Success in Luanda

Winner — Drivers of Change Civil Society Award: Luanda Urban Poverty Programme

Operating in a country broken by decades of civil war, the Luanda Urban Poverty Programme (Lupp) is a consortium of NGOs and civil society bodies that has adopted a community-based approach to fighting poverty.

Over the years of armed conflict, many Angolans fled to the safety of the capital city. Today about a third of all citizens live in and around Luanda and half of the city’s residents live in poverty.

Lupp, which began 10 years ago, focuses its efforts on Luanda’s four poorest municipalities, where most of the city’s informal settlements exist. It started with a pilot project to provide water and sanitation to the urban poor. Community water associations buy water in bulk from the city’s water company, then sell it to the communities they serve.

‘It’s a just model because the community sets the water tariffs and uses the small profit from selling water to invest in other services in the neighbourhood,” says Allan Cain, director of human settlements organisation Development Workshop, an NGO involved in Lupp.

Any member of the community is free to join the water associations. In a participatory community forum, in which all members have a vote, the leaders of the association decide how to spend the money.

Projects that are typically chosen include sanitation, latrine building and the provision of early childhood development services. Cain says special interest groups, such as women’s groups, are often active in the forums.

‘Women have strong voices on these committees. Working women need good-quality childcare and a safe place where they can leave their children, where their children can get basic literacy,” he says.

Lupp was the catalyst behind Angola’s first micro-finance institution, KixiCredito, which last year made loans worth $15-million to more than 13 000 micro-businesses, most of which are run by women.

‘It’s mainly retail, small service businesses like carpentry and car repairs. By and large most of the businesses are selling food and general commodities in the community,” says Cain.

The programme has progressed from a set of pilot projects to being an advocacy programme with a broad base. It now involves more than 50 independent institutions and networks, including NGOs, local service providers, savings associations and cooperatives.

It has also formed partnerships with the government at municipal, regional and national level. ‘Lupp’s policy is to engage rather than criticise. Looking for champions in the government system itself is very much its policy,” says Cain.

Many of its programmes have been adopted by the government and rolled out in other parts of Angola. About 400 000 people benefit directly from Lupp’s efforts and a further 2.6-million benefit indirectly.

Cain believes there is ‘a tremendous opportunity” to influence government policy through consultation and participation. ‘Angola is still in a pre-democratic phase of municipal development,” he says. ‘We don’t have municipal elections, we don’t have city councils and through Lupp’s concept of municipal forums we’re able to engage the government directly on issues like participatory budgeting.”

The Drivers of Change judges praised Lupp’s commitment to policy change and service delivery to overcome poverty in one of Southern Africa’s fastest-growing economies.

‘Through its fresh approach, it is achieving systemic and lasting change that others have not been able to achieve. This is a remarkable initiative that demonstrates the real change that comes with real partnerships,” the judges said.

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