Making Nairobi a city of dignity: what Sakaja can learn from Oslo – Business Daily
An aerial view of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP
When Kenya discovered oil, the experience of Norway with its sovereign wealth fund became a topic of discussion on how the former could avoid the resource curse that accompanies such discoveries. Visiting Norway and its capital city Oslo this past week, however, demonstrated to me that Kenya has a lot more to learn than oil.
This is not just because it is the city where the Nobel peace prize is awarded every year but also the deliberate efforts city administrators have made to position the city. I met a group of Kenyans who had been in the city for over 15 years. They shared with me the changes they had seen over the past five years.
The lessons augmented discussions I had during the week at an international conference on the transformative power of law in solving the worlds’ environmental challenges.
As part of the deliberations, we visited their city hall. Two things impressed me hugely about that visit. The building not only houses the city leadership but also has paintings and other decorations that capture its historical developments, providing an avenue for visitors to be taken on a tour and to learn about changes over the years.
The guides who explained this to us were both impressive and knowledgeable. How I wished that Governor Sakaja would do the same thing at City Hall, borrowing a leaf from the Judiciary Museum and providing a permanent attraction to the many visitors who come to Nairobi to learn about its history and importance.
Second were the efforts at addressing the impacts of climate change., The city administrators who welcomed us were explicit on the climate ambitions that the city had set for itself, and the fact that they were on course to meet their targets in reducing emissions.
In a subsequent discussion with some Kenyan family who lives in the city, they explained to me how the city leadership made rules eight years ago reducing the number of parking lots to almost a third of their numbers. They turned these into bicycle lanes and some into places for citizens to sit and rest, placing public seats for that purpose in those former parking areas. In addition, they increased the cost of driving in and out of town. This and other measures have contributed to reducing their carbon emissions.
Additionally, the economic disparity in the country is not too high. Taxes work for the citizens. The Governor for Nairobi campaigned under the slogan of making Nairobi a ‘City of Hope, Dignity and Promise’. For Nairobi to be a city of dignity, it is important that decisive action is taken which focuses on addressing the myriad changes that confront it.
The climate change action by Oslo led to a better quality of, life for its residents and ensured more dignity. It is not possible to achieve a similar status for Nairobi until the focus is had on ensuring that basic services are public and not private. What Governor Sakaja needs is prioritisation and action.
The writer is a law professor at the University of Nairobi’s School of Law.