The growth of Abidjan – and, therefore, its slums –
is associated with three phases. During the first phase, from
the 1930s to the 1950s, Abidjan was set up as the colonial capital,
economically linked to the Abidjan–Niger railway. The town
consisted of three areas: the administrative centre and European
quarters of Le Plateau, and two African districts: Treichville
The second phase is associated with a number of socioeconomic
stimuli, including the opening of the Vridi canal and a deep-water
port during the 1950s, and the establishment of industrial zones
in the south-west and the commensurate growth of popular residential
areas in the south.
The third phase is associated with sustained demographic growth
from the 1960s onwards, and the emergence of new popular residential
areas at the urban periphery.
Topographical factors, such as plateaux rising to 50 metres, added
to spatial segregation of the urban area, placing major obstacles
to urban structuring and functioning and considerable spatial
imbalances between residential and working areas.
Slum dwellers represent one fifth of the Abidjan population. In
response to a 1988 survey on why households chose to stay in slum
areas, 23.7 per cent refused to answer. Among those who did answer,
69 per cent cited the cheaper cost of living; because they were
born there or family lived in the slum (18 per cent); and proximity
to work (8 per cent).
The case study recognizes three types of slums by area characteristics:
Areas distinguishable from formal residential areas only
by their illegal land occupation forms: they primarily contain
buildings of permanent materials and fair basic infrastructure.
An example of such
neighbourhoods is Zoe Bruno.
Poorly structured areas: these areas have more buildings
of non-permanent materials and lower levels of infrastructure
provision (for example, Vridi Canal, Zimbabwe and Blingue).
Irregular areas with largely non-permanent structures:
these areas have little, if any, infrastructure (for example,
Similar to the tenure type of the Abidjan population at large,
the majority of slum residents (75 per cent) are tenants, 18.7
per cent are owner occupiers and 5.8 per cent stay free of charge.
In 1995, the urban population of Abidjan had grown to 2.7 million,
with an annual growth rate of 5 per cent (down from 11 per cent
during the 1970s) and with a transnational demographic collection
basin spanning a large area of West Africa. Despite the slowing
down of growth, the numbers of urban poor, in absolute terms,
will continue to rise in the foreseeable future.
The residents of slum quarters are highly heterogeneous, with
40 per cent of Ivory Coast origin; 20 per cent from Burkina Faso;
9 per cent from Mali; 9 per cent from Ghana; and Togo and Bénin
accounting for 12.3 per cent. The density in slums varies from
one area to another: Zimbabwe lies at the top with 340 inhabitants
per hectare; Zoé Bruno has 254.5 inhabitants per hectare;
and Vridi- Canal has 206 inhabitants per hectare. Blingué
has the least dense concentration of 69.6 inhabitants per hectare.
On the whole, slums are stigmatized and are the focus of unfavourable
prejudice as dens of highwaymen, drug addicts and the hangouts
of impoverished foreigners who are incapable of living within
the city legally.
Although the authorities previously dealt with slums through outright
clearance, slums are, today, the focus of sustained development
efforts. Since the 1980s, slum regularization has been implemented
with assistance from the World Bank, aiming at:
basic infrastructure provision;
of land security;
of economic activities; and
of community development.
This new context provides more tolerance and, to some extent,
prevents slum clearance. A shortcoming is the ad hoc nature of
these interventions and the relative lack of participatory approaches.
Although public authorities’ urban interventions have led
to progress in some areas – notably, in the accessibility
of social services – these efforts over the past few years
have fallen well behind of expectations. In the absence of a comprehensive
public policy on urban restructuring, slum regularization and
the genuine involvement of all stakeholders, the slum issues to
be faced and the number of poor will both remain significant.
Unless public policy addresses the issues in a comprehensive manner,
drawing on the capabilities and will of all stakeholders, many
of the developmental efforts may remain largely marginal.
has been extracted from:
UN-Habitat (2003) Global Report on Human Settlements 2003, The Challenge
of Slums, Earthscan, London; Part IV: 'Summary of City Case Studies',