Our projects

Urban Renewal and Income-Generating Spaces for Youth and Women in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Funded by the Academy of Finland (2013 – 2017).

Members: Laura Stark (PI), Elias Yitbarek Alemayehu, Imam Mahmoud Hassen, Tiina-Riitta Lappi, Susanna Myllylä, Yonas Alemayehu Soressa.

Urban poverty in developing countries is fuelling the rapid growth of informal settlements which the UN defines as ‘slums’. The billions of dollars spent worldwide on slum-reduction schemes have mostly failed because they have not solved the underlying problem of urban poverty. Governments want to redevelop valuable slum land in the city centre for official and commercial purposes and therefore resettle slum dwellers to modern high-rise condominiums outside the city center, but the new dwellings often fail to meet the social, economic and cultural needs of relocated population, and poverty worsens. 

New solutions to alleviate urban poverty must begin with slum resettlement programs, since they provide the opportunity to start from a ‘blank slate’ and rebuild the physical and social environment of the urban poor. We focus on Sub-Saharan Africa because it has the world's highest rate of urbanization, with over 70% of the region’s urban population living in slums. We focus specifically on women and youth because most households located in ‘slums’ are women-headed, and unemployment among African youth is very high. 

Our project asks two questions: (1) how can living spaces for the resettled urban poor be designed to not only reduce the problems encountered so far in urban renewal, but to also promote income-generating for women and unemployed youth? (2) What are the best research methods for developing and testing these best designs to be replicable, affordable, and upwardly scalable? 

To answer these questions, two ethnologists and one regional scientist from the U. of Jyväskylä will collaborate with two urban planners and one architect from the Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction and City Development (EiABC) at Addis Ababa University. We conduct our research in Addis Ababa, a city in Sub-Saharan Africa with the highest percentage of slums (70–80%), which is currently undergoing massive urban renewal. Although our project focuses one African city, it will produce new solutions relevant for urban Africa more broadly.