Somali Magazine – Somalia, a country located in the Horn of Africa, is experiencing one of the highest urbanization rates in the region. As of 2019, 45.55% of Somalia’s total population lived in urban areas and cities. By 2021, this figure had risen to approximately 47.32%. In Somaliland, the rate of urbanization is even faster, standing at an estimated 53% for the year 2016.
The rapid urbanization presents both challenges and opportunities. On one hand, the increased rates of displacement and returns seeking services into urban centers have contributed to an unprecedented scale of needs and challenges in recent years, overstretching the existing infrastructure and leading to inadequate housing and congestion. On the other hand, urbanization can be a powerful tool for the country’s development if managed well by investing in the abundant human resource.
Recognizing this, UN-Habitat has been active in the Somalia urban sector for more than 30 years. The organization’s interventions have evolved from responding to immediate local needs to systematic attempts to address sustainable urban development through integrated human settlement programs. These programs aim to strengthen the humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding nexus in the areas of livelihoods, youth engagement, governance, and sustainable urban development.
The impact of these interventions along with good leadership has been significant. More than 200,000 households have improved access to urban basic services through the creation of more than 3,000 long-term jobs and provision of skills training to more than 1,000 people. Additionally, 5,500 houses were constructed, providing shelter to a total of 36,000 beneficiaries and ensuring better standards of living.
However, the task is far from complete. With an estimated 4 million more people expected to settle in urban areas by 2025, and 81.5% of the Somali population being below the age of 35, the need for inclusive and sustainable urban development is more critical than ever.
As Somalia continues on its path of urbanization, the focus is on building inclusive and sustainable cities that can serve as anchors of development. This involves not only improving infrastructure and services but also empowering the youth, promoting good governance, and ensuring that development is sustainable and benefits all residents. The journey is challenging, but with continued efforts and international support, the vision of inclusive and sustainable cities in Somalia can become a reality.
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