SDI Alliance Slum Upgrading. Cape Town, South Africa

 “Nothing for us without us!”  Working to upgrade slums, and to support and enhance community power


The South African Alliance of community and support Non-governmental organizations affiliated to Shack / Slum Dwellers International (SDI) has pioneered people-centred development initiatives by and of the poor since 1991. Projects are focused on informal settlement upgrading and income generation projects with a bottom-up approach that includes settlement-wide data collection, horizontal learning exchanges and community-led project preparation and implementation.

There are four primary partners in this alliance: the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP), the Informal Settlement Network  (ISN), the  Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) and the uTshani Fund.


  • The Federation’s Income Generation Programme (FIGP) has gained momentum with over 5,450 small loans being granted to savers for livelihood development;
  • 192 local exchanges have been made on the following areas: Slum Upgrading, Income Generation, Community Construction, Youth, Data Collection, andGIS Mapping ;
  • 13 regional  exchanges about issues related to: Funeral Scheme, Leadership, Youth, Savings, Community Construction Management and SlumUpgrading;
  • 12,937 Peoples Housing Proces (PHP) houses completed since 1996;
  • +6,500 Households upgrading in-situ

Did you know?

There was a time when the word “uskoteni” was a word that police and government officials used to demean slum dwellers in South Africa. They were squatters. They did not belong. They were to be removed or, barring that, continuously harassed. But the word has undergone a change. Throughout South Africa, the shack dwelling urban poor now refer to themselves as “uskoteni” with a feeling of pride. For the word means that they are survivors.

Sustainability and Replicability

There is not, and never will be, a one-size-fits-all approach to upgrading of informal settlements. Each settlement is unique and a challenge, but there are common themes. Informal settlement upgrading is not simply “site and service” or the provision of a “top structure” house. Upgrading is any intervention that improves the physical conditions of a settlement, which in turn enhances the lives of its inhabitants.

Lessons learned

The Communities are poor but not hopeless; it is essential to listen to them and include them in the upgrading process.

SDI’s strategy is a version of the old rallying cry: “Nothing for us without us.” For this kind of upgrading, it is not about land and services alone. This is about realizing real citizenship and equality in these cities.

Take action

There are many small communities worldwide and platforms to work with them. To make our cities more innovative, smarter and more sustainable, we need to cooperate with small initiatives like this one.

Contact SDI South African Alliance

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