Cash-hungry slumlords and politicians have blocked modernisation of Nairobi’s Kibera slum, robbing the economy of Sh103 billion, the World Bank says in a report that unmasks Kenya’s lords of poverty.
The data, which is contained in a real estate report that was made public last week, is the clearest revelation of how a clique of faceless investors are minting rent and service charge cash from the predicament of thousands of slum dwellers.
Kenya’s economy is robbed of $1 billion (Sh103 billion) in missed capital value for not developing the slum, the World Bank says adding that the estimate is based on the size of the area and its distance from the city centre.
“Rough calculations based on 1,000 acres of land at four kilometres from the centre suggest that the gains of converting Kibera would reach $1 billion,” the report says.
“The surplus generated by such a transformation could be used to help relocate tenants and potentially buy off the people blocking redevelopment but transformation would require making deals with the slumlords.”
Kibera hosts about 350,000 people, or about a fifth of Nairobi’s population. The slum, which has been billed as Africa’s largest, is mainly made up of shacks – mud-walled structures with corrugated tin roofs – owned by slumlords without title deeds. “Effectively, Kibera land is owned by the government but managed by slumlords and political elites who control the land and have no interest in developing it (because they do not own the land), which would take away their very profitable slum business,” the World Bank says.
Over 90 per cent of the slum dwellers are tenants of the shacks, the average size of which is 12 feet square, costing as low as Sh700 monthly.
The informal settlement has more recently morphed into a cash cow from slum tourism, while several groups have set up non-governmental organisations (NGOs) meant to support its shambolic health and education services.
Ministry of Land officials were yesterday quick to deflect attention from their apparent failure to better manage that section of the Kenyan capital, saying a community land title deed for the slum is ready for issuance.
“We will soon be issuing the title to the community land management committee that is made up of Kibera residents,” said Land secretary Jacob Kaimenyi.
The Community Land Act allows residents to elect between seven and 15 committee members who, with the approval of the people, can convert the communal land to private property.
Prof Kaimenyi reckons that the yet-to-be constituted committee will, thereafter, decide to what economic use the land will be put.
Asked on the safeguards against political interference, Prof Kaimenyi said “The law is very clear on how to go about it.”
Records indicate that original slum dwellers were the Nubian community from the Kenya/Sudan border, but over the years other communities have joined in, making it a cosmopolitan area.
Today, Kibera is best known for overcrowded shacks, poor sanitation, and grinding poverty that successive governments since Independence have done little to change.
Credit: Business Daily