Are We Progressing Socially? Thoughts on Housing and Sanitation

Gerson Ingashipola Shikukumwa

Adequate housing and sanitation are fundamental pillars in gauging a nation’s commitment to the well-being of its citizens.

Namibia, like many developing countries, faces significant challenges in ensuring access to decent housing and sanitation facilities for all its citizens, particularly in urban areas.

The country has a housing deficit of approximately 300 000 units.

The Harambee Prosperity Plan II (2021-2025) outlines ambitious goals under Pillar 3: Social Progression.

Among others, it seeks to deliver urban land, housing, and sanitation to address these pressing issues.

The situation in Namibia’s urban areas is not merely a matter of infrastructure deficiency, but a reflection of systemic failures.

Urban centres countrywide are grappling with informal settlements, characterised by overcrowding, inadequate services and poor living conditions.

The lack of access to formal housing exacerbates social disparities, leaving vulnerable populations at the mercy of substandard living environments that compromise their health, safety and dignity.


HPP II sets out noble objectives aimed at alleviating poverty through improved access to urban land, housing and sanitation.

However, the gap between policy intentions and on-the-ground realities raises serious concerns about the government’s ability to translate objectives into tangible outcomes for those most in need.

While policy documents may talk of achievements and targets met, the lived experience of marginalised communities tells a different story.

The mismatch between supply and demand exacerbates housing shortages, pushing low-income households and vulnerable populations towards informal settlements where basic services are scarce.

Inadequate urban planning further compounds existing challenges, leading to haphazard development patterns that fail to address the diverse needs of residents.

Skyrocketing property prices, coupled with limited access to formal financing mechanisms, lock out aspiring homeowners from entering the property market.

It is therefore no surprise that approximately 979 762 Namibians live in shacks countrywide, representing 67% of the urban population in informal settlements (Petersen, 2024).

Sanitation is a critical aspect of the housing crisis.

Access to clean water and sanitation facilities is essential for safeguarding public health and promoting dignified living standards.

Inadequate sanitation infrastructure exposes communities to health risks stemming from poor hygiene practices and environmental contamination. The absence of sustainable solutions perpetuates cycles of disease outbreaks and undermines efforts towards achieving inclusive development.


In dissecting the impact of the Social Progression Pillar within HPP II, it is evident that government interventions must move towards substantive reforms that empower marginalised communities.

Academic research underscores the pivotal role of government policies in shaping housing outcomes for vulnerable populations.

Scholars emphasise the need for comprehensive strategies that address structural barriers to affordable housing while promoting inclusive urban development models that prioritise community participation and social equity.

Drawing inspiration from successful international models such as participatory slum upgrading programmes or community-led housing cooperatives can offer valuable insights into innovative approaches tailored to the Namibian context.

For example, Namibia can draw lessons from Botswana.

As we reflect on our journey towards social progress, it is imperative to hold our leaders accountable to their commitment to inclusive development.

The yardstick for measuring social progress should not be confined to policy pronouncements, but be grounded in tangible improvements in people’s lives.

Only through genuine collaboration between government agencies, civil society organisations, academia and affected communities can we pave a path towards sustainable change that leaves no one behind.


In conclusion, the Social Progression Pillar under the HPP II grapples with formidable challenges in addressing Namibia’s housing and sanitation crisis.

While policy frameworks provide a roadmap for action, their effectiveness hinges on political willpower, resource allocation, and meaningful engagement with affected communities.

The true test of our commitment to social progress lies in our ability to transform rhetoric into reality.

  • * Gerson Ingashipola Shikukumwa is pursuing a master’s of arts in political science at the University of the Free State. He holds a bachelor of public management (Honours) from Unam. He is interested in international development, particularly contemporary urban and rural development issues. The opinions expressed here are entirely his own.

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