Coming soon: Kenya’s world class metropolis
In an attempt to decongest the capital, the Government is planning six new cities that will reorganise economic activities around the city,
That Nairobi’s socio-economic services are stretched to the limit is not in doubt. In fact, over the years, urban planners have grappled with the problem of decongesting the city whose population is now close to four million.
Various interventions have been outlined but little seems to have changed in urban development. But did you know that the Government has an ambitious plan to disperse much of Nairobi’s population through the creation of six new cities?
In March 2013, then Lands minister James Orengo signed a document entitled, Spacial Planning Concept for Nairobi Metropolitan Region, in which six thematic cities are included as part of an ambitious Government plan to reorganise economic activities around the city.
This followed a presidential executive order in May 2008 that also saw the establishment of Nairobi Metropolitan Development Ministry.
The new region covers Nairobi, Kiambu, Machakos, Kajiado and Murang’a counties. Here are the new cities.
The central core of the aerotropolis will be located towards Thika and will comprise a new international airport, a CBD and other commercial and administrative units.
The town will sit on 2,000 hectares, excluding the area for the proposed airport. It is envisaged that all air transport related activities, currently scattered all over the current city and beyond, will be centralised in the aerotropolis.
The structure of the new city will take advantage of two major roads in the vicinity: Garissa Road and the Great Eastern by-pass.
Like the other new towns, the aerotropolis will accommodate a population of 100,000 with population density of 50 people per hectare.
Fifty-five per cent of the working population will be engaged in the service sector at the proposed airport and another 15 per cent in the airport related industrial area.
This will be located in Kiambu County on Limuru Road near Ruaka Town in the midst of coffee and tea plantations.
It will be made up of agricultural research centres, a technological university, management institutes, agro-based health centres and hospitals, among other institutions.
A new techno city was also proposed to spur economic growth with information technology as the key driver.
The Cyber City will be located in Machakos County at the junction of the Greater Eastern by-pass and Kangundo Road, approximately 30 kilometres from Nairobi.
It will host service-oriented industries in the field of information technology and information technology enabled services (IT/ITeS)
Interestingly, Konza City, the much touted Kenyan ‘Silicon Valley’, is located within the same neighbourhood. It remains to be seen how the Government will amalgamate the development of the two interrelated cities.
With Kenya’s global reputation as a sporting nation, a new town meant to spur further growth in the sector was also proposed.
To be located on relatively flat land in Machakos County, the Sports City will incorporate world-class sporting venues and sports academies, including a 60,000-seater multi-purpose outdoor stadium, a 25,000-seater cricket ground, a 10,000-seater indoor arena and a 5,000-seater field hockey stadium.
There will be related amenities such as hotels, entertainment outlets, schools, medical facilities and retail opportunities where 70 per cent of the working population is expected to serve.
A major proposal in the concept is the establishment of a new transport and logistics hub to facilitate freight transport within the region.
The new town will service the proposed transport and logistics hub, comprising a rail and truck terminal as well as an inland container depot.
Amboseli new town
An interesting inclusion in the metropolitan concept is a new tourist town adjacent to Amboseli National Park, deep in Kajiado County.
The proposed town will include hotels, resorts, entertainment outlets, gaming arcades, outdoor activities with lush green landscaped gardens.
Among those who were involved in the preparation of the new concept were Dan Kiara, deputy director, Metropolitan Planning and Environment, a directorate under the Ministry of Land, Housing and Urban Development.
He says the plan will make it easier to manage economic activities in contrast to Nairobi where all activities are lumped together without any specialisation, making service delivery a daunting task.
“The idea is to disperse the current population from the current city of Nairobi. With fewer people in the city, it will be easier to provide services for those who remain in the capital while establishing new economic zones with specific themes,” says Kiara.
The Nairobi Metropolitan Region Spacial Plan borrowed heavily from the country’s economic blueprint, Vision 2030 that recommended the establishment of six metropolitan regions namely: Nairobi, Nakuru-Eldoret, Kisumu-Kakamega, Mombasa, Garissa and Meru-Kitui.
According to Kiara, the new towns will be infrastructure-led, in contrast to current urban developments that precede infrastructure.
“We have all seen how new infrastructure such as roads has been able to open up virgin areas. This is the idea behind the new town planning for the metropolitan region,” says Kiara.
But going by previous grandiose plans, how practical is it to build new ultra modern cities from scratch? Kiara says that will not be a problem, citing other developments that seemed inconceivable.
Concepts seemed inconceivable
“All great developments start as concepts. For example, we are currently in the final phase of constructing the inner city by-passes that were conceptualised way back in 1973. So I believe there will be a generation that will actualise this idea,” he says.
Speaking during a gathering of professionals in Nairobi recently, Peter Kibinda, an urban planner, said this kind of work “involves dreaming”, adding that such a big concept requires patience.
He cited the cases of Kilimani and Kileleshwa where rezoning resulted in a compact development that attracted new business opportunities in the construction industry.
Kibinda was the director of metropolitan planning and environment in the Ministry of Nairobi Metropolitan Development when the idea of new cities was mooted.
“Sadly, Nairobi in its current form is not sustainable. It is too rigid. Lack of reliable transport is killing the city while regeneration of the same has not even started. Creating the new towns is the only way to check the runaway urban sprawl,” he said.
Kibinda said professionals ought to look at the new towns in a positive manner saying they will provide massive opportunities for them in terms of planning and actual development.