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How Nairobi’s poor planning has hit pedestrians


Nairobi’s transport infrastructure has been designed with least consideration on how majority of its residents move from one part of the city to another.

A new World Bank report notes that the city has been designed to largely cater for residents with cars, giving them easy access to opportunities including means of economic empowerment.

However, the majority of residents (87 per cent) commuting on public service vehicles or on foot take longer to get around town and are in turn left with access to few jobs. Due to the challenges of getting to their work places, productivity among matatu users remains low.

“Nairobi is a city built for car owners, who can reach about 90 per cent of jobs within an hour, but car use accounts for only 13 per cent of trips for all purposes,” said the report, Africa’s Cities – Opening Doors to the World, launched last week. “Most job opportunities in Nairobi are inaccessible to people without cars.”

According to the report, a majority of Nairobi’s population move around the city on foot (41 per cent) while 28 per cent use matatus. “A central resident can access only 20 per cent of all jobs within an hour using the matatu network,” the report said.

The report adds that matatu users in Nairobi had access to only 5.8 per cent of all jobs in the city within 45 minutes. Other than inaccessible employment in Nairobi among majority of the residents, there is also miss-allocation of labour, where due to spatial distribution there is a mismatch between available job opportunities and the talent in close proximity.

The scenario in Nairobi is in contrast with the situation in London where according to World Bank “a resident of London could (in 2013) reach 2.5 million jobs (54 per cent of all jobs in Greater London) within 45 minutes of the city centre using the public transit network… By comparison, in Nairobi, matatu users’ had access to only 5.8 percent of all jobs within 45 minutes.”

Productivity low

According to the World Bank, cities should have match making function, where they link companies and job seekers, a role that over time makes cities more productive than the rest of an economy.

“African cities are failing to do so. Activities are scattered instead of clustered, because capital is misallocated. Fragmentation prevents labor market pooling — leaving workers with access to few jobs, keeping productivity low, and locking cities into the non-tradable sector,” said the report.

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