Cape Town - Christina Mgocwa had high hopes of a better future when she moved from her rural village in South Africa's Mpumalanga province to Johannesburg a decade ago.
But her dreams were quickly shattered.
Instead of benefiting from the economic opportunities a major city can offer, Mgocwa, 31, and her four children ended up in a rickety shack in Orange Farm, one of Johannesburg's many slums.
They have no running water, a pit latrine for a toilet and are cut off from most public services.
“Coming to Johannesburg was not what I expected,” said Mgocwa, who collects waste items for a recycling centre. “We have been struggling. I feel disappointed and angry.”
She is one of millions of Africans who have fallen victim to the continent's largely unmanaged rapid urbanisation - and its governments, which turn a blind eye to the social tension it creates.
According to the UN Population Division, sub-Saharan Africa's annual urban growth rate is 3.6 per cent, almost double the world average.
About 40 per cent of Africa's more than 1 billion people live in cities and towns, many having migrated from rural areas to escape poverty, drought or conflict. About 200 million people live in slums.
“Africa is urbanising faster that any other continent, so much so that by 2030, it will cease to be a rural continent,” said Anna
Tibaijuka, executive director of UN-Habitat, the UN agency for human settlements. “Despite this, few African leaders are taking the issue seriously.”
African governments have done little to manage rapid urbanisation and don't formally recognise slums.
Slums are not provided with public services, like electricity, sewerage systems, waste management, roads, housing and access to health care or education.
And more than a quarter of Africa's slum dwellers don't have access to safe drinking water, according to the UN Environment Programme. A whopping 175 million people don't have what's considered reasonable sanitation.
That's not going to change soon because Africa's annual spending on infrastructure is 45 billion dollars, African Development Bank statistics showed, while almost twice that amount is needed to address the biggest problems.
Sub-Saharan Africa's largest city, Lagos, Nigeria, is a prime example of poor planning. The city of 11 million people, two-thirds of whom are slum dwellers, is infamous for its overcrowding, potholed streets, traffic jams, frequent power cuts and poor sanitation.
“Lagos has less infrastructure than any of the other largest cities in the world,” Lagos Town Planning and urbanisation Commissioner Francisco Abosede told the UN news service IRIN.
As the population of Lagos grows by 8 per cent every year, the slums and their associated problems are growing with it, fuelling crime and increasing social tensions.
The situation is not much different in Africa's largest slum, Kibera, on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
The city's slums have become “an urban time bomb,” said James Njuguna, project officer at the Irish non-profit organisation Concern International in Nairobi.
Kibera's estimated 2 million people are a huge underclass with serious consequences for Nairobi's security and social fabric, Njuguna warned. Frustrated young people often join violent criminal gangs.
“The standard of living in the slums is constantly deteriorating,” Njuguna said. “We see rising school dropout rates, poverty, malnutrition and crime. There are no social services.
“Unless governments make major political changes, cities like Nairobi might explode with social unrest.”
That's also true of South Africa.
A quarter of South Africans are unemployed, and huge numbers of jobless have been migrating to Johannesburg and Cape Town, the country's two major cities.
“Government has been struggling to cope with the huge influx of people, to solve infrastructure problems and provide services,” said Thuthukani Ndebele, a researcher at the South African Institute of Race Relations in Johannesburg. “People feel abandoned.”
For South African slum dwellers like Mgocwa, hope turned first into frustration and then into anger.
“We also have rights,” she said. “I don't see a future for my children, if things stay as they are.” - Sapa-dpa