Living Conditions in Africa
Although the percentage of African citizens living in extreme poverty has decreased over the last 30 years,  poor living conditions and growing populations help to perpetuate a continuous cycle of poverty. 90% of people in Africa live in informal housing, and often lack basic needs such as sanitation, clean water and food security. Poor living conditions affect entire communities, as crowded living spaces, dirty water, lack of hygiene and food insecurity contribute to disease transmission. As living conditions improve, more people are able to stay healthy and participate in education and the economy, thus reducing inequality. Here are 3 organizations working to improve living conditions in Africa.

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity improves living conditions for people across 10 African countries by building and renovating homes. The organization also improves access to sanitation and promotes hygienic practices. In Uganda, where rapid population growth will require 3 million more homes by 2022, Habitat for Humanity is providing housing for those in rural areas. These homes include a ventilated pit latrine, shower stall and water tank. Simultaneously, the organization educates families about HIV/AIDS, malaria, reproductive health, proper hygiene and sanitation. Habitat for Humanity also promotes economic security by encouraging youth to learn vocational skills that are desired by local markets. The organization served more than 60,000 Ugandans in 2019.

In Ethiopia, where 70% of homes are in need of replacement, Habitat for Humanity improves sanitation by renovating houses and building water facilities and shared toilets. Families are trained in adequate hygiene practices, resulting in community-wide improvement and an overall decrease in health risks. The organization served almost 20,000 Ethiopians in 2019. Habitat for Humanity’s multifaceted approach to improving living conditions in countries across Africa serves thousands in need.


Okodwela constructs housing and increases employment rates in rural Zambia through the Okodwela Home Project. The organization assesses individual families and hires locals to build homes using regional materials. Additionally, to encourage sanitation, Okodwela ensures that each house has a toilet, bedding and filtered water bottles. Every home has two rooms, giving families the option to rent out a room as an additional source of income.

Since its founding in 2018, Okodwela has provided housing for 32 people and employed 26 construction workers. An Okodwela-built home for a family of four in Meloni Village provided income that was sorely lacking after their young daughter was diagnosed with a health condition. For a family of five in Mulala Village, Okodwela’s new home provided shelter, as their previous residence had nearly collapsed. By evaluating families and providing solutions for their specific needs, Okodwela drastically improves living conditions for the rural communities.

Action Against Hunger

Action Against Hunger improves living conditions in more than 20 African countries by enhancing access to clean water and sanitation services and promoting food security. In Somalia, the organization built 29 shared water sources and 324 emergency latrines to improve hygiene and sanitation. Food shortages and droughts coupled with extreme poverty make food security a challenge in Somalia. In response, Action Against Hunger worked to reach over 97,000 people in the area with food security programs.

The organization also directly provides money to families to purchase food and implements improved health systems for herd animals. Additionally, its work includes enhancing agricultural practices and educating communities about acquiring savings. By improving sanitation and food security across Africa, Action Against Hunger reduces malnutrition rates and the spread of disease. As a result, the living conditions of hundreds of thousands of people have improved.

Next Steps

In light of Africa’s rapid population growth, significant interventions are necessary to improve living conditions in both urban and rural areas. Habitat for Humanity, Okodwela and Action Against Hunger positively impact an array of people across the continent. However, governments in African countries need to focus on mitigating the effects that urbanization and population growth have on living conditions. Inequalities that contribute to and are perpetuated by poor living conditions should be placed at the forefront of governmental concern. These organizations are paving the way for much-needed change in the living conditions in Africa.

Melina Stavropoulos
Photo: Flickr

Smart Cities Africa
Africa, much like the rest of the developing world, is racing towards a potential crisis of overpopulation. Over the past 50 years, Africa has held a persistent population growth rate of 2 percent, and this growth, according to the U.N. Population Division, is showing no signs of slowing down.

