NAIROBI “needs to feel the positive effects of globalisation…”

Fatih Eren*


Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, who hosts the world’s biggest refugee camps, has been examined in this volume. Kenya is the most developed and the most influential country in East Africa; and, Nairobi is the most populous and one of the most prominent cities politically and financially in this region. The Republic of Kenya became an independent country in 1963. After this date, the government of Kenya had followed a protectionist governmental and economic policy until the 1990s. The government then embraced a semi-liberal economic policy in 1993. As a consequence of this decision, the social and economic connections of the country with the other countries has started to increase gradually. The year 2008 was a bad year for the country. In early 2008, violence erupted in Kenya following the presidential elections, leaving more than 1,000 people killed and 300,000 people displaced from their homes. Happily, the violence stopped quickly. Kenya enjoys a political and economical stability for the last 3 years.

Kenya is the gate of the East Africa region. This unique position makes Nairobi, that is the leading city of the country, a natural attraction centre for all global players who are closely interested in this region. More globalisation studies should be conducted on Nairobi because the city, as different from many other global cities in the same cathegory, connects to the world via specific and interesting channels. Nairobi became the top-ranked city among 25 global cities in the list which was developed by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) using NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) network connectivity indicators in 2004. In other words, Nairobi is the most connected city to the world with respect to NGO activities; it connects to the world through international NGOs.

The financial and commercial ties of the city with other countries speeded up after 2005. Main reasons for this acceleration were the realisation of successful structural and economic reforms which were performed by the Kenyan Parliement and the increasing memberships of Kenya to international unions and trade organizations (e.g. Africa Union (AU), East African Community (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), The Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) and so on).

Today, Nairobi is fighting against severe drought which has started in 2008 and affected all Sub-saharan Africa. Due to drought, migrations from the city’s rural areas, other cities and other countries to Nairobi increased significantly in the last 3 years. Many people are now trying to survive in the refugee camps and in the slums of the city. Therefore, the city is subject to an interest of international NGOs for help rather than international investors. The headquarters of more than 75 international NGOs are located in Nairobi right now and these NGOs conduct their aid activities (main aids are on food, health, environment and education) towards the East Africa from here.

The impact of global concern for Nairobi: Analysis
There are about 473,000 registered refugees in Kenya according to UNHRC April 2011 data. A 100,000 of these refugees are accommodated in Nairobi (Humanitarian Policy Group Working Paper 2010). These refugees are living in refugee camps which are spreaded all over the country (e.g. Dagahaley, Kakuma and so on) or in Kenyan cities as urban refugees. The current situation of the refugee camps is very problematic; they are all over-crowded and their resources (i.e. doctors, nurses, food, water, medicine, volunteer staff and so on) are inefficient and poor. The Government of Kenya is reluctant to open new refugee camps in the country not to encourage new migrations. Despite this, migrations are still going on from neighbour countries to Kenya. For example, 15,000 people migrate every month from Somalia to Kenya according to United Nations data. It is a big possibility that immigrants who are spreaded all over the country will move to Nairobi to survive in the next years because all Kenyan youngs moved to Nairobi in the last 10 years to survive and to make their livings. The urban population rose about 1 million due to internal migrations between 1999 and 2008; the present spreaded immigrants may follow the same route. If it goes like that, the city’s urban population may rise to 10 million; 30 new slum districts may be added to the city’s fringes and so the 90% of the city population may be accomodated in the city’s slums in the next 5-10 years (there are already 66 slums in Nairobi (e.g. Kibera, Mathare Valley, Mukuru Kwa Njenga and so on) and 60% of the city’s population is living in slums, today).

The country is dependent on foreign financial credits and aids in terms of infrastructural investments (United Nations(UN) provided $284 million and European Union(EU) provided $145 million financial aid to Kenya for infrastructural investments in 2011). The severe problems of East Africa ( i.e. drought, starvation, waterlessness, sheltering and diseases) are in the agenda of the world for a while so international financial aids are now flowing into Nairobi, which is the financial centre of the region. A significant share of these aids are spent for infrastructural investments in the region (The World Bank provided $1.3 billion financial aid to the East Africa region to strengthen its highway, railway and harbour infrastructures. Again, China and India are providing long-term credits for their international companies to promote them to invest in infrastructural projects in the region). Nairobi has benefited from these international aids a certain extent, of course. However, the city still needs all type of infrastructural projects (i.e. buildings, transport, water and power supplies). Recently, some international property development and investment companies (e.g. Renaissance, Garun Real Estate Investment, Translakes Limited and so on) have started some residential and commercial property development projects in the city benefiting from the long-term credit advantages of international banks and funds (e.g. Tatu City). Therefore, foreign capital inflows have speeded up property construction and development activities in Nairobi. It is possible to see many construction sites in Central Nairobi at the moment. However, the land prices increased dramatically in Central Nairobi. 1 acre land whose price was less than $2,000 before 2008 rose to $50,000 now due to new infrastructural investments in Central Nairobi. For this reason, international property development and investment companies moved their new residential and commercial projects to small towns near Central Nairobi and started to develop new gated communities (safe and luxury neighbourhoods) for middle and higher income class in these towns (e.g. Nakuru, Naivasha). This trend will continue increasingly in the next years.

