Informal settlements: domain report

Research output: Working paper


This working paper is a synthesis of findings from seven city domain studies which
employed the African Cities Research Consortium’s (ACRC’s) conceptual framework to
provide new insights into the challenges faced by informal settlement residents in
African cities, and proposed ways in which those challenges might be addressed. The
paper employs political and systems analyses to understand the political economy of
informal settlements and systems failings. It argues that specific challenges can best
be understood through a “developmental domain” analysis; that is, by examining how
the experts, residents and political actors who have coalesced around a set of
challenges come to frame and address them, invoking specific policies, practices and
ideas. Informal settlements are treated both as loci of power and, at the same time, as
highly influenced by power dynamics at the city and international levels. The
development opportunities and outcomes associated with specific informal settlements
are influenced by how power is configured. They are also influenced by residents’
understanding of the specific conditions in their settlements and their ability to
effectively mobilise for collective action. Essential to note is the paper’s mapping of the
shifting policy context within informal settlements across the seven examined cities;
this is attributed to factors like residents’ accumulation of practical experience, which
they use to advocate for targeted policy interventions. Ultimately, the paper highlights
the pressing need for examining contextual factors which can explain the varying
success rates of policy interventions across different cities. Moreover, it is essential to
understand the extent to which interventions at the settlement level translate to broader
systemic changes within the city and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages84
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • African cities, informality, informal settlements, service delivery, Slum Dwellers International, upgrading


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