A lot has been said about Kamza, especially in Tirana. But as often happens in the media and our public debate, Kamza is more spoken about in terms of gossip, urban legends, anecdotes, supported above all by prejudice and fantasy. Very rarely are the discussions based on facts.
Even if I wanted I wouldn’t be able to change this image, but I can try to offer a realist perspective on the city of Kamza.
A bit of history
There are very few historical sources, if not hardly any at all, about this area. In the sources that we have, Kamza is mentioned for the first time around the years 1430–31. It is possible to say with some certainty that this area doesn’t seem to have played an important role in our history, from the ancient times to modernity.
Before the 1990s, Kamza was a sparsely populated area mainly used for agriculture. Maybe this feature is also related to the opening of the first university in Albania in 1952, first called the Agricultural Institute of Kamza and later the Agricultural University of Kamza.
Albania’s great developments and fast transformation in recent years have influenced and affected Kamza more than many other areas in the country. In many ways, this city offers the best reflection of the Albanian transition, its best and its worst aspects.
According to the 2011 census, the population of Kamza is around 105,000 inhabitants, while the civil registry shows a higher number of citizens.
The large number of people, mainly coming from other areas of the country, and the weak economy of the area has led to a high unemployment rate. According to official data, the unemployment in Kamza is around 50%, while in the rest of the country it is around 30%. Unemployment has affected mainly young people and women, among whom the unemployment rate is even higher.
Unemployment is the main cause of poverty. Around 3,700 families or 22,000 citizens receive welfare. This is a clear indication of the high level of poverty and the need for politicians to improve employment in the area.
Of those employed, the largest part works in the service sector, about 57%, 37.5% in industry, and 5.3% in agriculture, which shows the urban economic structure of Kamza.
Just like in the rest of the country, economic development in Kamza is characterized by a high level of informality. There are around 1,600 businesses registered in the city, most of which are small family businesses, focused mainly on services and trading.
Recent years have seen a slight increase in industrial enterprises, such as construction firms, light industry, and food production.
The high number of internal immigrants that settled in Kamza has also led to a change in land usage and an increase of its value. There have been large investments into housing, which apart from its influence on development has had negative effects, including the large number of illegal and informal buildings. Nevertheless, in recent years there has been an attempt to legalize buildings and obstruct illegal construction works through administrative measures.
Last year, the largest part of Kamza’s budget, around 55%, went into investments into public infrastructure, roads, water supply, sewerage, school buildings, etc. Because of the political conflict between the central government and the local one, the municipal budget is mainly supported by its own local income.
According to recent official data, only 40% of the inhabitants of Kamza have a direct connection with the water supply and sewerage network. Solving this problem would require institutional collaboration between the Municipality of Kamza and the central government, which seems difficult considering the constant political strife between the two main parties.
As regards electricity, there is, with few exceptions, a 24-hour service and around 99% of the consumers have contracts and electricity meters. As many backpayments still need to be paid off, the fines weigh considerably on family budgets.
People often speak with some irony about the street names of Kamza, which are nothing but the names of foreign cities, big international companies, or famous people, but no one tells you that for example 140 km of the total road network of 220 km has been asphalted, or 63.3%, which is quite high in comparison with the other cities in the country. Public transport is also functioning on a regular basis, but the integration of the bus lines with those of the capital and absence of mutual recognition of subscriptions remains a problem that brings double costs for those who study or work in Tirana.
In Kamza there are around 48 educational institutions, including 20 kindergartens, 22 elementary schools, and 6 high schools. There is also a professional high school, among the most modern in the country, which aims to educate future professionals of which there is currently such a scarcity.
There are also considerable problems with the environment, like in other cities, especially the overpopulated ones. The main task remains waste management, recycling, and the renovation of green spaces. A number of local projects undertaken by the municipality and non-governmental organizations for environmental education, sensibilization campaigns for the protection of the environment, and collaboration with the community to manage waste are to be valued.
In general, larger cities in Europe are accompanied by smaller ones, well-developed, with a growing population and coveted for living, studying, or working. Because these areas offer all the amenities of the large cities without the noise, taxes, and high prices but with community life.
This may also be the historical fate of Kamza: to offer everything Tirana has, but with a few additional perks.
So the inhabitants of Kamza have no reason to feel second-rate. On the contrary, they have to feel proud that thanks to their work Kamza is changing from a chaotic village into a modern city.