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Economy

Nairobi losing Sh7 billion to illegal slum rings

A man selling milk to a customer at Mukuru Kwa Njenga slum in Nairobi: A study says dwellers of informal settlements pay a fortune for basic services such as food and housing. FILE PHOTO | EVANS HABIL
A man selling milk to a customer at Mukuru Kwa Njenga slum in Nairobi: A study says dwellers of informal settlements pay a fortune for basic services such as food and housing. FILE PHOTO | EVANS HABIL 

Kenya's capital is losing billions of shillings to cartels in informal settlements every year, a new study has revealed.

Cartels, the study shows, run the economy of most of Nairobi's slums, with dwellers of Mukuru Kwa Njenga, Mukuru Kwa Ruben and Viwandani paying over Sh7 billion to the groups.

People in informal settlements also pay a fortune for basic services such as food and housing, the research by the University of Nairobi, Strathmore University, Akiba Mashinani Trust and Katiba Institute shows.

While the cost is high, the study shows, the services Kenyans in slums get are inferior to those provided in Nairobi’s formal estates.

“Cartels often control these slums, charging extortionate rates for access to essential services and threatening residents with violent evictions and forced demolitions," the research report reads in part.

"For instance, a family in the slum pays for water at 172 percent more compared with a family living in a formal estate."

According to the researchers, the 492,000 people who live in the Mukuru slums are at the mercy of cartels that control access to basic services such as water, food, housing and electricity.

SLUMS' STAGGERING GROWTH

The research, conducted between 2015 and 2016, also reveals that at least two million Nairobi residents live in informal settlements, with such slums continuing to grow every day at a staggering rate.

It further shows that as the settlements continue to grow, the challenges faced by dwellers, including urban poverty, keep on growing.

The study was conducted in the Mukuru slums in Nairobi, covering an area of about 600 acres, and the Kiandutu slum in Kiambu County, which is 110 acres in size.

Reacting to the study’s report, Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero said the county is in the process of declaring informal settlements special planning areas.

The findings, he said, would guide the county’s interventions on policy formulation.

He also added that the report would help the county come up with practical and affordable solutions aimed at improving the housing and infrastructure services and general well-being of the slum dwellers.

The study, titled Unlocking the Poverty Penalty and Up-scaling the Respect for Rights in Informal Settlements in Kenya, was funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre.

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