Analysis Discussion

Spatial Inequality – A Conversation That We Need To Start


By definition, spatial inequality is the unequal distribution of resources and services across different areas or locations, such as healthcare, welfare, public services, household income, and infrastructure. The distribution of such characteristics over space can be described in terms of proximity, distance, clustering, and concentration, according to Wikipedia.

Why Spatial Inequality is a Problem

Over time, spatial inequality has led to strong divisions, not only across borders but also within local communities. Currently, in Nairobi, over 60% of the population lives on less than 5% of the land- creating large economic disparities. The poorer population lives with inadequate living standards, which includes minimal access to important services such as healthcare and education. Most would agree that this is a direct result of colonialism, where colonizers segregated people by race, level of income, and many more factors. 

Causes of Spatial Inequality

However, it is arguable that income inequality and economic disparities have been one of the main driving forces behind spatial inequality. In Nairobi, for example, more than 65% of the population (around 3.5 million people) live within the informal sector. The advantage of the informal economy is that it provides income and employment to people, regardless of education and experience. These are qualities that the formal economy is deemed to be reliant on. However, the informal economy has costs, also. Many of those who are forced to work within the informal sector — in jobs such as street vendors, flea, and food markets — have had to rely on this unstable source of income, a result that can be traced back directly to unequal access to services such as education. 

The densely populated slum communities within Africa are the home of millions of citizens throughout the continent. However, since these homes have been set up quickly, without building regulations and without being previously planned by the city councils, important services were not set up. These important services could potentially cater to the new settlers, educating them so that one day they can acquire a job within the formal sector, thus removing them from this constant cycle of poverty.

Efforts to Combat Spatial Inequality

Currently, schools that have sprouted within slum settlements are being bulldozed, as the local government aims to rid cities of “informal settlements.” Unfortunately, they are failing to do so miserably. In 2018, the headline “Schools for 2000 children in Kenya’s Kibera slum bulldozed to the ground” hit the media and news outlets, showing the world that rather than helping combat income and spatial inequality, governments were willing to destroy livelihoods in an attempt to rid the city of the ‘problem’ — namely, the informal sector.


It is important to understand the risk and the impact that both spatial and income inequality can have on the livelihoods of those who live within these make-shift settlements. It is imperative that we combat this issue, in similar ways that one would address racial or gender inequality. I hope that one day we can live in a world where no parent has to worry about being able to feed their children; a world where children can dream about what they want to be when they grow up; a world where home is not a temporary shelter, but a place where love and happiness can thrive.