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Moving Beyond Urban Exclusion

 Reflections on the Proposed National Slum Upgrading and Prevention Policy
The development of Slums in Kenya’s urban areas is linked to the country’s political and economic growth that has produced skewed and uncoordinated urbanization. In Kenya as in much of East Africa the emerging urban areas depict simultaneously human prosperity and deep human destitution. Urban population growth rate in Kenya is approximated to be 6-7% per annum]. This rapid growth coupled with limited resources, unemployment, high poverty levels, uncoordinated and unmatched initiatives has strained the government in provision of decent shelter and associated infrastructure leading to proliferation of slums and informal settlements.

Most notable is the absence of social housing; hence most of the low income population coming to the urban areas has been left to depend on the market for housing in a context that is also characterized with precarious land tenure models.  The mode of delivery by the private sector is skewed in favor of high and upper middle income households neglecting the low income groups. The neglected segment of urban population usually finds accommodation in slums and informal settlement. It is in light of the above that the government through a widely consultative process formulated a National Slum Upgrading and Prevention Policy with aim of producing a policy whose goal is to guide the country towards upgrading of existing and preventing emergence of new slums in a coordinated and systematic manner. The overall objective of this policy is to promote, secure and protect dignified livelihoods of the poor living and working in slums by strategically integrating them into the social, political and economic framework in line with the Constitution of Kenya.

But even in this context, it remains apparent that our urbanization process continues to produce more exclusion and inequality. In Nairobi city 2010 for instance, about 2.65 million people live in over 200 slums in different parts Nairobi, the biggest in population densities being Mukuru, Kibera and Mathare. The most glaring contradiction, however, is that Nairobi has slum densities as high as 1200 persons per hectare (Mathare) compared to 5 persons per hectare in the high income areas (Karen/Muthaiga).

These disparities require that we must not relent in conversations that can build on the new Constitution, particularly in its guarantees on national values, sovereignty of citizens and rights for Equality and Human dignity. Our everyday conversations as citizen and discourse within the Universities continue to reveal the enormous challenges faced in making housing and sanitation accessible for citizens currently residing in the slums. The symposium held at Tangaza University, Nairobi generated debate on how to challenge skewed  planning and governance while safeguarding human dignity, the environment and natural resources as well as the challenge of making the hard choices (for example on attaining equity and equality for all, especially marginalized citizens) in order to make what is in the law a reality.


[1]               Population Census 2009

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