Factors of Overpopulation

A variety of factors are contributing to this rate of growth, the most prominent of which is Africa’s staggeringly high fertility rate. The top 15 nations with the highest rates of fertility in the world all lie within Africa’s borders. Africa’s challenge of fertility rates and overpopulation is only being compounded with the improvement in health care and lagging family planning programs. People are living longer and children are surviving birth more frequently but fertility rates in Africa are remaining static. In Africa, the fertility rate is five to six children per birth mother. In comparison, the fertility rate of the United States is just below two children per birth mother.

As Africa’s population continues to expand, more and more of its new citizens are opting to live in urban areas. This increases pressure on governors, policymakers and city planners to ensure that Africa’s urban landscapes are properly optimized to support a growing population.   

Improved family planning alongside a host of other measures is being taken to target the root causes of overpopulation in Africa. Even still, these measures may not be enough. Africa, as a continent, is in need for creative solutions that go beyond the causes and effects of overpopulation, and towards the future, in order to address these symptoms.

Smart cities, a new conceptual model for living in Africa aims to address these symptoms of overpopulation alongside increased urbanization. These cities are being built to be relevant in an ever-evolving global climate. In the text below, five facts about Smart cities in Africa are presented.

5 Facts About Smart Cities in Africa

  1. Smart cities are founded on a simple premise. While their name itself conjures up images of futuristic glowing skyscrapers and flying cars, the actual premise of smart cities is far more pragmatic and simple. WSP, a large-scale urban and environmental consultant firm defines smart cities as “developed urban areas that create sustainable economic development and high quality of life”. In essence, smart cities are urban areas built with the intention to support a vast number of citizens whilst providing a range of economic opportunities. Achieving this goal across Africa’s varying urban landscapes is easier said than done, though.
  2. Smart cities are gaining momentum. On July 4 and 5, 2018, Johannesburg, South Africa, was host city to the annual Smart Cities Africa Summit. The event, which attracted a selection of business executives, ambassadors and assorted government officials, was, according to the official website, dedicated to “co-creating smart cities in Africa – beyond the rhetoric”. The operators predict that summit in 2019 will be bigger and better, attracting a wider selection of powerful people from across the continent. This summit isn’t the only effort to bring smart cities to the forefront of the African urbanization dialogue. Smart Africa, a coalition of African nations who adhere to the smart manifesto, is dedicated to ensuring that Africa remains focused on the future capabilities.
  3. Existing cities can become smart cities. Cape Town provides a compelling example of a city evolving to become smart. Cape Town, through its implementation of an assortment of city-wide sensors, has provided itself access to real-time data provided by a variety of pieces of municipal infrastructure, like street lights, plumbing systems and waste bins. This affords Cape Town the ability to better optimize a host of its municipal system, from traffic congestion to garbage retrieval.
  4. African smart cities have already been proposed. While much of the framework behind the idea of smart cities rely on revolutionizing already existing urban areas, some development firms have taken this framework to new heights by proposing the construction of entirely new smart cities. One of these cities, King City, is set to be constructed outside Takoradi Harbour in Ghana and stands as an example of the potential of smart cities. While it’s premise is borderline gaudy (a huge statue is proposed to be built on a hill in town), many of its aims mirror the pragmatic goals of the original smart city ethos. According to its backing firm, Rendeavour, King City hopes to be an area “that will accommodate residential and commercial growth associated with the region’s mining and energy sector boom”, while providing comfortable housing to Ghana’s burgeoning urban population.
  5. Smart cities aren’t just for Africa. While the premise of smart cities is particularly alluring to developing nations, its reach is becoming global, meaning nations of various levels of development are partaking in the smart city efforts. The Smart Cities Council, an organizational body, has branches across the world, in both developed regions like North America and developing nations such as India. They, like many other initiatives, abide by three tenets of smart cities: livability, workability and sustainability.

Clearly, the implementation of smart cities should not and will not be cordoned off to a section of the globe. They hold the potential to help humanity as a whole.    

– Ian Lloyd Greenwood
Photo: Flickr