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The urbanisation of poverty is one of the most dramatic developments on the African continent, yielding contrasting images of affluent residential and business districts and utter misery in sprawling shantytowns or slums. Namibia has one of Africa's highest urban growth rates, taking thousands of women, men and children to towns in search of a better life. The large majority of these end up in poverty-stricken informal settlements in urban areas. The current service delivery approach of the government has left out informal settlements and has instead focused on improving and expanding services in formal areas. The inadequacy of this situation has detrimental effects on the poor. This report examines challenges for pro-poor service delivery in two towns in Northern Namibia - Ondangwa and Outapi - as seen from (i) the two local government institutions finding themselves in between the central government and their own poor populations; and (ii) the informal settlement population with hitherto unfulfilled expectations for basic services in the form of housing, water, electricity and sanitation. The study suggests that main obstacles to improved service delivery to people living in the informal settlements are associated with distrustful relations between local government and the communities, weak ability and incoherent efforts by civil society to act as development agents, and inadequate government driven approaches. In particular, the study argues that the local governments' need for revenues to finance service provision is incompatible with the ability to pay for these services for a majority of the population in informal settlements. This implies that new collective approaches to service delivery in informal settlement areas will have to be developed.

Odd-Helge Fjeldstad

Research Professor, Coordinator: Tax and Public Finance

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