The roots for the formation of Nairobi’s slums can be traced
back to the pre-independence period when the urban layout was based
on government-sanctioned population segregation into separate enclaves
for Africans, Asians and Europeans.13 During this period, slums
essentially developed because of the highly unbalanced allocation
of public resources towards the housing and infra-structural needs
of the separate sections. The post-colonial period saw a relaxation
of the colonial residential segregation policies, and major population
shifts occurred, notably rural-to-urban migration, with little obstruction
to the proliferation of urban shacks ‘as long as they were
not located near the central business district’. Slums sprang
up all over the town in the proximity of employment. Spatial segregation
during this period continued to be reinforced, but this time more
as socioeconomic and cultural stratification. The post-independence
period also saw rapid urban population growth without corresponding
housing provision, poor population resettlement due to new developments
and extension of city boundaries that included rural parts within
urban boundaries, often changing the characteristics of the settlements.
There is no official definition of slums or informal settlements,
and the terms slums and informal settlement are often used interchangeably.
City authorities, however, view lack of basic services and infrastructure
as characteristics of slums, an aspect that slum dwellers do not
Slums accommodate the majority of Nairobi’s population and
are generally of two types:
subdivisions of either government or private land.
A number of slums are located on land that is unsuitable
for construction, and all have high to very high population densities,
with up to 2300 persons per hectare. Slums and informal settlements
are widely located across the city, typically in proximity to areas
with employment opportunities.
The majority of structures are let on a room-to-room basis and the
majority of households occupy single rooms.14 Several studies indicate
that 56 to 80 per cent of the slum households rent from private-sector
landlords (who, in the past, often had the political connections
that helped them to protect their investments).
Between 1971 and 1995, the number of informal settlement villages
within the Nairobi divisional boundaries rose from 50 to 134, while
the estimated total population of these settlements increased from
167,000 to some 1,886,000 individuals. In terms of percentage of
the total Nairobi population, the share of informal-settlement village
inhabitants rose from one third to an estimated 60 per cent. Today,
both natural growth and rural-to-urban migration continue to contribute
to the growth of Nairobi’s informal settlements villages.
Slums contain urban residents who earn low incomes and have limited
assets. Employment is largely low skill (domestic help, waiter,
bar maid, guard), often on a casual basis (construction labour),
small business owners (kiosk owner, newspaper seller) and other
income-generating activities. Discrimination, especially along ethnic
lines, exists, with most ethnic groups living in (sub) communities
of their own ethnic background. Clashes between ethnic groups have
been experienced. Slums are not a major source of urban unrest,
although they constitute areas with a higher concentration of crime,
violence and victimization.
There is a lack of a clear policy that would facilitate and guide
urban development in Kenya, and urban interventions are largely
made on an ad hoc basis. Most slums are located on unplanned sites
that are unsuitable for housing, and their residents are exposed
to different forms of pollution. In some slums, housing and infrastructure
programmers are being put in place through joint efforts of the
government, donors and civil society organizations. These interventions
have had mixed results.
Several policy-sensitive initiatives have been undertaken and institutions
and facilities have been established to address the issue of slums,
including the enabling strategy, the Nairobi Informal Settlements
Coordination Committee, Nairobi Situation Analysis, the Poverty
Reduction Strategy Paper and the Local Authority Transfer Fund.
They address a series of themes, including settlement upgrading,
community participation and improved access to services. The outcomes
of these interventions are an increased housing stock and expanded
community opportunities and participation, as well as a host of
less fortunate aspects. These include:
of new slums.
of particular population groups.
and affordability mismatches.
focus and failing partnerships.
It is perhaps also the lack of a precise definition of the concept
‘slum’ that contributes to the lack of effective and
tailored policy response. Additionally, in the face of the failure
to establish coherent and effective Nairobi-wide urban policies,
the outlook for the situation in slums appears to be rather bleak.
has been extracted from:
UN-Habitat (2003) Global Report on Human Settlements 2003, The Challenge
of Slums, Earthscan, London; Part IV: 'Summary of City Case Studies',