In most African cities, more than half of residents live in informal settlements, with insecure tenure, a lack of basic services and infrastructure, and often unsafe housing. It is now widely recognised within policy and academic circles that such households tend to be best served by upgrading programmes that enable them to remain in situ, without disrupting their livelihoods and social networks.

Informal settlement upgrading is a significant poverty reduction mechanism, enabling low-income households to secure essential services at a lower cost, improve their social status, and overcome spatial inequality. It also helps address the needs of vulnerable groups, such as women-headed households and people with disabilities, as well as offering multiple opportunities for income generation.

City elites are increasingly recognising the potential that informal settlement upgrading has for enhancing their popularity. Our research closely analyses the politics underpinning such interventions. With multiple actors involved and a number of contentious issues shaping the challenge of upgrading, the complexities of the process and the overlaps with other urban development domains are a key focus in our work.

Within the informal settlements domain, we are focusing on the following cities: