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


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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