Transport and Slums

Kibera, the second largest slum in Africa. It is home to over 1 million people. The living conditions in a major part of Kibera a despicable. The houses are crammed together and built in a haphazard manner. There is a general lack of sanitation and very few people have access to sanitation facilities. Generally, the living conditions within Kibera slum, and numerous other slums scattered all over Nairobi and other major towns are very poor and of the lowest standards.

The question is therefore, how do slums develop? I suggest that the development of slums is wholly related to one socio-economic factor: labor. Slums exist primarily because they are a source of cheap and available labor. Furthermore, the location of slums is determined by the proximity of the laborers to the sources of employment. With regards to Kibera, most of the dwellers there find employment in the Industrial Area region of Nairobi. A majority of workers from the Kibera region walk to and from their areas of work, hence necessitating the close proximity of the slum to the region.

It is typical to have most slums bordering very affluent regions. This phenomenon has manifested in a manner whereby every affluent neighborhood has a slum right next to it. Why? Labor. The slum dwellers provide labor within the affluent regions. Kibera borders affluent and middle class regions such as Karen, Lang’ata and Woodley. Mathare borders Ruaraka and , Githurai borders the Kahawas, Kawangware borders Kileleshwa and Kikuyu.

How does transport come into all of this? The only reason such informal settlements develop quite close to such regions is due to lack of transport. If transport was very cheap, available, and efficient, then such labor could afford to move and dwell in regions further away from the cities and towns. This would allow for proper planning of housing and enable swift eradication of slums within the Nairobi Metropolitan region, and other affected areas as well.

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