Nairobi County has perhaps one of the best Strategic Plans in the country. It is clear that resources, both time and monetary have been spent to get the plans done. The Integrated Urban Development Masterplan for the City of Nairobi is expected to guide the development of the city from 2014 to 2030 which coincides with the country’s Vision 2030.
In is interesting to note that the precursor of the plan, the 1973 Nairobi Metroplitan Growth Strategy was the development guide for up to the year 2000. Surprisingly, it appears that for the period of almost 15 years, the City was without a master plan. This could very well explain the deteriorated state of the city in the last two decades or so. But perhaps more important is how much of the 1973 strategy was ever implemented and more critically, what ought to be done to ensure that the current master plan succeeds.
Nairobi is not only the capital city of the country, but also the economic centre for East and Central Africa. It produces more almost 60 per cent of the country's wealth , thus attracting both rural populations as well as foreigners looking for investment opportunities. To cater for the rapidly rising population, more focus is required to be placed on infrastructure on a continuous basis.
The recent liveability ranking of the city at position 120 out of the 140 cities is clearly an indication that its growth has not been at par with the rapidly increasing population.The population has more than quadrupled from the 800,000 residents in 1980 to over three million and is still growing. It is estimated that Nairobi accounts for eight per cent of the national population, with its growth rate above the national average.
The current master plan is well articulated. It aims at integrating various infrastructure plans in urban transport, railway, airport, power, water supply, sewerage, telecommunication and solid water management.
The plan is expected to enhance the quality of life for Nairobi residents as well as provide spatial order of physical investments in order to improve the social economic status of the city. Started in 2012, the plan was expected to be completed in July 2014. The wordy 500 plus page report is a comprehensive outline of what needs to be done to bring back the glory of Nairobi. This includes services such as water, storm water drainage and sewerage, power supply and solid waste management that have clearly not coped with the rapid urbanisation. It also includes urban transportation as well as the housing issues.
In its review of the current infrastructure conditions, the master plan makes it clear that Nairobi county leadership is well informed on the problems of the city. These include major infrastructure intervention such as a road network that attracts most traffic to the city centre including vehicles that do not terminate their journey in the city centre to road indiscipline and public transport stopping anywhere to pick passengers instead of using designated areas.
It also recognises that Mass Rapid Transit System to ease transportation within Nairobi that was prepared in 2011, but is yet to bear fruit. Save for Nairobi-Syokimau commuter service, no other operation has been achieved to ease mass transportation within the city.
Particularly telling on the performance challenges that face the county residents is that statistics on water supply that are available and used for planning purposes are for 2008, when the population served with water was 67 per cent. Much has happened in the past seven years, with more developments taking place as well as an increase in population. Today, water shortages are a weekly occurrence, even for households that are classified as served by virtue of having a water connection.
Regardless, what is more important is what the city plans to do about the current situation and the priorities. The priority programmes for completion in 2018 encompass a whole workload in a short period of time, and should keep the County government very busy. The priority programmes cover key areas such as development of a Railway City with flyovers to ease traffic. To open the plans for monitoring however, priority programmes may need to include concrete deliverables, such as those that address the perennial water shortage, traffic congestion and the expansion of the sewerage system to open up the city environs.
To its credit, the master plan also addresses the constraints that may have faced past development plans, although it is not clear what it plans to do to prevent a recurrence of the same.
In the overall, the master plan is good on paper and if well implemented, it has the potential to once again give back the City in the Sun glory to Nairobi.