Whether called a “slum,” “ghetto,” or “shanty town,” they all have one thing in common: they are sprawling unplanned settlements that have grown on the fringes of major urban centers to provide much-needed housing to some of the world’s poorest.
Over time, slums have often been criticized by city officials and law enforcement as a sanctuary for all types of crime and vices despite the fact that, in most cases, governments have neglected such settlements.
In most slums, poverty is widespread, violent crime is abundant, and basic public utilities, including clean water, reliable electricity, and law enforcement services, are absent.
While it is easy to associate slums and their inhabitants with all kinds of vices, there have also been inspiring stories of hope, perseverance, and progress from many of Africa’s slum dwellers. Here are six of the most notorious slums of Africa.
6. Khayeltisha, South Africa
With Khayeltisha’s population at around 400,000, it has more than 100,000 informal dwellings or shacks. It is easily one of the most deprived areas in South Africa, with an average income of about $1,872 against a national average of $3,743. Most of the inhabitants are migrants and casual workers. The town was established in the 1980s just before the fall of the Apartheid system.
5. Ajegunle, Nigeria
Called “Jungle city” or “AJ city,” Ajegunle is located in the heart of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. It is a melting pot for several ethnic groups within Nigeria, but its residents also rank among the poorest. The area is starved of much-needed development, and unemployment is rampant. The area is also notorious for its high rate of crime.
4. Agbogbloshie, Ghana
Like most urban slums, Agbogbloshie is located on the outskirts of the capital city in Ghana. The slum houses about 80,000 inhabitants, many of whom make a living by foraging for valuable items through tons of electronic waste that has been found to be harmful.
Authorities say security is one of Agbogboshie’s most challenging problems since crime is rampant. The slum is home to robbers, prostitutes, and illicit drug users/peddlers. Sanitary facilities are also lacking and experts say that the area and the surrounding lagoon are polluted with toxic E-waste.
3. West Point, Liberia
West Point is one of the most densely populated slums in Liberia. The settlement is located on a peninsula, which empties in to the Atlantic Ocean. City officials estimate that the slum is home to around 75,000 people. The area lacks proper sanitation, and public utilities are either overwhelmed or completely lacking. Unfortunately, residents use the water front, which stretches around the area, as a lavatory, leading to a high rate of infectious diseases.
2. Kroo Bay, Sierra Leone
Kroo Bay is a slum settlement located on the coastline of Liberia’s capital, Freetown. In Kroo Bay, clean water is scarce and diseases caused by poor hygiene are widespread. This former fishing settlement is one of the poorest areas in Sierra Leone. In 2009, census figures put the population at just under 11,000 settlers, with the majority of the slum’s inhabitants living in ramshackle houses that are constructed from discarded metal, tin, and sticks.
- Kibera (Kenya)
Kibera is a slum settlement on the outskirts of Nairobi, 5 km away from the city center. This shanty town is known as the largest urban slum in Africa as well as one of the largest in the world. According to varying estimates, Kibera may be home to anywhere from 200,000 to 1.5 million people, which is a significant portion of Nairobi’s 3 million residents.