But it is easy to romanticize slums and shantytowns. The latter are built where land is available, which often means dangerous land, prone to flooding or mudslides. So cities cannot be planned. It is harder to provide roads, transport, sewerage, and other services. Building “illegally”, new arrivals may not want to be on government censuses. So governments cannot plan for their needs. Nor can they plan adequate protection from the ravages of climate change. Some cities offer much more opportunity for upward mobility than others; few African cities are ready – in terms of jobs, schools and virtually all other needs – to accept the numbers arriving every year.
The goal is to align the energy and organization of the slum and shanty dwellers with the best of enlightened urban government. There are good examples of such alignments all over the world. But they are rare, for many reasons, perhaps the most important being that neither side trusts the other.