NAIROBI, Kenya — An estimated 60 percent of the residents within Africa’s “most intelligent city” currently live within slums. A city comprised of some 4.2 million people, Nairobi now faces the daunting challenge of improving the standard of living for a population slated to skyrocket to 14 million by 2050.
Evan Kidero, governor of Nairobi County in the East African nation of Kenya, recently explained in an interview the difficulties associated with keeping up with the anticipated population boom. “Right now, my biggest headache is to ensure we have infrastructure and social facilities like housing,” he said.
“What will drive development is infrastructure. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation: without infrastructure, investors are not going to come. Without investors, we are not going to create jobs, without jobs…,” Kidero explained.
He continued in expressing growing concerns over the speed of infrastructural growth, as the city needs to construct an average of 100,000 housing units per year for the next five years, but it has only been constructing about 10,000 units per year to date.
Recognizing the long road that lies ahead for the city, Kidero recently stated, “Unfortunately, Nairobi has never had a master plan. We have just completed the first master plan, this provides for transportation, infrastructure, housing and social services provision of water and sanitation, schools and health facilities.”
Kidero, who himself grew up within the city’s Majengo slum, described the complex challenges related to improving the lives of residents living within slums.
“Water was too expensive, electricity was expensive, and soon enough they were moving back to their shanties,” he explained in regards to city officials efforts to construct new housing units within Kibera, which is one of Nairobi’s largest and most notorious slums.
U.N. Millennium Development Goal 7, which in part was designed to halve the number of people on earth without sustainable access to sanitary water supplies, was completed five years before deadline in 2010.
However, analysts estimate that some 663 million people today still do not have access to sanitary water supplies, and an additional 2.4 billion people in developing regions do not have access to enhanced sanitation facilities.
In response to questions regarding how Nairobi is working to improve such deficiencies, Kidero explained, “We need affordable water in the informal settlements; water in the informal settlements is 20 times more expensive … because of the cartels that supply water. So we are increasing the supply of water … so that it can be cheap and everyone can have clean, adequate water for drinking, for bathing.”
In partnership with the Danish company Grundfos, the Nairobi Water and Sewage Company has installed four water dispensing machines across the city that act as ATM’s for sanitary water.
With the water infrastructure in place, the machines pump directly from the municipality of Nairobi county and residents are paying nearly 90 percent less as opposed to purchasing water from transportation vehicles.
At a groundbreaking ceremony for one of the machines earlier this year, Kidero stated, “Partnerships like this ensure access to financial stakeholders as well as the technological know-how necessary to not only increase the accessibility of water services but also make them affordable.”
– James Thornton