Konza and Smart Cities in Kenya

This week saw a webinar on August 3 hosted by the Konza Technopolis Development Authority on the planning and growth of smart cities.

It featured governments speakers and urban planners led by Jerome Ochieng, the PS for ICT and Innovation and Dr Chris Kiptoo PS, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, along with Eng. John Tanui, the CEO of Konza, Dr Shipra Suri of UN-Habitat, Juliet Rita of the Architectural Association of Kenya and Karen Basiye, Head of Sustainable Business at Safaricom.

Others were John Kabuye of the Kenya Green Building Society, John Mutambo of the Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS), Ambassador Njambi Kinyungu from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Demola Olajide of UNFPA and Annah Musyimi of Konza – and was moderated by Constant Cap.

Excerpts on the different themes . .

Sustainable Urban Development and Environmental Conservation:

  • Nairobi has had rapid population growth and rapid urbanization – this has led to waste from mushrooming informal settlements mushrooming being discharged into rivers, dysfunctional sewers, industrial waste flowing into rivers with no treatment, overflowing manholes etc. – PS Kiptoo
  • The ecological footprint of cities extends way beyond their administrative boundaries – taking in resources and giving back waste. This has to change and things like urban agriculture are important to foods security and bringing down heat levels – Shipra
  • As part of Safaricom’s plan to be a net-zero company, they committed to plant 5 million. They joined with KFS where in planting trees at South Marmanent where they have empowered communities to do more planting. To date, they have planted half a million and will extend to tree projects to Kieni, Busia, the Mau and Mombasa – Karen
  • Urban settlements must factor in issues of the environment – John Tanui
  • Konza has been designed using a “stitch & band approach” and its developments parallel to Mombasa road have green (forest and wildlife) corridors- Annah
  • NMS identified 153 discharge points and shut them down. Also of 110 illegal dumping areas, 87 have been cleared – John
  • We comingle waste, but when we separate it, we get value – Kabuye

Designing Infrastructure for Sustainable Outcomes:

  • Konza is being developed using smart city principles; each plot has its use (commercial, education, industrial, wildlife conversation), and it is being developed in phases so it grows as its population increases to eventually reach 200,000 people – PS Ochieng.
  • This is the best time now to talk about sustainable cities. The degradation of nature and land-use changes are increasing the risk of pandemics; we are paying the price of unsustainable consumption of natural resources – PS Kiptoo
  • At UN-Habitat we aim to learn from global principles and norms for Kenya to emulate – Njambi
  • Business and residential associations don’t have anyone who looks at sustainability. That has to change – John
  • If a city does not produce better outcomes, we can’t call it smart – Constant Cap
  • UN-Habitat believes people should be the focus of smart cities programs. The goal is not to go high-tech, but “smart” means you are responsive to people, think ahead and take everybody along – Shipra
  • Konza meets the needs of the current generation without compromising the needs of future generations – PS Ochieng
  • We need urban spaces that are responsive to achieve urban dimensions of the SDG’s – Njambi

Smart Solutions for Urban Planning:

  • On Internet of Things (IoT), Safaricom has done smart-metering of aerial water meters with SHOFCO in Kibera (residents buy water with their phones). They are working on IoT for the PSV sector and with UNEP, are monitoring air pollution levels in Nairobi – Karen
  • Konza has been running innovation challenges on COVID and has received 516 submissions from all the 47 counties – Annah
  • Plans are not implemented because many are only prepared as a legal requirement; they are not people-oriented to give solutions. They also require changes in land use and policy, but the country’s system of land ownership makes it hard to have changes – Juliet
  • In the developed world, unless children go back to school, parents can’t go back to work. But Africa has other caregivers in the home – Demola
  • During COVID, people have locked up in spaces that were supposed to be their homes, and this had resulted in social problems – Demola
  • COVID has been the biggest advertisement of the need for well-planned and well-managed urban spaces – Shipra
  • Riparian encroachment by buildings, garages, car washes and eateries come about from not planning well – PS Kiptoo

