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Search for town jobs pushes 10 million Kenyans to slum poverty

By Macharia Kamau | January 22nd 2020
A section of Mukuru Kayaba in Nairobi on Thursday, September 12 2019. [David Njaaga, Standard]

One in every five Kenyans lives in slum areas without access to basic amenities, according to the government.

This is fuelled by the influx of people to urban areas as they look to better their lives with expectations of finding higher-paying jobs. The migration has led to what the National Treasury refers to as ‘urbanisation of poverty’.

In its draft 2020 Budget Policy Statement (BPS), Treasury noted that 10 million Kenyans live in slums, which translates to 21.2 per cent of the 47 million population as at last year’s census.

Nairobi leads with 36 per cent of its population living in slums. According to the census data, the county has a total of population of 4.39 million people, which means over 1.5 million people live in the city’s informal settlements.

“The recently concluded population census estimates that 10 million Kenyans dwell in slums while over 90 per cent of Kenyans living in urban areas live in rented houses, 65 per cent of whom live in informal settlements,” said Treasury in the BPS.

“Access to financing is also a major problem for majority of Kenyans, evident in the fact that there are only 25,000 mortgages in the country. The Affordable Housing Programme is therefore designed to address these challenges.”

Treasury cited little access to finances as among the major challenges that have left many Kenyans with few options but to live in hovels. 

Urbanisation of poverty

“With the population growth of cities, there has been an urbanisation of poverty with 22 per cent of the population in the Kenya’s five cities living in slums.

“The number of individuals living in slums varies significantly by city, with 36 per cent of residents in Nairobi living in slums while 24 per cent of Mombasa residents live in slum areas.”

Implementation of the housing programme has been underway for two years now but delivery of the houses has been underwhelming.

In a recent report, Treasury noted that the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development had so far managed to deliver 228 units. The houses are located on Park Road, Ngara, in Nairobi.

This is against the 500,000 units by 2022 that the Jubilee administration promised in 2017 on re-election.

The State Department of Housing and Urban Development however said the delivery of low-cost units would be mostly through a public-private partnership model, with the State providing an enabling environment including tax incentives for developers.

Out of thetargeted units, the government expects to build about 60,000 while the balance will be financed and constructed by the private sector.

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