SLUMS by their unplanned nature pose a lot of challenges for service delivery. They generally lack proper infrastructure like roads and the houses are not accurately numbered, thereby inhibiting effective delivery of services such as postal services.
However, more creative solutions are beginning to emerge such as the introduction of national address system by the Zambia Information Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) to address the challenge of service delivery in unplanned settlements.
According to the United Nations, the percentage of urban dwellers living in slums decreased from 47 percent to 37 percent in the developing world between 1990 and 2005.
However, due to rising population, and the rise especially in urban populations, the number of slum dwellers is rising. One billion people worldwide live in slums and the figure will likely grow to two billion by 2030.
It has been noted that the rapid urbanisation of the last century caused more slums in the major cities of the world, particularly in developing countries like Zambia.
Hence, planning, resources and strategies are needed to address the problem of slum development.
To address this challenge, ZICTA has injected K20.5 billion in developing a National Addressing and Post Code System which is being piloted in Lusaka. The programme will later be rolled out countrywide.
According to ZICTA, an address signifies a means of identifying a location that allows goods and messages to be delivered.
Addresses are also bases for national and international communication and trade and are key in promoting economic and social development.
The national address system promotes the building of residential areas with proper house numbers and street names which currently are lacking in many residential areas in Zambia.
ZICTA says to the postal operators, the benefit of the National Addressing and Post Code System will include automation of mail sorting, thereby improving mail processing efficiency.
Other benefits will include increased mail volumes and revenue while new mail products such as direct mail marketing will be developed on the local market.
On the other hand, the consumers and the general public in any town will enjoy improved mail services because the delivery of other social services such as emergency health, fire and police services will be made easier once the pilot project is completed in due course.
Other mail generating opportunities include the delivery of utility bills and bank statements and even social services such as the dispatch of emergency vehicles which also rely on clear and accurate address information.
ZICTA further notes that without the address system, not only do businesses find it difficult to reach a large proportion of their potential customers, but Government also faces tremendous challenges in delivering a wide array of social services.
“Government departments and businesses have had to develop delivery systems that can cope with ambiguous addresses, while postal operators, on the other hand, have actually been known to pride themselves on the ability of their staff to deliver mail despite incomplete, incorrect and, at times, unorthodox address information,” ZICTA says.
However, in the absence of the national address system, it seems impossible for the poor to enjoy the benefits of modernity even in the midst of an economic boom.
These slums always face the brunt of natural and man-made disasters, such floods, cholera, fires, and other waterborne-related diseases especially with the onset of rains.
Most of these communities do not have street names, forcing slum dwellers to disappear in the maze normally through narrow alleyways which do not allow emergency vehicles to pass.
It has also been noted that lack of physical addresses or house numbers, as they are commonly known in the planned settlements, are causing untold harm to the economy, especially to sectors like telecommunication, health, water and sanitation.
But with the address system in place, service delivery will be enhanced.
Water and electricity companies will also benefit from accurate physical addresses and will market their services better. Sending invoices and collecting payments from the consumers will also become easy.
As the postal innovations continue to evolve, Zambia Postal Services Corporation (Zampost) and service providers today are worried about reaching their customers because home addresses are either non-existent or inaccurate, making delivery of services a nightmare.
Zampost public relations manager Frank Mumba notes that it is ‘impossible’ to service, for example, unplanned settlements with postal services.
Mumba says, “This scenario has resulted into many people in such areas being denied opportunities to communicate with the outside world because they cannot receive mails because it is difficult to locate their houses in most cases.
He says the major challenge lies in lack of investment to ensure that every house has a home address for easy delivery of letters if the mail delivery has to be effective.
“Once we have the national address system which is being promoted by ZICTA, most of these problems will be resolved,” he says.
Deputy Minister of Local Government and Housing Forrie Tembo has since warned local authorities against illegal allocation of land which has led to the proliferation of slums.
“Local planning authorities are not planning for the poor, instead council staff are busy allocating themselves land illegally but I want to warn them that the axe will soon fall,” he said.
Mr Tembo, who is also Nyimba member of Parliament cited Nyimba as one district which has started opening up new residential areas with proper home addresses which indicate street names.
The national address system being promoted by ZICTA could be a solution in phasing out slums which have characterised many Zambian towns and cities such as Chipata and Lusaka, while Government seeks to halt the proliferation of slums.
Eastern Province Minister Malonzo Sichone says the era of unplanned settlements is gone and has warned Chipata Municipal Council to halt unplanned settlements as the town is poised to be a city.