Urbanisation in the Developing World

24 October, 2018

Can innovation be the solution to issues related

to slums in the developing world?


In our globalized world, cities have come to be more important with an increasing urban population. With the emergence of multiple megapoles in the developing world, we must prepare ourselves for a big urban transition in the countries of the Global South whose challenges differ from ours. For example, the population of Lagos, Nigeria is expected to triple and to attain 34 millions inhabitants by 2050. Indeed, by 2030, 96% of the urbanization will take place in cities in Africa (Cairo, Nairobi, Kinshasa), South America (Sao Paulo, Mexico, Bogota) or Asia (Shenzen, Shanghai, Mumbai). Obviously, those megapoles are very diverse economically or culturally speaking, however they share some characteristics. Among those similarities, the majority of them are facing issues related to informal settlements resulting from the migration of its people to cities. Therefore, slums start to present major international concerns as the megapoles of the developing world are growing in term of population and economic importance. In addition to that, the 11th UN Sustainable Development Goal is dedicated to housing and cities. It strives to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable”.



education, inequalities and governance. Furthermore, in a time of innovation and newtechnologies designed to facilitate transaction of goods, capitals or people, it is fundamental that the one billion people living in informal settlements benefit from social innovation and technologies. Yet, it remains important to take into account the solutions which were found within the slums so as to adapt innovation to the environment.


Innovation can be adapted to slums on various levels:

  • Governance and institutions (access to public services, healthcare, education, democratic participation ...) 

  • Transport, infrastructure, energy and sustainability

  • Security

  • Economy and labour


The Think Tank Talk offers a space to reflect on how innovation can positively impact the challenges slums are facing. It also aims at determining the nature and the context of those challenges (social, environmental, governmental sanitary, ...) and reflecting upon the following questions: What kind of innovation is necessary? Where does the social and technical innovation come from? How can we adapt new technologies such as blockchain, sustainable energy, communication to informal settlements? Amid evolving technologies and growing cities, the innovative process must not forget to tackle the future challenges megapoles of the developing world will face .



Giulia is also the president and co-founder of Urbego, an international NGO composed by a team of architects, economists and social innovators. Urbego aims to develop and test processes of integration, social inclusion and sustainable development through participatory planning, youth engagement and cultural mapping.



  • Determine how innovation can be a tool to improve urban planning and public policies regarding informal settlements issues as well as gathering new visions, perspectives and proposals on cities in the developing world.  

  • Bring together think tanks and Geneva’s decision makers (bridge the gap between global governance and scientific evidence).

  • Stimulate the creation of a think tank community in/throughout Geneva.


Time & Location

24 October, 2018 | 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. 

Kruzel Room, 2nd Floor

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) 

7bis Avenue de la Paix

1202 Geneva, Switzerland

Think Tank Talk Series

The Think Tank Talk is a 2-hours event where an expert on the topic covered is invited to the Think Tank Hub to present their field of expertise to a high-level group of participants. The idea is to generate a debate, to discuss different approaches and problem-solving techniques that can be applied to current matters that we are facing.


We are honoured to welcome Ms Giulia Maci, Coordinator of the European Think Tanks Group, as a guest-speaker for this event. 

Giulia is an international urban development expert. She currently leads the ETTG Secretariaat in Brussels, coordinating researches and policies on EU international development for the Commission. Before becoming ETTG coordinator, Giulia has worked as international consultant at COWI Denmark and as programme manager and researcher at IHS in Rotterdam and the International Federation for Housing and Planning (IFHP) in Copenhagen, developing and managing international urban projects. Giulia is an urban planner specialised in smart mobility, urban renovation programs and community-based action planning with work experience in more than 20 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.

Today, slums must be taken into account due to their demographic weight and political power. More and more national and local governments as well as public or private institutions are starting to analyze informal settlements. As an example, the annual conference of the Swisscooperation was focused on how to support sustainable development in cities and agricultural areas in Africa. Despite being at the chore of urbanization and development studies, slums are still facing many major challenges related to public transportation, security, infrastructure, healthcare, 

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The Swiss Think Tank on foreign policy

foraus (Swiss Forum on Foreign Policy) generates independent, high quality recommendations for foreign policy decision makers and the public, thereby bridging the gap between academia and politics. Its non-partisan approach aims to promote an open dialogue and informed decision-making on all aspects of Swiss foreign policy. foraus is a grassroots organization.


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