China to aid transformation of Nairobi city

09:33, September 21, 2010      

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Nairobi gears up to become a city of choice for investors and a great place to live

Cities around the world are striving to position themselves in the global economy and Nairobi, Kenya's buzzing capital, is no exception.

A growing metropolis and a hub for East African business, Nairobi is the region's most populous city, with more than three million people living within its 696 sq km area.

Known locally as "The Green City in the Sun", Nairobi boasts modern infrastructure, an excellent social and cultural scene and has gained a deserved reputation as one of Africa's most important cities politically and financially.

The wider metropolitan region of Nairobi contributes 60 percent to the Kenyan economy, and is home to more than 60 percent of Kenya's urban population.

As well as being the African base for hundreds of international companies and organizations, the United Nations Environment Program and the UN Office in Africa, for example, the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) is one of the largest in Africa, ranked fourth in terms of trading volume and capable of making 10 million trades a day.

As the motors of the national economy, often featuring higher GDP per capita and productivity levels than the country average, urban areas are continuing to make themselves more competitive on a global level, as they fight the inherent challenges of poverty and social exclusion.

City of choice for investors

It is within this framework that Kenya's Ministry of Metropolitan Development, headed by Minister of Metropolitan Development Robinson Njeru Githae, assisted by Permanent Secretary Onyango Sika, is working to combat Nairobi's challenges so that it becomes the city of choice for investors within the next two decades.

Covering the four pillars of security, transport, sustainable environment and reliable energy, the Ministry's Metro 2030 strategy aims to make Nairobi a world-class African metropolis within Kenya's broader Vision 2030 blueprint.

At the strategy's launch in December 2008, President Mwai Kibaki announced how the coalition government is putting in place strategies aimed at transforming the city of Nairobi and other major towns into vibrant centers of economic activity for the benefit of Kenyan people.

"Towards this end, we are according priority to urban development, and specifically metropolitan development, as one of the driving forces that will propel our country into the status of a middle-income rapidly industrializing country," he said.

Cities help growth targets

Under the Vision 2030 economic development initiative, the government will create and develop metropolitan regions across the country, acknowledging the pivotal role these cities will play in realizing the growth targets identified under Vision 2030.

"Some of these targets include the promotion of social equity and inclusiveness and making our cities yield more in terms of their productive potential," Kibaki said.

The government's decision to begin the implementation of the urban development strategy with the Nairobi Metropolitan region is, according to the President, based on the fact that the capital city is the country's main gateway to the rest of the world.

"It is anticipated that Nairobi's transformation over the next 20 years will require investments of about KSh 33.2 trillion in various programs and projects. The government, local authorities, and other agencies, will need to be innovative in raising these finances from various sources, such as taxes, municipal bonds, and even donations and endowments."

Foreign investment will also be a major factor in bringing Metro 2030's ambitious remit to fruition and the government has pledged to partner with the private sector and development partners in order to raise the resources required. The Chinese government is among those that have been approached.

Chinese funds lauded

Chinese participation in Kenya's infrastructural projects has been significant in recent years, with various construction firms involved with major highway projects, including the Mombasa Road - in joint partnership with the government - and the Thika-Nairobi super highway which, when finished, will vastly improve the economic and social development of Kenya and neighboring countries.

The eight-lane highway is also expected to improve mobility and transport linkages between the Nairobi Metropolitan area satellite towns along its route.

President Kibaki said: "We are really grateful for what they (Chinese firms) are doing here in Kenya. In recent years, we have been more concerned with internal roads than roads that connect us internationally, but we need to also focus on connecting Kenya to neighboring East African Community countries.

"That to me is very urgent and will greatly increase trade between all of these countries."

During a State visit to Shanghai in May, President Kibaki expressed his gratitude that China remains one of the leading bilateral donors to Kenya and assured China of the government's determination and commitment to boost existing cordial relations through exchange visits at all levels for the benefit of the peoples of the two countries.

A unique place in the world

As well as addressing the issues of traffic congestion, security and poverty, the strategy will make the city investor-friendly and thereby create job opportunities for young people, according to Prime Minister Raila Odinga. He called on all stakeholders to support the ministry in its endeavor to attain its vision.

Robinson Njeru Githae, Minister of Metropolitan Development said: "We want to make Nairobi a workable, livable place. The implementation of these short, medium and long-term programs and projects will result in a unique, properly planned metropolis that is functionally interconnectedly while ensuring a high quality of life.

"It will give incentives and returns for investing while having stable public finances. It will be responsive to the needs of investors, while respecting the need for neighbors. It is economically vibrant on a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week basis and will be a unique place in the world."

Set up in 2008, the Ministry for Nairobi's Metropolitan Development has already done much to ensure a safe, secure, and prosperous Nairobi Metropolitan Region.

Within a region that covers the wider Nairobi area, taking in 15 local authorities and covering 32,000 sq km, the Ministry is committed to good governance, tackling public transport, affordable housing, planning and zoning regulations, and transforming Nairobi into a global competitive metropolis for investment and tourism.

In short, Nairobi is on a mission to be the best managed metropolis in Africa.

"Our first priority is security: we want to have an educated, well-trained metropolitan police service," Minister Githae said. "We want to install closed-circuit television cameras on all the major roads, junctions and in buildings, and have a central commander and control post where this can be controlled and monitored. We are going to implement a metropolitan street lighting program that will promote safety and security and be self-sustaining."

Innovative approach

The strategy addresses the city's traffic issues. According to Permanent Secretary Onyango Sika, the population of Nairobi during the day is four million and at night three million, "so every day we have a million people coming into the city and at night a million people leaving. That obviously puts a strain on transport. To this extent, we are trying to formulate a reliable, cheap and comfortable public transport system. We want to have dedicated bus lines and also rail systems in and out of the city."

The strategy will also create a solid waste management authority that uses modern practices to replace the current dumping sites which are polluting the ground and water.

"We want to have waste sites that work in a scientific manner with an underground lining to prevent leakage," Minister Githae said. "We also need to have reliable, regular, potable and inexpensive sources of water. The government has put a lot of effort into constructing more boreholes throughout the country; in the last year, they have built 200 and also completed three new dams, with plans to construct 100 more.

"The final pillar is electricity. If we want to attract investors to our metropolis, we need to have a reliable and affordable power supply. The cost of electricity has gone up almost 100 percent because we have been using thermal power generation.

"We also need to control development. Nairobi is growing quickly; every day you wake up and see a new building going up in the rural areas and on the main corridors. While we can obviously control what goes on in the future, there are some issues with the ones that already exist."

Nairobi's development will not be without its challenges, but as President Kibaki said: "The transformation of the Nairobi Metropolitan Region into an urban region with world-class infrastructure, good security, globally competitive businesses and world-class educational and health institutions will herald a positive and transformative urbanization experience for Kenya."

Source:China Daily


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