

Innovations from the global north and south

There is an increasing need for national and local governments to provide an enabling environment for non-state actors to collaborate in slum upgrading, and the use of Community Managed Funds is proving successful in achieving tangible change. PSUP experiences shared from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi, Niger and Senegal demonstrated how 10 percent of the overall programme funds were utilised by communities to transform the living conditions of 520,700 people. The fund’s implementation process made particular focus on youth and women and therefore also contributed to a reduction in equality.

‘Community Managed Funds enabled youth living in the neighbourhoods of Nkolbikok, Afan Mabé and Sissia neighbourhoods to provide sanitation facilities in slums and by doing that, met the basic and local economic needs,” reported Dr. Emmanuel Ngnikam, an Engineer working with Environment Research Action. “At the Ministerial level, we harnessed the on-going interventions through policies and the institutionalisation of community led governance frameworks. We are working with Resident Committees to upgrade slums,” added Mr Sipliant Takougang, from the Cameroon Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.

The importance of academic and research institutions especially with regard to innovations cannot also be ignored. “Students of engineering and planning departments are developing environment friendly waste recycling and management plants as a way of providing affordable services to the poor. Community groups where we are researching and testing our work are popularising the initiative. We need city and national authorities to support the replication process,” highlighted Marie Timo from University of Cape town.

Examples of how mayors from China partner with community groups and utilise local authority resources to provide water, sanitation, education and waste management services in deprived neighbourhoods provided participants with practical examples from Asia. “Private-public sector partnerships are facilitating basic service provision, where access is a problem. Mayors therefore, have a strategic role to play,” underscored Gianni, Benjamin from Carleton University. Cherie Howard from United States of America highlighted how private sector road paving innovations are providing lasting and affordable eco-friendly solutions in poor neighbourhoods and as a result, are easing mobility and enhancing inter-regional collaboration. “As private sector, we welcome this level of cooperation that will catalyse the development and formation of partnerships amongst developing and developed countries.

People centred cooperation

Cooperation with organised groups is crucial, as part of inclusive approaches that have proven successful. Towards this end, a network of mayors and professionals is being rolled out by the Participatory Slum Upgrading Programme as a way of strengthening cooperation, sparking innovation and fast-tracking the implementation of transformative initiatives that contribute to the improvement of living standards and conditions of slum dwellers.

In conclusion, cooperation will feature global, regional, national and local initiatives that are inclusive and ensure that no one is left behind, particularly women, youth and disadvantaged groups.