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Inside Nairobi’s plans for new trading spaces


Second-hand clothes traders at Gikomba Market on June 13, 2021. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

Nairobi has over the years proven to be an economic and commercial hub of not only Kenya but also in the larger East Africa region.

Buoyed by a fast-growing economy with Kenya emerging in recent years as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, the city is on the global watch list of the top five fast modernising cities globally.

However, Nairobi has only 20 open-air markets and 23 large markets and another 100 informal markets, which are not enough for the huge population of merchants in the capital city that hits close to a population of seven million during the day.

To serve the ever-growing population and with unemployment pushing many residents into business, City Hall and the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) have laid out an elaborate plan to create more trading spaces in the county as well as improve the trading environment in the markets.

Already, the upgrade of eight markets into modern markets commenced in April under the stewardship of NMS.

Modern kiosks

The facelift will see the markets have modern stalls, parking areas, new-look ablution blocks as well as link roads to improve accessibility.

The markets include Muthurwa Market, City Park, Jericho, Wakulima, Uhuru, and three markets along Kayole Spine Road in Embakasi, Landhies Road and Toi Market.

Nairobi Metropolitan Services director-general Mohamed Badi said the link roads to the markets would be improved to enhance accessibility. The parking spaces, he added, would ensure farmers have enough space to deliver their produce to the markets.

To actualise the plans, Nairobi County has set aside Sh1.2 billion for the upgrade of the markets and the construction of modern kiosks.

The project will be carried out in a phased approach. According to the Nairobi County Fiscal Strategy Paper, Sh138.2 million has been set aside in the first phase of the project, which is ongoing.

From the allocation, Sh25 million will be used to set up modern kiosks in 10 wards — Pumwani, Kware, Pangani, Kabiro, Dandora, Kariobangi North, Mowlem, Hamza/Maringo, Kangemi and Woodley/Kenyatta Golf Course at Sh50 million.

As part of the projects, Sh85 million will be spent on improving the trading environment at Muthurwa Market, one of the largest markets in Nairobi with a tenancy of an estimated 10,000 traders and vendors, by constructing 200 market canopies.

The market gives City Hall a daily cess collection of between Sh150,000 and Sh170,000 from the traders operating various businesses, ranging from the sale of foodstuffs, clothes, electrical appliances and motor vehicle spare parts.

A similar development will also see the county government spend Sh60 million to put up 15 market canopies and a perimeter wall around Kamulu Market in Ruai.

Another Sh20 million will go towards the construction of a new City Park Market as part of the total allocation of Sh243 million for the entire project.

Out of the budget, Sh30 million has been earmarked for use in putting up 30 food stalls and offices as part of the creation of more trading spaces at the market. A CCTV will also be installed at the market at Sh25 million.

Under renovation

Makina Market construction will take up Sh17 million out of the total project cost of Sh42 million whereas the construction of extension stalls in Dandora Market will take up Sh15 million out of a total project allocation of Sh45 million.

For Karen Market, which got burnt more than five years ago, Sh9 million will be pumped into its reconstruction this financial year with another Sh11 million in the financial year ending June 2023.

City Market had been under renovation since early this year after such works had stalled for many years. Another Sh25 million will also be spent to install CCTV cameras at the iconic market.

The market was built in the 1930s as a European-only market to replace the Jeevanjee Market, which had been brought down due to unsanitary conditions.

Nairobi Commerce and Trade executive Winfred Gathagu said there was an increase in the number of trading spaces or stalls estimated at at least 1,000 after the completion of four mega markets in Westlands, Mwariro, Karandini and Gikomba.

This, she said, led to the creation of jobs for more than 5,000 people directly and indirectly through subsidiary trading activities.

The five new markets have been constructed at Sh2.2 billion with the New Kangundo Road Market the most expensive at Sh868 million.

The Sh389 million Mwariro Market, located in the Starehe sub-county, is a six-storey building with 360 stalls, where 318 will be allocated to the original traders and the remaining 42 stalls will be through a ballot.

Karandini Market in Dagoretti South, a two-storey building, has 204 stalls put up at Sh294 million while Sh214 million Westlands Market will host about 3,000 traders.

On the other hand, phase one of the Sh493 million Gikomba Market is complete awaiting occupancy.

Most of the markets in the capital city have struggled with sanitation and security issues, which have remained unaddressed over the years.

Burst sewers

Mounds of garbage, mostly from the groceries vendors, burst sewers and poor lighting at night are an eyesore at most of the markets. To reverse the situation, Sh50 million will be spent on the purchase of 142 garbage skips for distribution in all markets, Sh60 million to hire 48 security guards for the markets, Sh140 million for the provision of cleaning services at the markets.

The plans are contained in the Nairobi City County Annual Development Plan for the financial year ending June 30, 2023.

Already, NMS is working with the national government through the State Department for Housing and Urban Development on the project. Through the collaboration, 30 markets will be rehabilitated with a focus on improving sanitation and hygiene and other measures.

The State Department has developed a policy aimed at improving the state of markets in the country. Nairobi County is one of the seven pilot counties picked for the project.

The National Markets Development Policy seeks to enhance synergy amongst traders, trade associations and regulators as well as standardise and formalise markets. The other counties include Kajiado, Meru, Nakuru, Nyamira, Kiambu and Uasin Gishu.

To increase the number of trading spaces, the multi-agency team is expected to implement designing and building of markets guided by research and development.

This will involve legislating and implementing new management models applicable to existing markets and new upcoming ones, enacting a legal framework for trading spaces application, allocation and management of county market facilities.

As part of the project, City Hall has come up with the Nairobi City County Trade Policy to provide a sound, efficient and effective environment for trade and investment in the county.

The policy is now awaiting submission to the county assembly for completion of the legislative process with Sh20 million earmarked to implement the policy in the next financial year.

New policy

The policy will then pave the way for the coming up with the Nairobi City County Trade and Industry Bill.

Ms Gathangu said the new policy would help improvise various upgrade activities that will change how city markets are managed.

She explained that the policy aims to create business-friendly trading infrastructure, enhance functionality and utilisation of public markets and trading facilities as well as inculcate and strengthen entrepreneurial skills among traders and establish cohesive and effective management models for public markets.

The policy will also help in zoning and market segregation, gender-friendly infrastructure and introduce food value addition and storage facilities to ensure commodities availability all year round.

“We are also working on developing management models applicable to existing markets and new upcoming markets,” said Ms Gathangu.

Markets are one of City Hall’s 136 own source revenue streams.

In the financial year ended June 30, 2021, the own-source revenue from markets was Sh325.7 million with Wakulima Market contributing Sh159 million.


Traders sell their goods at Wakulima Market in Nairobi following heavy rains in the city. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

Other markets brought in Sh166.7 million bursting its target of Sh144.9 million posting a performance of 115 percent.

City Hall is looking at collecting Sh676 million from the markets in the financial year ending June 30, 2022.

To achieve the target, a weighbridge has been installed at the New Kangundo Road Market in Embakasi West.

“This will go a long way in ensuring fair trading practices with regards to correct weights and measures in trading of goods delivered to the market,” read in part the National Markets Development Policy.

On the other hand, revenue from single business permits amounted to Sh1.64 billion against a target of Sh2.56 billion. This financial year, the Trade Department has set a lofty target of Sh2.8 billion.

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