Shelter provision in East African cities: understanding transformative politics for inclusive cities

October 2017 to February 2020

This project seeks to investigate systems of shelter provision in three East African cities – Nairobi in Kenya, Hawassa in Ethiopia and Mogadishu in Somalia – in order to generate new insights that can inform more inclusive, affordable shelter interventions

View over the Mukuru informal settlement in Nairobi, showing corrugated roofs

IIED is working with Social Development DirectTana Copenhagen and SDI Kenya to carry out an analysis of systems of shelter provision. This research collaboration will look at the factors underlying access to land for shelter, housing, and basic service provision.

We will be exploring the historical development of the cities, their political settlements and power relations, and the variations in types of housing that are available.

We will focus particularly on housing for low-income populations, including vulnerable groups such as internally-displaced populations (IDPs), particularly relevant in Mogadishu. 

The three focus cities have very different social, economic and political profiles – as well as being of different sizes – and the study seeks to identify politically-relevant, locally-driven solutions for improving shelter at scale.

What is IIED doing?

The objectives of the research are to: 

  1. Investigate the formal and informal systems through which people access shelter (land, secure tenure, housing and basic services) in each city and their relationship with existing political, economic, social and cultural conditions
  2. Establish the ways in which low-income groups and other vulnerable populations (including women, girls and IDPs) are positioned within these systems, and
  3. Identify realisable, targeted interventions that allow these groups to improve their access to shelter by exerting greater influence on governance processes and participating in the co-production of housing, secure tenure and basic services. 

Key questions the study will answer are:

  • How do city populations in the three cities access shelter? 
  • What are the different types of shelter available to low-income and vulnerable groups? 
  • What forms of political engagement and/or other forms of influence have been most effective in improving shelter provision for low-income and vulnerable groups? 


Our study will combine primary qualitative research in the three cities (including case studies of innovative initiatives) with a desk review to investigate ongoing shelter transformations and to explore more progressive housing policies. 

Our analysis will extend beyond low-income shelter to explore citywide housing, land, and infrastructure dynamics, such as the ongoing influx of IDPs (Mogadishu) and housing for industrial workers (Hawassa). We will produce a detailed shelter typology for each city, and analyse the constantly changing modes of shelter production that will require holistic planning responses.

Additionally, we will develop a case study of Nairobi's informal settlement of Mukuru, where a Special Planning Area declared in August 2017 may offer a unique opportunity to scale-up shelter provision utilising participatory processes.


Shelter provision in East African Cities: understanding politics for inclusive cities, IIED, Econvalue Consult, SDI Kenya, SDDirect and Tana (2019), Report

Shelter provision in Mogadishu: understanding politics for a more inclusive city, Erik Bryld, Christine Kamau, Charlotte Bonnet, Mohamed A Mohamoud, Fatiah Farah (2019), Working paper

Access to shelter and services for low-income groups: lessons from Hawassa, Mogadishu and Nairobi on the politics of informal settlements and shelter access, Lucy Earle, Emma Grant (2019), Report

Towards holistic solutions to Nairobi’s affordable housing crisis, Baraka Mwau, Alice Sverdlik, Jack Makau (2019), IIED Briefing

Proposed solutions for inclusive shelter in Hawassa, Emma Grant, Gemechu Desta, Yeraswork Admassie, Faraz Hassan, Sophie Stevens, Meheret Ayenew (2019), IIED Briefing

Shelter for all: towards more inclusive housing in Mogadishu, Erik Bryld, Charlotte Bonnet, Christine Kamau (2019), IIED Briefing

The complex dynamics of Nairobi’s low-income housing services and land markets, Baraka Mwau, Alice Sverdlik, Jack Makau, Dennis Mwaniki, Sammy Muinde (2019), Project report

Shelter issues and solutions in Hawassa, Emma Grant, Gemechu Desta, Yeraswerk Admassie, Sophie Stevens (2019), Project report

Accessing land and shelter in Mogadishu: a city governed by an uneven mix of formal and informal practices, Christine Kamau, Charlotte Bonnet, Mohamed A. Mohamoud, Erik Bryld (2019), Project report