In this column I always endeavour to encourage positive and progressive change especially where such change adds value to socio-economic lives of Kenyans and the country at large. And “Project Nairobi” by the NMS (Nairobi Metropolitan Service) is a city revival model that promises hope to rate payers, businesses and all stakeholders that real change will indeed arrive. The project CEO General Badi and his team is undertaking should be supported, encouraged and ring-fenced from political sideshows, to enable them to deliver early results.
As we ponder constitutional changes, let us define a Nairobi Capital City governance system that is insulated from politics of the day, and that is based on professional execution and delivery of services. On the minimum we may need a 10 year “lease” for the NMS mandate to allow it to turnaround the city, before we revert to an elected county mandate. Nairobi has been an extraordinary problem requiring an exceptional constitutional consideration.
The NMS team recently presented its 100 days’ score card which demonstrates that reforms are actually taking place. They have implemented an effective and transparent revenue collection system, which will strengthen financial management and accountability while minimising corrupt leakages.
Water shortages are evidently receiving priority attention, as clean-up efforts are ongoing. The NMS is gifting pedestrians with safe and convenient walkways, an infrastructure whose positive impacts have mostly been ignored in the past. Implementing pedestrian enhancement projects across the city will indeed provide many direct and indirect jobs for our deserving youths, while promoting construction materials businesses.
Traffic lights at intersections are finally working and these will eventually release tired traffic officers for assignments elsewhere. However, it would be more efficient if the lights are programmed to smartly recognise and manage priority for varying traffic flows. This will reduce temptations to jump the lights. Yes, more technology is needed to make lights effective.
The promised reinstatement of glory and aesthetics to our parks will make a major and beautiful difference which will be most welcome by Nairobi residents and visitors. Botanical experts should be engaged to design the parks and select the best plants. This is what had made Nairobi to be fondly referred to as the beautiful city in the sun.
The city solid waste should be viewed not as a problem but a major economic opportunity to produce electricity. I am sure many study reports justifying power generation from solid waste are gathering dust somewhere in the government offices. The NMS needs to make it happen as a PPP project, and create a best practice for towns like Mombasa to emulate. Mountains of rotting garbage are an eyesore that should be turned into useful electricity, while opening up avenues for organised recycling business.
We have read through the proposed commuter traffic transport plans, which by all accounts look technically and economically feasible. These plans should be progressively converted into reality, to avoid temptations of repeated promises of projects which never come to fruition. Transport projects implementation will create jobs, while delivering all the pluses associated with efficient city commuter transport.
When the Covid-19 travel hazards are reduced, I recommend that Mr Badi and his team visit Kigali in Rwanda, a country that I can vouch knows to implement good and impactful changes. You will pick good ideas on how to go about making Nairobi a city that functions, including disciplined city planning.
NMS should ensure that they provide balanced development to all parts s of the city including informal settlements and suburbs that equally pay rates for services.
As the NMS is busy implementing positive changes, the political wing of the county leadership is engaged in what they have always perfected - endless wrangles, physical violence, impeaching, suspending and reinstating. And all this goes on for a full five years, awaiting a newly elected team to repeat the same drama.
To Mr Badi, the Nairobi population is definitely behind you and they are confident you will not let them down. Indeed, the Nairobi Project may end up as a significant legacy project for the Jubilee government.