Every year, thousands of people leave the rural areas in droves to look for income generating activities in our major urban set-ups – mainly Nairobi. Known as the rural-urban migration, curbing this nightmare has proved futile even after the coming in place of the devolved system of government.Most of those who migrate to the urban centres are young university and college graduates who hold the illusion that it is only in such areas that they can make ends meet.
Among other challenges, this trend has led to high unemployment rates in the urban areas. In turn, that has contributed to endless waves of crime in the said areas as those who fail to get jobs struggle to eke a living. It has also led to mushrooming of slums where the job seekers and low income earners reside. Many incidents of diseases are often reported in these overcrowded and informal dwelling places because of their poor sanitation.
Against that background, there have been many (albeit unsuccessful) initiatives by public and private sector players to upgrade the slums. Resistance to these initiatives is often due to the fear that once upgraded, the low income slum dwellers may not afford to pay the rent of the modern houses. Rather than being driven back to the rural areas by unaffordable rent, they prefer to continue residing in their humble abodes.
The high shortage of houses in the urban areas vis-à-vis the ever increasing number of migrants who are often unstable financially means that there is a huge demand for decent (but affordable shelter) in the low income market segment.These houses must not necessarily be constructed using brick and mortar and other expensive material. On the contrary, while putting them up, emphasis should be laid on the use of appropriate and innovative technology and material that is competitively priced , long lasting and decent.
Yes, there are many successful executives and entrepreneurs who started their journey to the top from humble abodes in the slums and today, they have put up residences in affluent suburbs. Slums cannot therefore be simply wished
away much as they are eyesores. The long term solution lies in giving them a decent facelift.