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Monday, March 4, 2024

More than a billion people live in informal settlements around the world: research reveals

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More than one billion people live in informal settlements around the world, according to the African Cities Research Consortium (ACRC), a research project funded by the UK Government’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

The statistics, according to the researchers, highlight the challenges of urban development in some of Africa’s largest cities.


The director of the project, Professor at the Institute of Global Development at the University of Manchester, Diana Mitlin, revealed this on Wednesday in Lagos during the ACRC stakeholders meeting.

Ms Mitlin noted that in sub-Saharan African cities and towns, 56 per cent of urban residents live in informal settlements, and just under 45 per cent (about 500 million sub-Saharan Africans) live in urban areas.

He said the number of Africans living in urban areas is expected to reach 666 million by 2030.


“That’s an amazing statistic. A large number of people do not have access to water, sanitation, waste management and do not have adequate housing,” she stated.

He noted that the challenges posed by rapidly growing populations, inadequate infrastructure and services, weak governance and limited economic development exacerbated by climate change are critical challenges in African cities.

The presentation is part of the ACRC project in partnership with international partners to explore and address the complexity around urban development in 12 of Africa’s largest cities, including Lagos in southwestern Nigeria and Maiduguri, capital of Borno state in the northeast.

Other cities include Accra, Ghana; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Freetown, Sierra Leone; Harare, Zimbabwe; Kampala, Uganda; Lilongwe, Malawi; Mogadishu, Somalia; and Nairobi, Kenya.


State progress

In his welcome address, the Director of the Center for Housing and Sustainable Development (CHSD), University of Lagos (UNILAG), Timothy Nubi, said Lagos is fortunate to be among the ACRC project cities.

Nubi said studies like this will help change the narrative, even as he urged policymakers to make evidence-based decisions for the development of the State.

Stakeholder Cross Section

“We appreciate working together with the ACRC project that has been ongoing for the past three years and Lagos is fortunate to be selected for the next phase,” he said.

He said the CHSD was established in 2014 with funding from the African Development Bank (AfDB), adding that the center designed the Lagos Resilience Policy.

Commissioner speaks

Lagos State Housing Commissioner, Moruf Akinderu, in his reaction, said stakeholders in Lagos are working together to improve the city. It is important to build an urban development where no one is left behind.

He acknowledged that in the past the Nigerian government did not invest much in research into evidence-based strategies to address urbanization problems, unlike other developed countries.

He said Lagos is working on comprehensive education from secondary school on how to reduce waste, adding that the state is committed to addressing gaps and solving problems as they arise.

Emerging findings

UNILAG Urban Management and Governance Professor Taibat Lawanson presented emerging findings from the Lagos ACRC, focusing on urban systems: transport, energy, finance and ICT, and education.

Some of the main conclusions include the conflicting roles of the State as regulator and service provider; supply and demand deficits in urban infrastructure; migration as an intersectional issue: consequences of displacement; out-of-school children and the effects of climate change on flooding and food security.

Regarding education, he explained that the Lagos State Development Plan (LSDP) 2052 emphasizes four dimensions, and education falls in the human-centric category, as goal nine aims to provide affordable and World class for all residents.

He added that the LSDP on healthcare outlines four strategic dimensions, including healthcare as Goal 10 in the human-centred dimension.

“The vision is to provide affordable and world-class healthcare to all residents and position Lagos as one of the leading medical tourism destinations in Africa,” he noted.

Adopting the research findings, Ms Mitlin said the consortium has been fortunate to tap into networks that already existed in the African contest.

“We have brought together networks of academics who already have a close relationship with the government,” he said.

About ACRC

According to Mitlin, the ACRC is a work program funded by the FCDO, which recognizes the need to address the challenges of urban development in Africa particularly.

“They launched a research program and we were selected to manage the program and we are trying to leverage existing reform methods to understand what will advance the frontiers of reform in African cities,” he said.

“The program started in 2018, before the pandemic, and was extended from six to seven years because we were delayed due to the pandemic.”

He added that the consortium has completed the study in 12 cities, emphasizing the need for academics to collaborate with the government and communities that are desperate for new urban options and reforms.

“I would also say that we have had the opportunity to bring in specialists in urban policy and economics, and there is a recognition that more support needs to be provided to provide better jobs and encourage business,” he said.


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