Unrestrained urbanization makes it difficult to access quality water and energy infrastructure

The considerable growth of so-called "developing" cities is not accompanied by the infrastructure and facilities needed to ensure decent living conditions for the poor. Urban water supply and sanitation systems are too often in a dilapidated state and are unable to cope with the needs. Despite these conditions, the number of new entrants continues to grow while many will be excluded from these services.

African cities, which have the highest rate of urbanization in the world, are overtaken by the speed at which this change is taking place. Sub-Saharan cities will need to accommodate an additional 340 million people over the next 20 years. An estimate of the investment required for the corresponding development operations is $45 billion per year.

Integrating new arrivals in so-called "developing" cities through an appropriate land policy

Urbanization, when uncontrolled, fragments the city and creates informal neighbourhoods that are not connected to essential services. For more than 20 years, land policies in so-called "developing" countries have been drawing a worrying picture. The share of the unregulated or informal land market aggravates inequalities in access to essential services (access to water, access to sanitation and access to electricity).

The two main obstacles to access to water for the most disadvantaged are the price of connection and the ban on connecting informal areas. The direct consequence is that the poorest pay up to 50 times more for water than the rich who are connected to the network (source UN Habitat).

How can the integration of poor populations into the metropolitan economy be promoted and how can informal settlements be partly regularised? This is a fairly clear social and environmental issue that involves finding solutions to reform land policies and property rights in so-called "developing" countries.

"Access to land titles remains a distant dream in Africa. The experience invites us to encourage the recognition of certificates of residence, residence permits, electricity or water bills, these little papers that give the right to the city, that give the right to life".

Alioune Badiane, Director, Project Office, UN Habitat

Strengthen the legitimacy and competence of local public authorities to respond to urbanisation issues

The resolution of many of the problems faced by so-called "developing" cities depends closely on the capacities, competence and legitimacy of local institutions and public authorities. The trend towards decentralization in many developing countries has rarely been accompanied by the fiscal power that would enable local authorities to finance investment in urban infrastructure. While these authorities will most certainly have to increase their relative share in the financing of local investments, one of the avenues for financing could be land development and land use planning.

"The dramas we deal with in urban matters are often due to the failure of the central office to comply with local requirements.

Michel Rocard, former Prime Minister and member of (Re)sources, at the (Re)sources colloquium in February 2016 on urban growth and access to essential services.

Furthermore, civil society organizations and communities in particular have a key role to play in improving the management of urban policies and in decisions on the organization of urban infrastructure.

 "In many countries, the awareness and willingness to say that the political vision is the basis, does not exist. Too often we start from the technical issue". 

Guillaume Josse, town planner and geographer


* More than 50% of the world's population now lives in cities. It is predicted that by 2050, when the number of inhabitants of the planet is estimated at 9 billion, there will be 6.7 billion urban dwellers, i.e. more than 2/3 of the world's population.

* By 2050, Africa's population will have doubled and two out of three Africans will live in a city...

* 1/4 of Uganda's population lives in unauthorized areas, this is also the case in many Latin American countries.

* In Mumbai, 7 million people, about 54% of the population, live in slums, areas defined by both poverty and illegality.