A United Nations report has revealed that an estimated one billion people across the world are living in slum conditions.
The UN's Habitat Programme, released this week, also says that figure could double in 30 years if action is not taken now to begin to reverse the trend.
Although Asia has the highest share of slum dwellers, 78% of urban Africans are said to be living in very poor conditions.
What policies do you think governments and development agencies can put in place to give Africans a decent place to live?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:
It is a very bad idea to ignore Africa. I think that environmental improvements have to be taken as soon as possible. It's too bad that right now developed countries are either too paranoid or selfish to give aid to developing countries. There most certainly is enough money to go around in the world. It's strange that on flat maps Africa is in the centre, but it clearly isn't in the centre of any developed country's mind.
Development in Africa can be attained through education and this can be achieved by making at least the primary education free. In that way, alarmingly high population growth rates will hopefully be prevented, and in addition to that, people who currently reside in the rural areas, especially the parents, will stay as opposed to them running to the cities in particular the slums, in the name of giving their children a future.
Development outside the city is the key to avoiding slums in the first place. People go to the city because of the jobs and services.
Jobs and education are critical in improving the lives of the poor. The government should provide skill training and use these newly trained workforce to build infrastructure such as highways, parks, schools and so forth. The women should also be trained and given jobs as the men. The government should also make it a priority to make sure each child gets an education.
I don't have a "magic" answer. But I do have a suggestion. How did other poor nations climb out of its mess and improve itself? Southeast Asia? Old Eastern Europe? Even the mighty US came from this point in its history. So it "can be done", But who will lead the way. The UN? HA, don't make me laugh. The US, sorry no national interest. People of Africa must rise up and take the leadership from the dictators and socialists that gave them this life. And maybe in 100 years from now, things will be better.
Craig Traylor, Texas, USA
Each urban area is different, but in some areas perhaps micro loans to start up businesses might work. These have a high rate of repayment and have helped create businesses where they have been tried.
Dale Lanan, USA
Install real democracy, and not just 'winner-takes-all' elections that justify many of the despots in power today. And protect the rights and freedoms of all. As a priority, fund education - free, secular and compulsory for all young people. The world owes Africa, the cradle of humanity, the right to regain dignity, prosperity and peace. But just as importantly, Africans owe it to themselves.
Africa needs governments that should enforce policies without the fear of losing votes from the electorate. Many people in the rural areas abandon farming not because of its apparent low productivity but because they believe that it is easy to make money in the urban areas. Governments must put a stop to this trend by ensuring that only those with "jobs" are allowed access to the urban centres. I don't think it's true to say that people move into the urban centres in order to have "a better" living condition. In most rural areas the conditions are much better than those in the slums.
If African governments undertake to promote small-scale industries, distribution of land to poor families and provision of cultivation tools, then this will help to increase incomes of rural families and hence improve their live condition. An invitation to international investors to exploit the continent's wealth based on partnership will be the ultimate solution to eradicate poverty from the continent. Arab states invited foreign companies to dig the oil, now they own those companies. Africans can do the same also. But above all, peace and stability should prevail first on the continent.
Mayik K. Koriom, USA
The only way to improve Africa's cities is to discourage urban migration by providing incentives to the rural population for continuing their agricultural activities. People move the cities looking for work and a better way of life (which is almost never found). If they are happy at home, they won't migrate to urban centres and this will reduce pressure on the government to provide for a growing population and then more resources could be used to help existing urbanites.
Rocky Singh, Canada
Invest in schools. Education opens people's mind and increase their conscious regarding hygiene and life expectations.
I think there should be a campaign for birth control. Free contraceptives.
What I think would really help but would be extremely difficult to implement is some kind of global minimum wage. After all we are globalising, why shouldn't people be paid fairly for their work regardless of where they were born? Another benefit would be that large corporations would be less willing to take advantage of vulnerable populations willing to work for next to nothing.
It is easy for some Westerners here to read a few articles and then spew forth the magic recipe "reduce corruption", without really having an idea of the true source of the problem and how to do it?
Maybe they should start by holding their own leaders more accountable for their actions in supporting corrupt African leaders.
