Poverty, living conditions, and infrastructure access : a comparison of slums in Dakar, Johannesburg, and Nairobi

The World Bank, Policy Research Working Paper Series 01/2010;
Source: RePEc

ABSTRACT In this paper the authors compare indicators of development, infrastructure, and living conditions in the slums of Dakar, Nairobi, and Johannesburg using data from 2004 World Bank surveys. Contrary to the notion that most African cities face similar slum problems, find that slums in the three cities differ dramatically from each other on nearly every indicator examined. Particularly striking is the weak correlation of measures of income and human capital with infrastructure access and quality of living conditions. For example, residents of Dakar’s slums have low levels of education and high levels of poverty but fairly decent living conditions. By contrast, most of Nairobi’s slum residents have jobs and comparatively high levels of education, but living conditions are but extremely bad . And in Johannesburg, education and unemployment levels are high, but living conditions are not as bad as in Nairobi. These findings suggest that reduction in income poverty and improvements in human development do not automatically translate into improved infrastructure access or living conditions. Since not all slum residents are poor, living conditions also vary within slums depending on poverty status. Compared to their non-poor neighbors, the poorest residents of Nairobi or Dakar are less likely to use water (although connection rates are similar) or have access to basic infrastructure (such as electricity or a mobile phone). Neighborhood location is also a powerful explanatory variable for electricity and water connections, even after controlling for household characteristics and poverty. Finally, tenants are less likely than homeowners to have water and electricity connections.

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    ABSTRACT: Our understanding of settlement conditions and the nature of poverty across urban slums is limited. Using three simple frameworks, we create a meso-level portrait of poverty and living conditions in the slums of Dakar, Senegal and Nairobi, Kenya. While slum residents in both cities share the challenge of monetary poverty, their experience diverges significantly relative to employment levels, education, and living conditions. Nairobi’s relatively well-educated and employed residents suffer from poorer living conditions—as measured by access to infrastructure and urban services, housing quality and crime—than residents of Dakar, who report much lower levels of educational attainment and paid employment. The research findings challenge conventional development theory—particularly notions that education and jobs will translate into lower poverty and improved living conditions. More comparative research is needed to better understand what drives settlement conditions and to create more effective strategies to improve the lives of all urban residents.
    Habitat International 07/2014; 43:98–107. DOI:10.1016/j.habitatint.2014.01.001 · 1.58 Impact Factor

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