Poverty and Urban Management

This reflection is posed urgently and with high priority when it comes to cities located in emerging and developing countries; in particular with respect to small and medium-sized cities (Bolay and Kern 2016). Overall, these are the areas that suffer the highest rates of population growth; it is their authorities who suffer most from the lack of financial and human resources to be able to anticipate and address these issues. And these are the inhabitants, at local and regional levels, who suffer the consequences in terms of human and material precariousness, contamination of natural resources, informality of economic activities, a malfunction in the process of decision-making and governance. And it is this urbanization that will in the coming decades be put under increasing pressure, knowing that 95% of urban growth will primarily impact emerging and developing countries, and first of all in intermediate cities. Depending on the regions of the world, the process of a rapid urbanization is directly linked with a growth of poverty and more socio-economic disparities. For Davis (2006), slums are the prominent feature of contemporary urbanization. He focuses on its negative aspects such as violence, insecurity, informality and poverty, which, in his opinion, are the result of the economic power relations of a globalised world. Around one billion of people in the world live in this kind of poor settlements (Bolay et al. 2016). The figures collected by the United Nations on this issue in 2011 (UN-HABITAT 2010) show that their expansion varies widely according to regions of the worlds. If, on a global level, about 32.7% of the world urban population live in slums in 2010, this concerns 61.7% of the sub-Saharan population in Africa, 35% in Southern Asia, 31% in South Eastern Asia, when 23% in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 13.3% in Northern Africa. With, as demonstrated by Mboup (2004), the relative significance of the individual identification parameters of slums on a global level: lack of secure tenure 70%; lack of durable housing 65%; lack of sufficient living space 60%; lack of improved sanitation 50%; lack of improved water 20%.

All these characteristics allow us to speak about “poor cities”, meaning cities in Southern countries confronted with different forms of precarity, having a high percentage of dwellers living in sub-standards conditions (in terms of incomes as in terms of habitat and access to services). The situation is particularly critical in intermediate cities, between 20,000 and 500,000 individuals. On one side because they include around 50% of the whole urban population in the world (United Nations 2014), on the other side because they represent the fringe of cities with the higher level of urban growth. In front of that, theses “ordinary cities” (Robinson 2006; Parnell and Robinson 2012) are generally not under the political attention of the central government, and their public budget are relatively low to tackle all the urgent questions to resolve and investing for the future. And priorities of investments, as we shall see in the 2 case studies, are not decided based on a rigorous diagnostic involving a process of urban planning at long term, but more in relation with opportunities or under pressure of powerful stakeholders, inside the city or as powerful outsiders.

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