Urban Planning in Smart Cities Management:

  • Digital streaming and collecting data using IoT will enable Konza to make real-time decisions on transport management, smart environment monitoring, smart metering water & energy – PS Ochieng
  • You can’t manage what you can’t measure. The Kenya Green Building Society has come up with a tool measure performance of buildings, neighbourhoods, and cities in terms of energy, water, waste, human experience and transportation. They have also donated sensors to Mbagathi and KEMRI to measure Co2 emissions and carbon monoxide – Kabuye
  • Planning is still very relevant. We have seen what COVID has done to cities as it is an urban-centric disease – Njambi

Conclusion: The mistakes of Nairobi’s sprawl are not unique, as Sub-Saharan African cities are the fastest-growing urban areas. It is envisaged that the smart planning and design at Konza and the use of IoT to manage the community and environment will make it a sustainable place for a population of 200,000 people. It will accommodate 30,000 residents, 17,000 who are anticipated to work in the complex.

The webinar ended with a call by PS Kiptoo have Konza set the pace for all other cities in the country to “go smart” while PS Ochieng asked more Kenyans to visit Konza to see the ongoing developments and to add to the 10,000 seedlings that will be planted every year there for the Technopolis and community.

Konza, Urban Planning and Smart Cities

Nairobi is home to over 4 million people jostling to earn a living in the hub of Kenya and the Eastern Africa region. It takes many aspects to plan, manage, develop, run and conserve a city like Nairobi sustainably, but the Covid-19 Pandemic has evolved to be an urban crisis, forcing city managers and investors to reconsider their plans and roles.

Covid has also made some people reconsider what urban spaces mean to them, their families and their careers. On one webinar in May 2020, a partner at McKinsey said that Covid has brought “work from home” forward by ten years, and many residents are making decisions whether living in cities is the best use of their time and economic resources. Is it time to leave Nairobi?

https://twitter.com/potentash/status/1284388523920039936

The Konza Technopolis Development Authority plans a city that the traverses three counties of Machakos, Kajiado and Makueni, with a 10 kilometer buffer-zone around it that encompasses 68,000 acres.  Today’s newspaper also mentions the plan by the Nairobi Metropolitan Services to rehabilitate and run a 75-kilometre railway line between Konza and Nairobi as one of the routes in their commuter rehabilitation project that will also improve access to the Konza Technopolis.

As Kenya needs even more planned cities, join a webinar with managers and experts on the future of smart cities, and the economic use of resources. Through this webinar, Konza aims to bring together key stakeholders in the urban management, design, planning, the environment, and policy to discuss these post-Covid issues. RSVP here.  

Nairobi retail shopping upstarts.

The Nairobi shopping scene has been upended by several new chains that have opened stores in several malls like Two Rivers in the last few months. They include:

  • Carrefour: This franchise has been around for almost three years now, and has replaced Nakumatt, taking up space vacated by the former giant, at several top-end malls like the Junction, Mega and Galleria. They offer new experiences and different retail operations for customers and suppliers.
  • LC Waikiki: Has a large selection of clothes – for men, women, and children – priced quite affordably compared to other stores like Mr. Price and Deacons who, frequent visitors to Johannesburg say, charge double what the same items cost in South Africa.
  • Miniso: Japanese gift shop chain (that’s really Chinese?) looks confusing at the entrance, but inside they have lots of stuff – electronics, travel items, gift items, and you end up spending a lot more time browsing than you expected, and returning many times to purchase other items.
  • Decathlon: Sports shop at the Karen Hub, is well-arranged, with exercise and sports equipment and clothing. It’s perfectly priced for many people who are experimenters and want to buy stuff to try out new sports for themselves and for children. They sell in-house brands like “Kalenji” shoes (a play on “Kalenjin” runners?) that cost a fraction of name brands like Nike and Adidas. They put out all their stock for customers to pick and try, unlike other shops who put one item on display and have the rest in the backroom where clerks have to go and retrieve the right size of an item. They also have self-service check-out counters and their payment options are completely cashless.

