Thinking about Informality and Resilience in Addis Ababa


Rapid urbanization has led to the proliferation of informal development across the world, becoming an increasingly visible sign of urbanization in Africa especially. Roughly 1 billion people live in informal settlements worldwide; data from the World Bank indicates that as of 2014, 74% of Ethiopia’s urban population lived in slums.We too often disregard the informal sector as a hindrance, yet in reality, the informal can be as integral as the formal to urban development and resilience building. Informal areas supply vital goods and services and provide sources of livelihood generation for some of the poorest and most vulnerable urban residents. For example, waste pickers provide the invaluable service of recycling our city’s rubbish and thereby diverting it from an overburdened sanitation system.

As we begin to recognize the contributions of the informal sector, we can also build upon those best aspects and integrate them into city planning and service delivery. Addis Ababa’s waste pickers are now formally organized by the city into cooperatives responsible for primary collection from households. Their services are compensated through an added surcharge to residents’ in monthly water bills.

This is just one example of how cities can plan for and enable hybrid solutions which leverage the strengths of formal and informal sectors to improve resilience. Waste management and the generation of livelihoods are as essential as housing and transportation. We will be exploring these themes next week in a global conversation with seven other member cities of 100 Resilient Cities. We invite you to follow the Resilient Addis Ababa blog and social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter) for updates throughout the week.

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