World Bank has just declared that 150,000 new social housing units have to be developed and delivered every year in the country to meet the demand. However, World Bank 2011 report also states that only 8% of Kenyans can afford a housing loan. It is clear that all prospective housing projects have to be designed and developed as affordable housing units in Nairobi because 90% of Nairobians, living and working in the city, belong to low-income class. I should say that the city needs the long-termest international property developers and investors who expect to get the returns of their investments between 20 and 40 years. Keeping in mind that Nairobi is an im-portant international centre in East Africa and its property market has a potential to grow significantly in the future. Therefore, it is not so hard for local property professionals to find this type of international investors who can invest in the development of affordable houses in Nairobi.
The Ministry of Lands wants to achieve a key objective in the country: ‗equitable and efficient access to land for Kenyans‘; so the government, who aims to solve the chronic housing problem of the city, may provide free or cheap lands to local/international institutional/individual investors who wish to develop affordable housing units in Nairobi in the near future. The city has enough suitable land for new residential developments. International property investors are now interested in the development of affordable single-family homes in the city. It would be a good idea to support and sustain this initiative considering the social and demographic structure of the city.
The government has set up a future vision for the country, that is to create a globally competitive and prosperous Kenya in 2030‘. In parallel to the state‘s 2030 vision, Nairobi City Council has also set up a new vision for the city, that is to be recognized as one of the most attractive cities in the world‘. The governors of the city believes this basic principle: Where there is activity, there is plentifulness and prosperity. When we look at the vision of all cities in the world, we see that almost all cities are trying to attract international human, capital and commodity flows into themselves in order to be a global city and an international hub. This vision looks fine for a city if we consider that city individually as separate from other cities. However, when we consider all cities collectively as an integrated system or network, this vision seems quite problematic. In the logic of competition‘, the rise of some cities means the fall of some other cities. In other words, in a race, if there are some winners, there have to be some losers. In this context, it is very very difficult for a city, for example Nairobi, which starts this race as a loser from the beginning, to win the race; it doesn‘t matter how long does this race take, the result does not change. Starting from this argument, perhaps, we can talk about a competition between states‘ but we should not talk about a competition between cities‘. Instead of using the term urban competition, it is better to discuss the terms urban cooperation‘ or urban solidarity‘ on global scale. In this way, we can distribute a city‘s accumulated value fairly to different localities via special channels (e.g. twin cities, sister cities, city-to-city cooperation, urban partnership programs, and so on). Nairobi can survive only with the help and support of other strong global cities. In short, Nairobi needs a new future vision and strategy which strongly focus on the basic needs of the city people such as sheltering, food, water and security.
Everybody knows that the main reason for the experiencing problems in Nairobi is not only drought‘ but also some developed countries imperialist attempts which were made towards the city‘s (and the country‘s) resources over the past 150 years. Therefore, Nairobi no more wants to see short-termest investors who expect to take something from the city but the city wants to see long-termest investors and charitable donors who want to give something to Nairobians and who try to develop this city a self-sufficient independent locality in the world. In the last 3 years, deaths, which emerged as a result of drought, starvation, waterlessness and violance, moved short-termest investors away from the city but brought charitable donors close to the city.
In the last 3 years, many wells were opened by charitable donors especially in the rural areas of the city to meet the Nairobians‘ clean water need. Again, many NGOs provided food aids to the city people who are living in both urban and rural areas. It is very difficult to establish a permanent clean water system in the urban area in the short term due to unplanned growth, uncontrolled slum developments and high investment costs. Therefore, many new wells may be opened in the slum areas of the city in the next months (Nairobi was a famous city with its cool waters in the history. Clean water can easily be found from 45m. depth under the ground today. The cost of opening a new well is about €2000). On one hand, some social buildings such as imarethane‘, which provide and deliver free daily foods regularly and fairly to poor people, may rise in the urban area be-cause all charities are now aware that future food aids have to be done regularly and in a systematic way in the city. On the other hand, many children were left orphan dependent on AIDS and HIV-related diseases, fatal migrations, and violence in the country. It is estimated that there are more than 1 million orphans in the whole country. In this context, in the next years, as different from other metropolitan cities, Nairobi may develop into a city with many social nodes (small sub-centers) which include simple commercial units, temples, schools as well as wells, imarethanes, orphanages and security units that are responsible for the organization, hygiene and security of food and water deliveries. Increasing food prices, increasing hunger and waterlessness and the initiatives of international NGOs are strengthening the possibility of the emergence of social nodes in the city.
One of the main problems of Nairobians is the increasing food prices. Some people may claim that the farmlands of the city is unproductive. However, it is possible to see some coffee, tea, banana and sugar cane farmlands which belong to some international companies and which use modern irrigation and greenhouse systems in some parts of the city (Nakuru, the Abardare Ranges, Limuru, etc.). This situation is clear evidence that if Nairobians want and if they have some resources, they can develop the urban and rural land into productive farmlands. The EU imports many agricultural products which were grown in Kenya without any custom in the context of Cotonou Agreement, today. The level of agricultural productions is low and even products do not meet the demand for the home market. If European Development Programme (EDP) uses its money (which was seperated for Kenya) to teach modern farming techniques to Kenyans and to help Nairobi-ans to own essential agricultural technological tools and vehicles, many new greenhouses may rise in the urban and rural areas of the city in the next years. In this way, in maximum 10 years, Nairobians may develop into farmers who meet their own food requirements and who also export their agricultural products to European Countries.

Indeed, Nairobians have to grow their own foods independently because of the overcrowded population of the city who are living on the hunger threshold and of the weakly established food transportation and delivery channels in the country. The city governors should benefit from public-private partnerships to encourage agricultural productions in the locality and to distribute agricultural products to internal and external markets in a fair and balanced way.
In conclusion, it is now time to see the positive effects of globalisation in Nairobi. International companies which give a helping hand to Nairobians, thinking long-termest and using on free loan, will be called as real global companies‘, countries which give a helping hand to East Africa will be remembered as great states‘ in the future. After all, we would be a child who was born in Nairobi; we would be struggling against hunger and waterlessness and we would be expecting a help from other world people right now. PR
Note:
* Fatih Eren is Doctoral Researcher in Department of Town and Regional Planning, University of Sheffield.
E-mail: trp07fe@sheffield.ac.uk

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