How will Nairobi look like in 2071 AD?
By XN Iraki
| August 29th 2021
Two weeks ago, we mused over the diminishing competitiveness of Nairobi, the green city in the sun. Few have disputed that the city has not lived to its expectations. Let’s be bold and ask; how will Nairobi look like in the year 2071 AD or 51 AC (after Covid-19)?
It is unlikely I shall be there to witness what I am writing about. But you can keep this write-up and cross-check if you will be around.
How can we modernise the city, make it a leader in Africa and beyond?
First, the city must be zoned. That might be against the market. The thinking that one should do what he wants with his land should be moderated by reality.
A visit to once affluent Lavington, Kileleshwa, Kilimani or Githurai, Zimmerman and Roysambu leaves one to doubt that zoning is necessary. Any landlord making money from high rise buildings would hate reading this. The demand for housing is high and it makes economic sense to satisfy it and make money.
But that should not be at the expense of higher standards of living espoused by adequate space for leisure and “breathing.” Parks and open spaces are not a bonus, they are a necessity.
How come we see skyscrapers but not parks or public beaches on our visits to majuu (US)?
Why are we so quick to copy the American political systems and not its ecological systems? We know so much about the US political system but little about its parks, forests and open spaces.
Great cities have open and if possible green spaces. Beyond our world-famous national park, developing Nairobi’s open and green spaces has not been given adequate attention. Visited City Park lately? But the arboretum has improved. Who said we can’t have another Karura Forest, another Uhuru Park or Jevanjee Gardens?
Even so-called gated communities have no time for “wasted spaces” in the name of open spaces.
Why can’t we dam the Nairobi River and have boats or restaurants by the “lakes.” Nairobi River has added a little character to the city like the Thames in London or Rhine in Bonn.
Why should pollution and deforestation be an issue in a city that houses the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) headquarters? Ama kinyozi hajinyoi (translated as you can’t shave yourself)? Two, Nairobi has invested too much in roads and highways but not in what matters to human beings like fresh air.
Would someone spend Sh60 billion to build a park? An easy option is to ensure that the forested parts of the city are not “degraded” by development.
Will Muthaiga or Karen one day become vertical ghettos?
Such green zones can be declared historical zones, with owners given the incentives like lower rates to keep trees and the character of the place. Who would not want to see the remnants of the “green city “in the sun in 2071?
Three, the city must embrace meritocracy with open arms.
A boy or girl born in Mathare valley should one day live in Muthaiga, not because of political connections but hard work and open opportunities in entrepreneurship, or jobs. Does the city bylaws facilitate that? How many of the bylaws are echoes from the past when the city was segregated?
Are slums forever? When shall we modernise them? Four, the city must integrate itself with the neighbouring counties; that could give it breathing space. The Nairobi Metropolitan Services make long-term economic and planning sense.
But visiting Kiambu Road, Waiyaki Way, Mombasa road or Ongata Rongai leaves no doubt that these adjoining counties are mimicking Nairobi not improving on it.
The coffee estates being chopped in Kiambu would make great parks even with a Disneyland.
That could make more money than residential flats. Leisure and fun are human needs.
Five, Nairobi’s diversity is inadequate. We still live in enclaves, often depending on your “shaggs” (villages). Which community is dominant in Kangemi? Githurai, Karen, Westlands among others?
The names of members of the county assemblies (MCAs) can give you an idea. Such enclaves are hard to erase even in big cities like New York. But upward mobility based on inclusive education can break the hard ethnic borders.
Let me share a secret; by 2071, the city will be browner, with increased cross-racial marriages. That could make Kenya’s 46th or 47th tribe. Noted the cross-racial children in some suburbs?
Internationalisation is another way to dilute the enclaves. We have too few immigrants from beyond our borders, the US-style.
Maybe, we should have taken in some Afghan refugees to enrich our diversity. How many Makonde or Shona live in the city? Six, Nairobi of 2071 will not be about roads and buildings but the people. Let them interact more through school, workplace, residences, entrepreneurship, leisure and even marriage adding dynamism to the city.
Seven, by 2071, the old estates in Eastlands will become new epicentres of growth, they have space and ambitious people.
Just visit Pangani, and get a glimpse into the future of Eastlands.
The leafy suburbs will be part of a botanical museum, a nostalgic journey into the past. By 2071 AD, demolitions to rebuild will be common, the urban renewal will be at its apogee.
Eight, it’s possible that by 2071 Nairobi will be many smaller towns each with its administrative structures. What is the optimal size of a city after which it becomes dysfunctional?
The walls that characterise Nairobi will be lower or “live” as we appreciate nature more. Better security will make walls unnecessary. Between, when is Nairobi getting a mayor?
Nine, Nairobi could become a national territory like Washington DC or Canberra in Australia. Is that the idea behind Nairobi metropolitan services? Will “kanjo” soon become redundant?
Ten, it is also possible that Nairobi will have become irrelevant, overtaken by new cities like Mandera strategically located at the meeting point of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.
Add Lodwar, too. Who said Nairobi can’t be transplanted?
The wide-open plains beyond Nanyuki towards Isiolo adjoining the Laikipia ranches could give us the next capital and demote Nairobi. Let talk on January 1, 2071. Do not ask me how
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