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‘Nairobi requires car park silos and emergency lanes’

By James Wanzala | March 24th 2016
Wafula Nabutola, the current regional director for Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in Sub Saharan Africa. [PHOTO: ELVIS OGINA/STANDARD]

KENYA: Tell us a bit about yourself, work experience, education and career.

I was born and raised in Mateka Village, Bungoma County and went to Cardinal Otunga High School for Forms One to Six, before joining the University of Nairobi for a degree in Land Economics. I have a Masters degree in Science from the University of Reading, United Kingdom.

I have held various positions both in public and private sectors, including being the vice-chairman of the Institution of Surveyors of Kenya, president of Commission Aid 8 of International Federation of Surveyors from 2009 to 2014.

Did you always want to be a surveyor?

No, it just happened by chance. But I love it. I wanted to study economics after high school, but when we were choosing courses at the University of Nairobi, I was told they only had Building Economics and Land Economics. I chose Land Economics.

So what have you learnt for the over 30 years you have been working?

I have learnt that every job is both a challenge and an opportunity to serve people, learn new things, new knowledge and network with fellow professionals and other people outside the profession.

Recently, you were named the regional director of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), sub-Saharan Africa. Briefly tell us more about RICS

RICS is a global organisation founded in 1868 in London, United Kingdom. It advocates, promotes and enforces the highest standards and qualifications in the development and management of land, real estate, construction and infrastructure.

It received a Royal Charter 20 years later. RICS presence in Africa was confined to South Africa until 2013 when the Governing Council approved a proposal to widen its operations to include the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, initially with focus on three key markets: Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

What informed RICS’s decision to open an office in Kenya recently?

A research in 2013 revealed that sub-Saharan Africa has the largest natural resource base and the youngest population, meaning it will be the largest supplier of labour to the whole world. But this labour should be skilled and its capacity developed. That is why we saw it good to set foot in sub-Saharan Africa.

Kenya already has local real estate-related professional associations like the Institution of Surveyors Kenya, the Institute of Quantity Surveyors of Kenya and the Architectural Association of Kenya. Why is it still necessary to have a global professional association like RICS in the country?

Let me clarify that RICS has not come here to take over the role of the local institutions you have mentioned. We have instead come to expand the horizon and broaden the professional reach.

Thanks to its global outlook, RICS has come to partner, share and collaborate with these institutions to enhance and deepen both partners’ skills base and professional capacity based on our long global experience. It is like cross-breeding in cows to get a hybrid.

So who are you targeting as members?

We are looking at working with the national and county governments since they are the regulators of the standards and codes of practice. We are also planning to work with local professional bodies.

Long before it opened an office in Kenya, RICS was already here. So what difference will RICS’s coming to Kenya make?

Yes, there was RICS Kenya Group with 42 members, which was like a welfare group. It was voluntarily wound up to give way for RICS International, which is a business and professional entity.

As a built-environment expert, you have held various positions both in public and private, including being a one-time chairman of the Nairobi Central Business District Association (NCBDA). What are the major highlights of your career?

I was the NCBDA chairman from 2005 to 2008. In the late 1990s, the city was in a deplorable state. Professionals and businesses came together to form NCBDA. The level of insecurity was high, with many cases of muggings, petty theft, and robberies reported. Sanitation was poor, the city was stinking and there were no toilets, which gave it a bad reputation.

This forced some business-people to shun Nairobi for other cities outside Kenya. People were paying taxes and rates, but not getting services. There were also no markets with international standards in terms of cleanliness, lighting, security, response time and closure.

What did you achieve while at the helm of NCBDA?

I helped NCBDA sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the City Council of Nairobi to deliver the above-mentioned services. City residents are generally enjoying those services today.

How is Nairobi under the county government different from the Nairobi we used to know before devolution came?

I think there has been some improvement, but more needs to be done. We waste a lot of time in traffic, which is unhealthy due to fumes but also raises stress levels.

We need to decongest the city by removing all-side street parking to allow for free movement of people. We should also build car park silos and develop one emergency lane on each street for emergency cases. There is room for improvement and the city residents should be involved more.

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