Unplanned Nairobi Infrastructure & Buildings

The spat this week between the Kenya Government and various businesses about demolition of buildings along Mombasa road is not a surprise for anyone who was at the 2010 TEDxNairobi where Architectural Engineer Eric Kigada of Planning Systems Services spoke of the lack of a valid master plan for the City of Nairobi and the resultant chaos for building owners and his fellow professionals.

He said Nairobi had master plans drawn in 1948 and 1973, but this last one expired in 2000 and it was a city that would expand toward Thika side of town. Currently, the government, planners, and landowners operate in a vacuum with different departments and ministries having different maps and plans for road expansion and it’s not clear what routes they will follow or how large actual roads will be constructed. Government officers who won’t commit approval in writing and there are unclear plans such as one extending the growth of Nairobi up to Namanga.

He advocates for digital maps (which exist) to be availed and used, transparency in the planning process, and most important a master plan that will be shared within the industry. He also spoke about his company’s other work such as revitalizing green spaces along the three Nairobi rivers and a proposal to utilize existing abandoned quarries to supply enough water for the Eastern half of Nairobi, but which the government authorities are yet to commit to.

Will the buildings, include the new Sameer Business Park and new Standard Newspapers Headquarters be brought down to expand the road? The Kenya Property Developers Association (KPDA) in a statement today called for urgent development and implementation of the comprehensive master plan and a defined compensation plan for land and building owners if the Government goes ahead with demolitions to make way for necessary infrastructure improvements.

8 thoughts on “Unplanned Nairobi Infrastructure & Buildings

  1. Anonymous

    the tragedy is that other towns are likely to follow the same path. mombasa is a case in point. ” no plan is as good as any plan”. and the results are there for all to see.

  2. Maishinski

    We can start demanding credible planning as taxpayers and take gava to court for such failurs (at Gava’s cost).

    I believe the new katiba gives us that right!

  3. bankelele

    Anon: Counties will have their revenue and can make plans in consultation with central govt

    Maishinski: What is the Government? one arm issues titles, the other tears down buildings?

  4. Eric Kigada

    When giving the talk, I had no idea that months later what I pointed out would affect very many people.

    From my investigations, the government is faced with a major problem. The road has been concessioned. The contract has been signed. The delay is due to the World Bank refusing to allocate the money to Strabag who are the contractors meant to build the road (Mombasa Rd and Southern Bypass). There has been a 2 year delay and the government is tired of waiting for the World Bank to sort out the issue with Strabag.

    The government asked the Chinese for help and they have agreed to finance the building of the road after which they will hand over to the concessionaire.

    In a nutshell, currently there are 3 road designs:
    1. Done by the Japanese in the early 80’s. (This was very schematic design and indicative of what should be done in the future as part of the 1973 masterplan)
    2. Done by Strabag in 2006-7 as part of the road concession
    3. Done by the Chinese 2009-10

    All the above road designs affect all the buildings along Mombasa road. Road design is affected by turning circles and speeds along the highway. Unless we get rid of the highway altogether, the basic design still remains one of the three above.

    Say they re-design the highway by using an elevated highway which is part of the current plan,(I am generally against elevated highways: http://architecturekenya.com/2010/07/30/a-case-against-the-elevated-uhuru-highway-recast-by-eric-kigada/ )it would not solve the issue of toll stations. A 3 lane highway has to be extended to minimum 6 lanes to allow for fast/normal flowing traffic through toll booths. If the toll booths are left out, the concessionaire will have to be compensated for lost revenue.

    The choice for the Government is to either pay the concessionaire for 25 years lost revenue or pay off the business/ land owners along Mombasa Rd to allow for road building. Note that the land owners cannot have entrances or exits into Mombasa road from their plots once the highway is concessioned.

    Frankly, the demolition issue is not being solved but being deferred to a later date by politicising it. Technically they must happen.

  5. coldtusker


    I think we can have a better compromise than wholesale demolitions. It’s just the GoK folks are less than honest in their dealings.

    1) An overhead or underground rail system [CBD to JKIA] which will relieve the need for many cars/matatus.

    2) Expand the road in SOME stretches where compensation is lower. Some buildings may have to come down. A pity but better/cheaper than wholesale destruction.

    3) OTHER access points. Jogoo Rd needs IMMEDIATE expansion. Much better use of funds as JKIA & Industrial Area traffic can be diverted. Control the developments [no more along Jogoo Rd].

    4) No more developments along Mombasa Rd unless it makes sense within the ‘master plan’.

    5) Whether or not you like elevated highways, they have worked well in many countries.

    6) Alternates to get to Nairobi-Mombasa Highway

    7) The railway has lots of land along the tracks. Build elevated tracks & roads [for cars & light rail] along these tracks. We all benefit.

    8) Better railways means reduced need for lorries/roads.

    I think the Concessionaire might have run afoul of their obligations/contract due to delays. Good for us.

  6. Eric Kigada


    I am with you regarding the railway…a light rail system for Nairobi would be the best option. We have done a study for the Nairobi region and I have seen a new one recently done by the Nairobi Metropolitan Ministry.

    Regarding elevated highways, they work for the first 10 years, after 20 years plus, every city pulls them down! The current plan includes an elevated highway from Nyayo stadium to Westlands Waiyaki Way / James Gichuru junction. The negative effects outweigh the positive for me.

    The concessionaire has a shareholder who has been blacklisted by the World Bank…so there is some due diligence being carried out. The Kenya Government is not happy about the pace at which it is going.

  7. bankelele

    Eric Kigada: Thanks for the comment, the additional information on reasons for the highway delay & possible way out – and also the defence of roundabout (I also argue with people who blame them for traffic & want them removed)

    Coldtusker: Where have you seen beauty beneath highways?

  8. sk

    Read the politics in btw…bett & orengo were scheming to shake down the tycoons whose properties lie within the area (campaign monies)

    as long as merali is alive and kulei lurking in the shadows of the standard group, such an act, whether legal or not will never occur!

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