Is access to adequate human settlements still a 'wicked' problem for Africa? revisiting South Africa's policy and strategy landscape

11 Oct 2019

This paper unpacks the multi-faceted angles to the human settlements challenges affecting the Africa in general and South Africa in particular. Despite the massive milestones that have been made towards realising the universal right to adequate human settlements globally, many African countries are far from making this right a reality for all their populace. The paper argues that migration in its various forms, the question of land and ownership where a skewed ownership promotes inequalities contribute immensely to lack of access to adequate housing by many in the country. Inequalities accompanied by slow economic growth, increase in population growth which entails ever increasing demand for housing and accompanying services makes it extremely difficult for government to achieve human settlements goals. An evaluation of the government's efforts to address human settlements through such strategies as building low-cost houses for the poor have had mixed successes. The criticism levelled at such approaches lies more on how they were rolled out more than on the correctness of the decision. While there are a number of positives from the strategies that have been employed so far the sustainability and efficacy of such are brought into scrutiny. The paper endeavors to explore possible ways by which the many-headed challenge of Human settlements could be tackled for better results. Using the lenses of participatory development, the paper reviews literature to draw some insights on what could possibly explain the setbacks that have been experienced by South Africa despite some strides that have been made to date. The paper acknowledges the massive success in giving the poor a roof over their heads; however, it laments the overemphasis on the quantifiable outcomes at the expense of social and quality considerations.