Today I’ve been learning so much about the transport context here in Nairobi and can begin to see the differences and commonalities with the UK. The biggest difference is that Nairobi lacks any formal, ‘public’ transport as we would expect in UK towns and cities, although this did exist previously in Nairobi. Private, shared transport does exist – mostly in the form of matatu, which are minibus vehicles operating fairly set routes but to no timetable (they leave when they are full) and no set fare (they charge more when demand is higher – e.g. if it is raining). Matatu are very popular and well used but do not come without their issues including problems with pick-pocketing, unappealing music and videos onboard, and staff who aren’t always too caring to their passengers.
Road safety is also a critical challenge here. I heard that in 2014 there were around 700 road deaths in Nairobi alone. Of these, around 500 were pedestrian deaths. (For comparison Nairobi has a population of approx. 3million – about the same as Birmingham. Road fatalities for the whole of the UK stand at about 1,700 a year.) Other than the shocking size of these numbers, there is a a real equity issue here in my mind, because generally it will be the poorest members of the community who will be walking in this city. Walking and cycling are broadly seen to be the lowest forms of transport in many East African cities. Owning a car is a strong ambition for many people, despite the crazy levels of congestion. In the face of this, it was very encouraging to hear about some cycling advocacy work in Kenya and Uganda.
So these challenges are just one part of the discussion. We’ve also been discussing different gaps in the capacity of transport professionals – whether this be a research/knowledge gap, a policy gap, an implementation gap, or a monitoring and evaluation gap. We mapped these first against the global Sustainable Development Goals, but then against our creative methods from Day 1. It has been great to see so much knowledge sharing among the group so far. I’m looking forward to continuing these discussions on our field trip tomorrow.