Ideas & Debate

Sonko city team should hit the ground running

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko (left) with his deputy, Mr Polycarp Igathe. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko (left) with his deputy, Mr Polycarp Igathe. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG 

For those of us who experienced the Nairobi city of 1960/70s, we are still yearning for a return to the city glory of yester years.

As the city’s performance standards gradually eroded, Nairobians helplessly accepted and internalised the status quo as normal. Expectations continued to be lowered as the “normal” gradually became less and less normal. We finally found ourselves in a mammoth urban mess, which is what the Sonko and Igathe team is inheriting.

Creating an acceptable city environment does not require billions of shillings, but a shift in city leadership mindset to plan, implement and sustain conditions for city order, cleanliness, beauty and safety.

It involves creating and enforcing effective city by-laws that ensure that high city standards are sustained. These are the expectations of city residents, taxpayers, and of course voters.

Indeed we are expecting the new city leadership to re-create the brand value of the city. The Brand Kenya effort can never take root if the image of the gateway capital city is of lesser value.

It should not take hours to transit to and from the airport. Nor should we be experiencing cholera due to sub-standard city hygiene. Putrid hills of uncollected garbage and leaking raw sewage are not compatible with a city aspiring for global recognition.

We need to see a city with safe pedestrian walkways and pavements without limb-breaking gaping manholes and broken pavements in disrepair.

Pedestrians are not safe from the motorbikes which drive on pedestrian paths with impunity. In the short term, re-organising motor traffic flows can provide early relief to motorists as they wait for the much discussed but never implemented rapid mass transportation.

Having done enough of problem diagnosis, I will now try to be helpful and suggest some solutions from two best practices.

Firstly a “benchmarking” trip to the neighbouring city of Kigali should be an eye-opener to our new city team. They will see how good city planning, governance and discipline can produce a first class city that is pleasantly beautiful, clean, and safe.

Kigali is a city where pedestrians have rights and walking about is safe and pleasant. Boda-boda rides appear orderly and safe to users. It is a city that has successfully refused to let slum dwellings spring up.

A city whose wetlands are beautifully green and devoid of plastic garbage. Yes, Kigali is a fast expanding city where everything seems to harmoniously work.

Secondly, I will recommend an early visit to the newly refurbished enclave of Westgate in Westlands. After the 2013 terror attack aftermath, this area has been given a facelift that makes it definitely the most beautiful environment in the entire Nairobi city.
For those who drive through Peponi Road they could not miss the sight of a middle-aged European driving heavy machinery while doing grassroots design and development of new wide and paved roads, walkways, roundabouts, and drainage.

In addition, he designed and implemented beautiful avenues with lovely gardens and palms. The informal trades and carwash were beautifully accommodated without much conflict.

The Westgate area is perfect definition of good city aesthetics. It also shows that it is possible to sustainably maintain cleanliness alongside beauty.

I suggest the new city team to seek out the Westgate designer/contractor for some basic advice on how to refurbish the rest of the city.

The city citizens, business communities and all stakeholders are expecting to see a prudent city that collects all due revenues, accounts for every collected and allocated shilling, while correctly prioritizing use of the money.

This is what will motivate international development agencies and donors to want to chip in with additional development funding.

The city leadership will further need to develop strong and positive rapport with the national government so that Nairobi sufficiently benefits from budgetary allocations for non-devolved functions like urban roads, technical and tertiary education, industries and enterprise development.

Nairobi should also seek to work closely with the neighbouring counties of Kiambu, Kajiado and Machakos for harmonised development and services in the wider metropolis.

I have every faith that the new city team will deliver on varying stakeholder’s expectations. The mandate and goodwill are there.