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Getting urban density to work in informal settlements in Africa.


Year published: 2020
Categories: Journal Article
URL Link: https://doi.org/10.1177/0956247820907808

Author / Authors:

  • Justin Visagie
  • Ivan Turok


The drawbacks of crowded informal settlements stand in stark contrast to the theoretical promise that urban density is the key to building more productive, sustainable and resilient cities. African cities cannot be expected to prosper while the majority of residents live in sprawling informal settlements with no prospect of improvement beyond the provision of basic services. There is a strong case for governments to embrace a broader reconstruction agenda in order to harness the potential of density for all-round progress. The core proposition of the paper is that urban population growth would be accommodated more effectively by building upwards and not merely outwards. We consider the circumstances under which this is true and how the state and communities might refashion conditions in informal settlements despite their restricted resources. To expand upwards requires participatory planning, more tenure security, settlement redesign, and in-situ investments in public services and housing.

Keywords: Africa / density / incremental upgrading / informal settlements / urbanization / vertical upgrading

Environment & Urbanization


  • Journal Article