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Africa: escaping the slums

May 2, 2010

Jean-Christophe Servant in Le Monde Diplomatique:

Africa, the least urbanised continent, still has the highest urban growth rate, nearly 7% per year; 40% of Africans now live in towns, compared with 3% in 1900. By 2030 there will be 760 million Africans, and if current trends continue, more than 70% will live in slums or shanty housing on the outskirts of old colonial foundations (Kinshasa or Nairobi) or ancestral cities (Ibadan or Kano in Nigeria). Half of today’s urban population – most of them under 25 – lives on less than $2 a day.

According to a 2008 UN Habitat report, this urban population has shown remarkable resilience despite living conditions that are frequently very difficult (1). The most dynamic proofs are the new music subcultures that have sprung up over the past 10 years, mostly in low-income communities in the main cities. Ivorian coupé-décalé, South African kwaito, Ghanaian hiplife and Angolan kuduro rework tradition using electronics and a 21st-century street attitude. But the hunger riots of the winter of 2008-9 were a reminder that this captive population, at the mercy of price rises in food and petrol, has felt neglected by central governments. [More]

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