24 October 2018

Urbanisation in the Developing World

Can innovation be the solution to issues related to slums in the developing world?

About the topic

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”.


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. Despite being at the chore of urbanization and development studies, slums are still facing many major challenges related to public transportation, security, infrastructure, healthcare, education, inequalities and governance. Furthermore, in a time of innovation and new technologies 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

About the speaker

An international urban development expert, Giulia Maci is the Coordinator of the European Think Tanks Group. She currently leads the ETTG Secretariat in Brussels, coordinating researches and policies on EU international development for the Commission. Before becoming ETTG coordinator, Giulia 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.