FINANCE and Economic Development minister Patrick Chinamasa has expressed concern at the increasing levels of urban poverty as the country continues to reel under a difficult economic environment.
In a speech read on his behalf at a recent joint Unicef and University of Zimbabwe (UZ) Institute of Environmental Studies-organised conference on strategies to promote resilient urban communities, Chinamasa said about half of urban dwellers were living below the Poverty Datum Line.
“Companies continue to close down, unemployment levels are high, infrastructure is deteriorating and services such as water and waste disposal are struggling to cope with increased urban populations,” he said, adding that a third of the population now lived in urban areas.
Chinamasa said urban poverty differed from rural poverty as economies in cities and towns were cash-based.
“Food, accommodation, building materials, and even water and energy, have to be paid for. The living conditions are often overcrowded and unhygienic and disease outbreaks are common.
Social networks and family ties are usually not as strong as those in rural areas. Economic activities are low, with high unemployment and under-employment,” he said.
Cosmopolitan societies characterising many urban communities made it difficult for equitable sharing of resources among the rich and the poor.
UZ Vice-Chancellor Levi Nyagura noted with concern that worldwide, more than 50% of the population was now living in urban areas with the pace of urbanisation in sub-Saharan Africa twice the global average, making it the highest in the world.
“Urban populations in southern Africa are particularly rising rapidly, with South Africa and Botswana having urban populations of more than 60%,” he said.
“Urban areas have historically been associated with economic development and relatively greater prosperity compared to rural areas, but current poverty, vulnerability and food insecurity have become generalised in urban as well as rural areas.”
It has been noted that the rapid and unplanned urbanisation was responsible for many people living in squalid and overcrowded conditions without sanitary facilities, clean water, solid waste collection services, and proper drainage in areas such as Epworth and Mbare in Harare.