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Slum Dogs and a trillion dollar industry

By Amelia Greaves - posted Monday, 29 July 2013

Today, over sixty percent – or 200 million people – of the Sub-Saharan population in Africa live in slums. Overcrowding, disease and a lack of toilets and health care services are a daily reality.

Nairobi in Kenya is home to one of the world's largest urban slums called Kibera. This slum alone is home to approximately 1.2 million people, with more than 60 percent of its population living on less than $1 per day.

But despite huge financial investments – including from Australian foreign aid – there has been little progress in slum development in recent years.


In the 2011/2012 Australian foreign aid budget eight percent was allocated directly to Africa, totalling $384 million.

Africa has seen a steady increase in funding from Australia over the past decade, with a focus on health, sanitation and reaching the millennium development goals. One of which is to 'achieve, by 2020, a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.'

While this target has been met, well before the deadline of 2020, the particular working of the goal denies the fact that while some people have escaped slum conditions, Sub Saharan slum populations are growing at an exponential rate.

Zimbabwean economist, Dambisa Moyo, argues that 'limitless development assistance to African governments has fostered dependency, encouraged corruption and ultimately perpetuated poor governance and poverty'

Her views are reciprocated by other development academics such as William Easterly who argues that Western aid has not only been ineffectual, but has actually perpetuated poverty. Poor implementation and management of aid projects has exacerbated the spread of corruption and stunted economic growth.

These factors have caused a vicious self perpetuating poverty cycle known as the dependency syndrome, where developing countries become reliant on international aid and Western nations depict themselves as the saviours of Africa.


The role of aid in promoting development in development needs an entire rethink.

For example, alternative approaches to development include a focus on participatory approaches. Participants' direct involvement in the project acknowledges their own priorities for development, thus escaping the current 'the west knows best' mantra to development and allows the local populations to be the creators of change in their own lives.

But with slums presenting a complex intersection of different development challenges, it is also important any approach recognises the inherent dynamism and multifaceted approach required.

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About the Author

Amelia Greaves is a student at the Monash University's Faculty of Arts and was a Global Voices youth delegate to the Nairobi Study Tour on Sustainable Development.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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