Friday, 26 June 2015


Development in Kibra is a complex issue than majority seem to realize. You see sometimes back, Raila launched slum upgrading project in Kibra and a number of other informal settlements in Nairobi and Kisumu. This programme that roped in partners from the government, World Bank, and UN agency for Urban Settlement among others was set to provide the residents with decent housing.

However, the development partners were in for a rude shock. After building the apartments and relocating residents, they went back to their informal houses and rented the apartments allocated to them. The development partners were baffled because in their minds they wondered why someone would opt to live in squalor instead of a decent house that has all the amenities. I remember engaging my friend Samson Onyango, a Regional & Urban Planning Expert to shed light on this peculiar phenomenon as it didn’t make any sense, at all!

Upon inquiry by the development partners, the residents gave a number of reasons for opting for their old homes. One of the prominent reasons was that living in apartments denied them the opportunity to engage in economic activities that they used to partake while living in the slums. For example, they could no longer sell their groceries, fish or charcoal among other small businesses in front of their houses. Without this income from their ndogondogo businesses, they could not live in the apartments as they had no other jobs. Some found the apartments to be too nice and did not match up to their stature. They felt as if they were living a lie and preferred to go back and live an ‘authentic’ life.

Studies have shown that living in slum conditions for a long time makes one to effectively adapt to slums lifestyle and they wouldn’t want to change that. I believe it’s for this reason that little progress in terms of decent housing has been realized in Kibra and other slums. The development partners had to pose and think of another strategy.

I think what we need are jobs, jobs, more jobs; gainful employment. The jobs that Waiguru & Co are chest thumping about are not sustainable. What will happen after drenching of all the sewer passages and construction of the toilets, toilets? They will be jobless again. For my friend Samson Onyango and other Urban Planners out there, we need ingenious sustainable urban plans.