The Circular Economy, Big Data Analytics, and the Transformation of Urban Slums in Sub-Saharan Africa

The Circular Economy, Big Data Analytics, and the Transformation of Urban Slums in Sub-Saharan Africa

Darrold Laurence Cordes (Curtin University, Australia) and Gregory Morrison (Curtin University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/IJSSTA.319720
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Sub-Saharan Africa is currently experiencing growth in the number of people living in poverty, and the situation is worsening due to climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Cities are increasingly under stress because of urbanization and the demand for low-cost housing. Slum dwellers face daunting social, environmental, and economic challenges. Geospatial analysis of remote sensing, demographic, economic, social, and environmental data is being used to delineate slums. The application of circular economy guidelines for an intelligent transformation of slums combines technical and social innovation that reaches beyond the slums to the whole urban ecosystem. Examples of contributions to the circular economy are provided. Finally, some ideas are introduced on how the internet of things can improve access to goods and services and strengthen interconnectedness through the ability to participate more readily in the social dialogue of the city. The city of Accra in Ghana, West Africa, is discussed as a potential slum city to functional intelligent city transformation.
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1. Introduction

The UN-Habitat (2016) World Cities Report 2016 provides comprehensive insights into the challenges facing urban slum dwellers, policy makers, and urban planners. Slums exist everywhere, but they are more evident in developing countries exacerbated by rural-urban migration, poor urban planning, and weak governance (UN-Habitat, 2016). Slums are highly correlated with poverty (UN-Habitat, 2016).

Mahabir et al. (2016) provide an historical account of the tried and failed policy initiatives to eradicate slums over the past 50 years. They refer to the sites and services approach during the 1970s that led to the relocation of slum dwellers to new sites and to the former slums being demolished. Displaced people were required to pay for the new infrastructure developments and housing. Without adequate resources, the slums continued to flourish. For example, the Brazilian government effort in the 1970s to forcibly displace favela (slum) dwellers into public housing without adequate planning and support resulted in the creation of new favelas (Brown University, 2019). Mahabir et al. (2016) describe the policy initiative of the 1980s to redevelop the slums in-situ. This approach also failed primarily because of the lack of financial commitment and the failure to recognize the importance of addressing the economic conditions of the slum dwellers, governance issues, and land tenure issues (Mahabir et al., 2016). The next policy initiative was to bestow land ownership on the slum dwellers based on the assumption that the structure within which they lived was owned by the occupier. This assumption proved to be incorrect, and occupiers could still be evicted. Mahabir et al. (2016) discuss the more recent Nelson Mandela inspired Cities Without Slums initiative which acknowledges the link between poverty and slums. It appears that this initiative has given way to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 which was revised extensively in 2018 to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable (United Nations, 2019b).

The United Nations (2019a) and World Bank (2019b) aim to eliminate poverty by 2030, but efforts to reduce poverty are being hampered by climate change, the emergence of the COVID19 pandemic during 2020, and persistent problems in Sub-Saharan Africa (S-SA) (World Bank, 2021b). A study by Kedir et al. (2017) reveals that Africa requires an economic growth rate of 16.6 per cent per year between 2015 and 2030 to meet this goal. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimated the growth elasticity of poverty reduction in S-SA to be -0.7 (Bhorat & Naidoo, 2014). Hence, for every 1% increase in gross domestic product (GDP) a 0.7% reduction in poverty is gained. The task of poverty reduction in S-SA is daunting. Bhorat and Naidoo (2014) note that inequality will act to the reduce the impact that GDP growth has on poverty.

West African countries are facing a poor investment climate and insufficient technical capacity to take advantage of increased foreign direct investment (FDI) (Eregha, 2015). S-SA suffers profound and abject poverty in many areas (Beegle et al., 2016) and Patel (2018) estimates that in 2015 there were 413 million extremely poor people in S-SA living off less than $1.90 per day. The World Bank (2019b) estimates that by 2030, nine out of ten extremely poor people in the world will live in that region, and that the number of people living in extreme poverty in S-SA is increasing. The United Nations (2019c) estimate that the two central African nations of Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo will be among the ten most populous countries in the world by 2050. The diversity of nations on the African continent stands in the way of a uniform approach to poverty eradication. The problems in S-SA have triggered an elevated sense of urgency among the African Union which is aiming to reduce poverty to below 3% by 2063 (African Union, 2019) under the African Union Agenda 2063 initiatives for the eradication of poverty (Institute for Security Studies, 2019).

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