NAIROBI: “Needs to Feel the Positive Effects of Globalisation…”

Written by FATİH EREN

Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, who hosts the world’s biggest refugee camps, has been examined in this volume.

Slums_of_NairobiKenya 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 accomodated 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.


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Published in Political Reflection Magazine (PR) Vol. 2  No. 3

Fatih Eren is Doctoral Researcher in Department of Town and Regional Planning, University of Sheffield.

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