By HENRY OWINO (Senior Correspondent)

African Heads of States and Governments have been challenged to concentrate more on building infrastructure in the countryside to minimize rural to urban movements leading to informal settlements.

Many youth migrate from rural to urban areas in search of employment opportunities, better learning institutions and look for greener pastures. However, when they miss out, many turn to criminal activities and putting up in decrepit housing units.

The trend has immensely contributed to increase of number of slums and high rate of crime in urban residential areas of Africa. There is need for value addition of African resources at the production level to stop the migration.

According to Prof Khama Rogo, public health expert, the menace could be resolved if Africa governments could adhere to the plea to create enabling environment for investors. He elude that investors get attracted by good roads, premises and peaceful environment for business activities.

“We need to start looking on how we budget resources. A lot of money should be allocated to rural roads, institutions and many such like to minimize migration being experienced,” Prof Rogo said.

“Creating more opportunities in rural areas would decrease crime and expansion of informal settlements in the cities. Investors would move to rural areas if environment permits.” Prof Rogo added.

Prof Rogo noted that informal settlements have increased more than they were before African nations’ independence. It shows how leaders prioritize resources without looking at the bigger picture ahead.

“The issue of slums and unemployment is here with us and until we create a comfort level, it shall be with us. So, instead of sweeping the issues under the carpet, let’s talk over them and find solutions” Prof Rogo revealed.

He advised authorities to be accountable, create a level of comfort by prioritizing budget on health and housing issues. “We need visionary people who can engage in health sector and infrastructure developments agenda with zeal and fix the problems.” He advised.

“Government can reduce budget allocation in other areas and increase in health sector which is the backbone of life. Until that is done, sexual, health and reproductive rights (SRHR) would continue to stagnate despite efforts made,” Prof Rogo cautioned.

Prof Rogo was speaking on the sidelines of the Ninth Africa Conference on Sexual, Reproduction, Health and Rights (SRHR) 2020 held in Nairobi, Kenya.

Utilizing Local Resources

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda from Zimbabwe, Global Human Rights Superstar & African Union Goodwill Ambassador on Ending Child Marriage urged authorities to be accountable to their resources instead of donors.

She encouraged African governments to prioritize sexual health resources especially to girls and women in slums. Adding, that engaging young people in slums and giving them opportunities for jobs is enough to build their capacity.

“Reduce military expenditure and put it on infrastructures which would bring more services to the people in rural areas,” said Gumbonzvanda. Girls and women need empowerment to be self-reliant whenever they are to contribute to nation building.” She added.

Gumbonzvanda urged authorities to transform communities so that Africa people can live in dignity. “We need to unleash the potential of African young people and shift the narrative of dependency.” Gumbonzvanda emphasized.

Susan Lyimo, Member of Parliament (MP), Dar es Salaam Region in Tanzania from her experience urged the Governments to invest in rural areas in order to stop rural to urban migration. She disclosed that a country with majority of youth unemployed is always a time bomb in waiting.

The Tanzania Law Maker who is also the Chairperson of Women Caucus and chairs Parliamentary Committee in Sports and Education said Africa governments have no alternative but to work with youth. She emphasized the need to make land available and accessible to youth for agricultural developments that could generate income and also offer soft loans to youth for startup businesses.  

“Many Africa countries have neglected the youth who are the majority. They are unemployed yet with skills which make them bitter and the recourse is always crime,” Hon Lyimo noted.

“In Tanzania for example, several youth are unemployed but as the Legislator in charge of youth, there are  plans put to counter the high rate of unemployment,” Tanzania MP said.

Hon Lyimo emphasized the need for good governance and policies among Africa governments so that local resources are equally distributed and utilized as intended. She regretted 60% of Africa budget is depended on external donors and again money set aside for projects mismanaged hence never implemented fully.

“Africa countries highly depend on donor funding and projects initiated with the funds are never finished. When completed, they are usually substandard structures risking lives yet lots of money spent,” Hon Lyimo cautioned.

Hon Lyimo disclosed that 70% of Africa depends on agriculture therefore, more investment should go to land as primary source of production activity among youth. The energy among young people could be channeled in agricultural production to reduce high crime rates.

Way Forward

Hon Marie-Rose Nguini Effa, MP Cameroon stated that Africa and beyond, can stay informed about issues concerning Sexual, Reproduction Health and Rights (SRHR) in the sub-Saharan African region.

Hon Marie-Rose stated: “everything is urgent for us in Africa and we must address many issues regarding family planning, maternal health, traditional harmful practices including female genital mutilation (FGM/C) and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM).”

Hon Marie-Rose hinted that Africa aspires to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. She however, all the aspirations would be only possible with proper infrastructure in place and good political will from authorities.

Prof Rogo also challenged Africa nations that SRHR is part of Abuja Declaration of 15% which many countries have never bothered to implement. He said it has been overtaken by time due to population growth and emerging of new diseases hence much more should be allocated in national budgets.