Safari Rally return Postponed

Today was supposed to be the start of the return of the Safari Rally after several years of preparation had resulted in an announcement by the President of Kenya and the WRC in September 2019 that the race was back. 

The Safari Rally was legendary as being one of the WRC’s (World Rally Championship) toughest rounds with a route, at about 5,000 kilometres, that was twice as long as other rallies. It used to be run around Easter, which is usually the long rain season, and in some years, showers would transform dry, dusty trails into mud baths.

It was run over four or five days and nights, on open roads that drew in more hazards, such as encounters with other motorists and wildlife and all these ensured that a Safari win was one of motorsport’s most coveted prizes for drivers, teams, and car manufacturers.

But rallying has not aged well in the era of modern TV and having drivers race for several days and nights on open remote roads means it is tough to sell the action to a global television audience.

This years’ rally, that was set to take place between July 16 – 19, and now been pushed to 2021, had evolved to fit the modern-day WRC. It is organised by the WRC Safari Rally Project, a joint venture between Kenya’s Sports Ministry and the Kenya Motor Sports Federation to return the Safari to the WRC calendar which it had been dropped from in 2002.

But its Safari character remains, with racing on challenging dirt roads,  with picturesque African scenes. It was to be based in Nairobi with the service park and stages on closed roads in the Hells Gate National Park and around Lakes Naivasha and Elementaita in the Great Rift Valley.

Before the Coronavirus shut down world travel, it was expected to feature several, if not all of the current top WRC teams and cars. These include the Hyundai i20, Ford Fiesta, Citroen C3, Toyota Yaris, and others from Skoda and Volkswagen that are all 4WD cars with 1.6-litre turbo engines able to reach 200 kilometres per hour.

Here is a Pinterest series of older WRC Safari rally pictures.  

Other:

  • Kenya has an annual local rally series sponsored by banking giant, the KCB Group.
  • There has also been a classic safari rally series featuring older rally cars. sponsored for many years by Kenya Airways, and more recently by Safaricom, it took racers around East Africa in the grand old style of the 1960’s rallies.

Helios & Fairfax to partner on Africa investments

July 2020 saw the announcement of a proposed strategic transaction between Helios Holdings and Fairfax Africa Holdings to create a new entity known as the Helios Fairfax Partners Corporation that aims to become the leading pan-Africa focused listed alternative asset manager with unique capabilities to invest across the continent.

Helios will contribute some management and performance fees it currently earns in exchange for 46% of the venture while Fairfax will retain control of the combined entity.

Helios, founded in 20004, manages $3.6 billion of assets, as Africa’s largest private equity fund with stakes in Nigerian oil (49% of Oando), e-commerce (Mall for Africa), payments (Interswitch) and South African telecom tower firms.

Helios will be the sole investment advisor to the partnership on all deals including Fairfax’s purchase of a stake in Atlas Mara for $40 million. The Co-Founders and Managing Partners of Helios, Tope Lawani and Babatunde Soyoye, will be Joint CEO’s while the current CEO of Fairfax, Michael Wilkerson, will become the Executive Chairman of the new entity.  

In Kenya, Helios first made a splash in 2007 buying 25% of Equity Bank and then going on to sell its stake in 2015 netting $500 million. They have since been involved in deals such as the Acorn green bond, Telkom Kenya, Wananchi Group and Vivo Energy.

Current investors in Helios include CDC which has invested over $100 million, and the IFC. Fairfax Africa shareholders will be asked to approve the deal that has been unanimously approved by a special board committee, that was advised by Alvarium, and have it completed in the third quarter of 2020. The partnership will be listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, where Fairfax shares currently trade.