Bourgeois shanty towns
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INSIDE, Essa Mwaitulo’s house on the edge of Dar es Salaam is the picture of middle-class African domesticity. The sofas are luxurious; the curtains are golden; the walls are shocking pink; the floor, on which Ms Mwaitulo’s daughter has crashed out, is polished stone. “We are free, actually,” she says contentedly, sounding like anyone who has ever moved from a rented city-centre flat to a suburban house of her own. “I can do whatever I want.”
Step outside, though, and the impression of harmony and control dissolves. The scene around Ms Mwaitulo’s house in Mikwambe is chaotic. Houses are rising higgledy-piggledy. Many are half-finished and look abandoned, although they are not: one has no floor and a tree growing inside. What appears to be a small village square turns out to be a plot on which the owner has not yet got around to building. The neighbourhood has only one paved road, no central water supply and no sewer. It is a kind of bourgeois shanty town.
A huge and growing number of people live somewhere like Mikwambe. Between 2005 and 2015 the world’s cities swelled by about 750m people, according to the UN. More than four-fifths of…