Participatory Approaches to Slum Upgrading and Poverty Reduction in African Cities

  • Laura MacPherson


Many of Africa’s cities have been neglected for decades in an environment of rapid urbanisation. In particular, the inadequate housing conditions within slum areas increasingly do not match the needs of slum dwellers and have contributed to increased levels of poverty. Not only are improvements required to address the ‘backlog of urban neglect’ experienced by the majority of cities, but they are also required to meet the needs of the millions of newcomers expected to arrive over the next few decades. As such, there has been an increasing realisation that urgent solutions are required, especially through participatory programmes. This paper attempts to make a strong argument for these programmes by comparing the effects on poverty of a recent participatory project in Kenya, the BIB:PUP project, with one that has been non-participatory, the KENSUP programme. However, the evidence suggests that participatory programmes currently do not contribute meaningfully to poverty reduction in African cities as they are still implemented on too small a scale. They also face numerous challenges and limitations. Nonetheless, this paper argues that participatory programmes do result in improvements for communities and that there is a large potential for poverty reduction through scaling these up to city level.


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