Challenge for city fathers to deliver a livable Nairobi

A skyline of Nairobi City
A skyline of Nairobi City. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Dysfunctional systems including poor state of public transport, infrastructure, sanitation, water and schools will continue frustrating our quest for building future cities in Kenya.

And this explains largely the reluctance by Kenyans to adopt such Government plans such as the housing policy for public servants, because many times, such programmes either lack or ignore proper planning. Our cities are barely able to support a decent life for residents. Because we abandoned planning, we are seeing the growth of cities that have become uncontrolled and ungovernable.

People are reluctant to reside in cities, because many of them remain insecure, informal and non-inclusive.

It will take a huge policy shift to make them attract dwellers.

The manner we are building our cities flouts all known rules, including building codes, green growth policies, the Climate Change law and business growth agenda.


It takes a simple thing like a cholera outbreak in a leading facility like Nairobi Hospital, theft of money in ATMs in the face of non-functional expensive CCTVs or prolonged lack of clean water for residents to see flaws.

Kenyan cities should grow into peoples’ cities. While Nairobi hosts the headquarters of a UN agency that works to improve lives in cities, towns and communities, we have been unable to fully tap the potential and establish model cities for the rest of the world.

While a number of projects are underway in Kenya through the UN-Habitat, there is very little to show the benefits of hosting such a UN agency.

Nairobi will be hosting the first ever first UN-Habitat Assembly on May 27-31 that will bring together 2000 delegates to make decisions and pass resolutions that may lay ground for global action relating to urban challenges.

The five-day global meet is the world’s highest-level decision –making body of UN Habitat.

Since 2016, following the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), member States endorsed the New Urban Agenda thus committing to work differently in the planning, building and managing cities globally.

To quote Maimunah Mohd Sharif, the United Nations Under Secretary-General and UN Habitat Executive Director, “our cities and towns are expanding at an alarming rate; every week three million people move to cities and urban centres looking for work, education and a better life.”

The UN top official adds: “The only way we can assure that urbanisation becomes sustainable is by encouraging a more plan-led approach to development; we need plan for and build homes for the increasing numbers of people, ensure that cities do not descend to chaos and more importantly adopt innovative ways and approaches in our urban planning, for well managed cities can help to drive economic growth, progress and innovation.”