The Power of Quiet Encroachment

Back in August, Professor Mark Swilling, Academic Director of the Sustainability Insitute at University of Stellenbosch, spoke at TEDxStellenbosch about urbanization in Africa, where nearly 60% of urban dwellers live in slums. He describes this phenomenon of “slum cities,” a phenomenon created by rapid urbanization without correlating industrialization. Swilling raises the possibility of the urban poor as co-producers of their own urban environments and of the city as a whole.

In discussing this logic of urbanization, he highlights SDI projects in Kenya and Malawi, where women in urban poor communities mobilize against hopelessness, raising the possibility that tomorrow can be a better day. Swilling showcases an in situ upgrading project in Huruma, Kenya as an example of the SDI affiliate’s ingenuity and innovation that allowed them to improve their living structures while remaining on their land, as well as a greenfields development project in Malawi that uses low-cost technologies, which allowed for the construction of 800 secure homes for Malawi’s urban poor.