Strathmore Business School’s Director of Special Projects, David Mugun contributed an article in the Business Daily about the key role the new Governor of Nairobi, Dr. Evans Kidero has in transforming Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya.
Arguably East Africa’s commercial capital, the role of Nairobi in setting the tempo of political and economic activity in the region cannot be over-emphasised. Judging by the volume of traffic at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the port of Mombasa, Kenya is the uncontested gateway to East Africa by air and sea.
Nairobi is also the most established city in terms of infrastructure and human capital. Its success in maintaining this leverage, however, lies in the county and national governments working in tandem to deepen Kenya’s stranglehold on these factors of comparative advantage.To understand the prime position that the city occupies in the region, consider this. Were Nairobi a country, it would be the richest in East Africa accounting as it is for 60 per cent of Kenya’s Sh3.7 trillion GDP – by far the largest in the region.
To crown it all, Nairobi now hosts a newly upgraded United Nations office, which now has an Assembly status, making it the third of three UN headquarters in the world (after New York and Geneva) and the only one in the developing world.
These realities should lead us to the conclusion that for its importance, Nairobi deserves greater attention. Nairobi deserves a business-like environment where people work to eliminate the negative effects of the successive administrations that failed the city in the past.For its new UN diplomatic role, Nairobi should have an environmental agenda befitting an international capital. This will in turn make it easier to do business not only in the city but also in the country and region.
Whatever Governor Evans Kidero and the new government have on the list of things to do, they must add the following: They must be alive to the dangers of air pollution arising from motorised transport. Many of the vehicles on our roads are not roadworthy – they emit dangerous levels of harmful smoke and cause preventable accidents because they are not properly serviced and maintained.
Other jurisdictions have found an ingenious solution to deal with this menace. If your car has no evidence of service, has bad tyres or emits excessive smoke, then the fuel attendants at the gas station simply never fuel your car. In such circumstances, break-down vehicles are at hand to tow away your car to a garage. Our fuel stations, being registered legal business entities within Kenya, have a legal duty to protect the environment.
The National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) and the Nairobi county administration must punish petroleum stations that fuel faulty vehicles.
A simple gadget tells you about the level of smoke emission while a match stick head is enough to tell if your tyres are worn out. If the head cannot be fully lodged between your tyre threads, then yours are worn out.Then there is the very manageable irritant in dust. Ever wondered why in London or New York, there is no need to polish your shoes? Every bare surface has been covered by either concrete or grass.
There is a direct relationship between dust-related infections and bare surfaces that generate dust. Managing dust would also significantly reduce the cost of cleaning offices and schools. Add to this the cost of treating dust-borne sicknesses and you have a very strong case for spending some resources and time on this.
As the old adage goes “prevention is better than cure.” The place to start is holding property developers and owners accountable. Property development must not be considered complete without covering bare surfaces, including roads and footpaths.
Dr Kidero must also go for the aesthetics and ensure that Nairobi has no poorly maintained buildings and that property owners refurbish and maintain them to set standards. This is a low hanging fruit for the new county government. All it has to do is re-introduce the bylaws governing paintworks on buildings.
In many sections of Nairobi, one is often confronted by bad-looking buildings with rusted rooftops and dirty walls that have not been maintained for years. A fresh coat of paint will ensure that ours is a bright-looking city, besides creating thousands of jobs for painters and a big market for paint makers that themselves employ thousands of people.
Yet the elephant in the house remains insecurity whose impact on business is immense and enduring. Insecurity must be dealt a blow with speed and finality. I am not a security expert but rather a victim whom at gunpoint lost a phone, wedding band and money.
Digital technology and a convergence of data bases with citizens’ biometric details will go a long way in stemming crime. The county government must demand that all security personnel be digitally compliant and use close circuit cameras to monitor activity round the clock.
Dr Kidero will soon find out that to realise his goals for Nairobi, he must deal with the outbreak and continued proliferation of indiscipline in nearly all facets of life in the city.One could say restoring some sense of discipline among city residents is the silver bullet that will help eliminate many of the problems that Nairobi faces as a growing city of three million residents.
For a start, the new county government should just bring back and strictly enforce the Michuki rules. Too many lives are being lost on our roads and with it goes specialised human skills that have taken us years to nurture. The rules that aimed to tame rogue drivers, worked well with the late Michuki as Transport minister. This was simply because there was the will to enforce them and there is no reason this cannot be done again.
The city authorities must also adapt Rwanda-like clean-up exercise monthly, so that people identify with both the results of a clean environment and efforts to keep the city clean. In Kigali, you do not need to shine your shoes because there is no dust and mud from pot holes. Figure out the financial savings to the county just by mobilising over a million adults monthly in a clean-up exercise. If we cannot keep Nairobi clean, then perhaps let us relocate Unep to Kigali.
Revive all the health centres that have hitherto remained dilapidated. Some time in the past, Nairobi had a reasonable managed health centre managed by City Council in every jurisdiction. The buildings are still there but in a state of disrepair. Full revival will go a long way in helping residents to cope with the high cost of treatment in private hospitals.
In many of the low-income neighbourhoods, access to affordable quality health services remains only a pipe dream. Yet the basic infrastructure (found in the defunct Nairobi City Council dispensaries) exists. All that is needed is to refurbish these facilities, staff them with well-paid professionals and supply them with drugs and medical equipment regularly.
And in the interest of the thousands of people who earn a living from micro and small enterprises, Dr Kidero will have to apply his management skills in reforming the city inspectorate department – that wing of his government that is in charge of security (council askaris) but are better known for their predatory, even criminal activities. These askaris could do with additional training in etiquette and professionalism.
He must break the cartels that have invested in old Land Rovers waiting at every intersection to tow away cars that have been impounded by police and the askaris merely to siphon money from the owners. If anything, the status of the County Security force should be made to be the envy of the national police force. If it works well, every child wishing to be a soldier would wish to work for Nairobi County.
Finally to keep the reform agenda on track, Dr Kidero must put Nairobi on the team of African cities that will participate in an annual competition on an agreed criterion. This will add purpose to the job and keep the team on toes to attaining a truly global status.
Mr Mugun is the Author of the books “How to Undo Life’s Airlocks” and “10 Critical Success Answers for SMEs”. He is presently Director of Special Projects at Strathmore Business School(SBS).