UN-HABITAT this week warned Kenya that the agency’s host country had a problem of inequitable and unbalanced urban development.
The remarks were made in a statement by Mr. Daniel Biau, Director of UN-HABITAT’s Technical Cooperation Division, at a seminar organized by the French Cooperation on “Urban Development in Kenya: Towards Inclusive Cities”. Those present included Mr. Musalia Mudavadi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Local Government, the French Ambassador to Kenya, Mrs. Elizabeth Barbier, the DED of UN-Habitat and other dignitaries.
He cited figures showing that Kenya's urban population was expected to increase from 8.3 million in 2008 to 13.7 million by 2020.
“At present, Nairobi (3.2 million) and Mombasa (0.93 million) represent together half of the urban population. The population of Nairobi is expected to double in the next 20 years and be close to 7 million in 2030; its metropolitan area (NMR) could reach 10 million within one generation,” he said.
On the other hand, the network of medium-sized cities, essential to ensure a balanced territorial development remained underdeveloped, both demographically and in terms of institutional capacities.
“Kenya has a problem of insufficient urbanization and of inequitable and unbalanced urban development” he said. “ Compared to the countryside, cities are places of higher risks (due to factors such as density, pollution, difficult self-production, insecurity, inequality…). They are also places of higher opportunities (thanks to better education and health services, solidarities, rights and, above all employment). This explains why rural-urban migrations have not been influenced by public policies anywhere in Africa.”
He said it was “unfortunate” that some politicians viewed the the urbanization process as something that could be largely self-managed and spontaneous.
“Why is there such a distance between urban specialists and decision-makers? Probably because of the rural electoral basis of many leaders and also because of some misunderstanding of the challenges and opportunities offered by the urbanization process,” he said. “It seems that we, urban experts, have not been able to advocate convincingly the cause for which we have gathered here today.”
Mr. Biau used the occasion to introduce UN-HABITAT’s newly published first State of African Cities Report . This first report of its kind, carries a substantive chapter devoted to East Africa, including its largest cities – Addis Ababa, Nairobi and Dar Es-Salaam – as well as the region’s smaller agglomerations.
Mr. Biau invited the Kenyan policy-makers to transform the challenges of urbanisation into opportunities for sustainable development.