The main solution to Africa's poverty problems can only come from education. An educated population will be more engaged and organised in any nation rebuilding efforts.
All Western countries can cancel now, immediately, the foreign debt of African countries, and they can help any policy for defence of the environment in the continent. Two measures to give Africans a decent place of live.
People desperate to escape poverty in rural areas migrate to urban ones in search of a better life. Corruption fuels poverty and incapacitates development in most countries. In many African states, the national resources are diverted into private accounts of most leaders and their henchmen to the pitiable disadvantage of their peasant population. Unless the United Nations and other international bodies tackle the issue of corruption and stealing of national resources especially by African leaders, people in the continent will still remain desperately poor and even more slums will naturally spring up.
African governments should invest in urban infrastructures such as road networks, dependable energy sources, water etc to attract and keep businesses. These, in turn, will provide training and employment opportunities to the urban dwellers.
How can Africa's cities be improved?
Education. We have the roots, we need the umbrellas.
Firozali A. Mulla,
The UN has released a pure "fog". Nothing could be done, and nothing will be done as Africa as it is right now is good for US and Europe: cheap labour, cheap raw material. The UN is not any more a credible organization. The rest of the world must unite and try to find an alternative way.
Rural-urban migration aggravates the situation as people search for employment and a better life. Policies which aim at rural development programmes and income-generating schemes perhaps mitigate some of the problems we see in the urban settings of the continent.
Y Yitbarek, Ethiopia/South Africa
Stability, basic needs looked after and Jobs. In three steps it can be done. But the implication of that has never been pulled off in Africa. It is the classic case of the haves and have nots. If you can stabilise a country (this being political stability, and economic stability) so that people can just have a clear run for a while, then they can help themselves as well as getting help from outside. But hand in hand with poverty goes, crime and violence. Slums are hotbeds for countless criminals, and launch pads for other illegal activities. But the most important thing is jobs. If you can earn money, buy food, get your kids educated, you will not turn to other means of getting by. What we have, which is a lot of poor impoverished people, with no jobs, little education, and seeking for a way to survive. Hence the runaway crime we are at war with. Having looked and travelled in Europe and America, the evidence is clear. People want to work, and help themselves, but if you can't, what are your alternatives?
Tjaart Kruger, South Africa
Just coming back from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia less than a month ago, one thing I noticed from a western point of view was the lack of infrastructure. Money is to be had and Addis is won of the more modern cities in Africa but accountability for the funds must be held on both sides, the nations receiving and the UN. My father in-law works with Aids relief organization. One thing they are noticing is that there are multiple organizations doing the same thing. The organizations are now working together to stream line there efforts. As for the governments. Democracy doesn't work if half the people are hungry and the issues are not openly discussed.
The ongoing push factors that that have forced rural country dwellers to inhabit the cities are the main caused of urban overpopulation. I think one of the main incentives of government in Africa should be to focus more on rural development by strengthening those communities through better agricultural techniques, better education for children, and better public and health facilities in these area. Without looking at the problem from the outside in, urban growth will continue to rise.
Neema Mwaungulu, Malawi
Distribute whatever small wealth there is. Most of us are loyal to our families and communities. If opportunities (work, education etc.) can be brought to us, we will stay put.
Solomon , Eritrean/U.S.
In my opinion the slums will only continue to grow in African cities. The municipal governments for these cities will be unable to provide the infrastructure needed for basic needs like clean water and waste removal. Corruption effectively keeps western help and money from making any impact. The slums will continue to exist.
I worked for 4 years in Uganda, Burundi, and Ivory Coast with Habitat for Humanity and we were trying to tackle this problem directly. Personally I preferred to develop incentives for Africans to stay in the rural areas by providing affordable housing there. The problem in big cities is that there is no more land available to build any kind of housing (let alone free land to give to NGOs). The village chiefs were more cooperative (in providing land for housing) than city mayors because there was no red tape in the village.
Greg dit Coulibali,
USA/ formerly 9 years in Africa
Reduce corruption. Economic aid to developing countries should be subject to transparent scrutiny by donor agencies. Too long have corrupt presidents and government officials pocketed aid money. It's a travesty and the good people of Africa deserve to have their infrastructures improved, not their politicians' pockets lined.