di Frederick Waga Adino, journalist and Anti-Poverty Activist
The population of Nairobi is approximately 3,138,369 according to last census carried out in 2009. An estimated population of 2,500,000 reside in the slums and they occupy 6% of Nairobi.
Real estate is booming in Kenya and this has resulted in growth of Nairobi suburbs.
It has outshined other classes of investment in terms of return within the last half a decade by a whopping 24.3%, prices of land are at 17.4% and rental income which is the dream of every Kenyan as at 2017 was 7.6%.
There has been an increase in growth of apartments in Nairobi with some of the leafy suburbs such as Kilimani, Kitusuru, Runda and Muthaiga being distorted with high demand for cheaper housing which has resulted in high rise buildings. Although they still face challenges since natives of these areas want them to retain their original structure and ambiance but international and local players want to distort the status quo due to high demand of apartments in this area.
Kenya is the home of the largest slum in Africa which is Kibera which is host to a population of 250,000 and 70,000 people per square kilometer.
Due to high population in this area this is characterized with no running water, unstructured houses and limited toilets.
Mathare valley being also a bigger slum has a population of 180,000 people and this is putting pressure on the natural resources hence, poor sanitation and the rate of communicable diseases is high. In the leafy suburbs within a square kilometer there is an average of 100 people. This is an incomparable figure and according to me this is inhuman.
With the vision 2030 in place a lot has changed and the suburbs of Nairobi have seen growth and improved infrastructure. The government set out four agenda’s as its main core areas of focus. These included expansion of manufacturing sector, affordable housing, and healthcare and food security. This has seen the rise of Chinese companies get a bigger share and compete with local firms in the four areas which have led to increase in rents within the suburbs. According to Cytonn investments, rent has increased with an average of 7.6% within Nairobi. This has been as a result of rural urban migration which is high and stands at an estimated 250,000 people getting into the city each year this is according to World Bank. Most of these people come to do informal jobs and are likely to settle in the slums. This has been the major cause of growth of slums and despite, the government efforts in trying to put up more and more housing within Kibera slums. The population has continuously increased tremendously over the years. The people who come from the rural areas due to their low income look for affordable housing which is why, the slums.
Security being a major concern within the Nairobi suburbs, the government outlined 10 most dangerous areas which are all in low income areas. In the slums security is poor and it is characterized with high number of killings of youths who join gang so as to live a better life. These youths embrace the slogan ”yolo” meaning you only live once. So, they prefer to live a risky life and shorter one but, again a better one. They laugh at the older people saying why live long and live in the slums. This has caused even women to join these gangs, causing the future of the slum to be at risk. In the leafy suburbs there is a high investment in security. In the slums the rate of pregnancy and children born out of wedlock is high and this results to some children being forced to fend for themselves as early as 6 years. Truly this is worrying and these children will end up in crime as they grow up.
Nairobi suburb is comprised of a mixture of leafy and slum areas like any other typical city in the world.
Though the government has focused on improving housing and making it affordable. This has been a project which is beyond reach for the common mwananchi (person). The government is solving the problems from up the tree rather than, uprooting the whole tree and the problem will be eliminated completely. Finally, as long as the government fails to implement projects which can improve the poor suburbs these residents will forever remain poor and lack essential resources.