Why City Hall should effectively implement development plans

City Hall Annexe Building which the County under Governor Sakaja had it converted to the Nairobi County Customer Service Centre on Monday, August 02, 2023. [Samson Wire, Standard]

A city of order, dignity, hope and opportunities for all. That is the vision statement guiding the Nairobi County’s Annual Development Plan 2024/2025. However, the chaos currently being witnessed in the city centre due to the influx of hawkers does not reflect the envisaged order in the city.

Despite Governor Johnson Sakaja recently banning hawking from the CBD, the streets are still increasingly becoming chaotic and impassable due to the rising number of hawkers. Just like during the previous regimes, we continue to witness confrontations between hawkers and city askari who often manhandle the traders and, in some cases, destroy their merchandise.

This is uncalled for since Nairobi’s Annual Development Plan (ADP) 2022/2023 had anticipated this issue and made proposals on how to bring it to an end.

The ADP 2022/2023 is the ultimate implementation plan in a series of five towards the realisation of the larger County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP–2018/2022) which covers the five years the county administration is in office. The CIDP fulfills the requirements of Public Finance Management Act 2012, which provides that every county shall prepare a CIDP in line with the County Government Act 2012.

The Annual Development Plan 2022/2023 cited hawking as a major challenge in the Central Business District (or Central Ward). The proposed solutions were to form relevant laws and regulations for hawking, designate hawking zones or times, and construct modern kiosks for them. The better way was to implement the proposals before relocating them. What we saw was the opposite.

City Hall and the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) developed a framework to implement this under the Nairobi County Fiscal Strategy Paper. The plan aimed to create more trading spaces and improve the trading environment in the markets. Sh138.2 million was set aside for Phase 1. With the decommissioning of the NMS, the plan seems to have stalled midway. This is why I’m convinced that the biggest impediment to development is the failure to implement already proposed strategies or plans.

High-rise buildings

Indeed, poor planning and failure to adequately implement already formulated plans are the causes of the many problems we have in Nairobi and other urban areas. It is why we have poorly built estates where high-rise buildings sprout overnight in zones meant for single-dwelling units. And the malaise of poor implementation cuts across all sectors.

Where implementation has been effective, progress has been achieved. For example, Makueni County, under the leadership of Kivutha Kibwana as governor, excelled in implementation. They launched universal healthcare and a mango and milk processing plant by implementing the Makueni County CIDP (2013-2017). As a result, this majorly improved the lives of the people and won national accolades. Nairobi and other counties can achieve the same if leaders can resolve to implement all the plans that have been gathering dust on the shelves for years. Sometimes, there is no need to make new plans; just implementing what is already there might be all that is needed to achieve progress.

A major hindrance to achieving such progress is corruption perpetuated by county officials. Just recently, a junior officer at City Hall was on the hot seat at the Nairobi County Assembly for approving almost 600 building plans, without the knowledge of his superiors. Never mind that most of the plans had been rejected by the Urban Planning Technical Committee.

The impact of this is evident in many neighbourhoods in Nairobi. 

The unsettling truth is that such building developments, usually pushed by unscrupulous developers, are approved by corrupt City Hall officials through the backdoor in total disregard for planning regulations. Yet, these are the people who are supposed to implement the plans.

The desire by Nairobi County leaders to have an orderly county is noble. But order does not come by itself; it must be planned for. And the plans must be implemented. The planning and implementation must involve the people through existing structures such as Resident Associations. Let us walk the talk.

Mr Ochieng is the CEO of The Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations