Motorists who have no choice but to park in Nairobi’s central business district must be relieved that the High Court suspended the new parking fees structure imposed by the city government.
The relief granted could be short-lived; it is possible that in the next month or so, Nairobi’s denizens will need to make the difficult decision whether to leave their cars at home and walk or use the abusive public means, or dig deeper into their already depleted pockets to pay for the luxury of driving to work.
As the matter is in court, it would hardly do to comment on its merits and demerits, but since this is an issue of immense public interest, there would be little prejudice in asking an obvious question: what is the rationale for county authorities to impose such a punitive charge without telling us how the money raised will be used to help them?
Those poor fellows do not drive to town for pleasure; they have to make a living.
Many motorists would prefer to leave their vehicles at home; driving in the mind-boggling chaos that has become the order of the day long ceased to be fun.
City motorists are not gluttons for punishment and they would do anything for peace of mind.
To achieve this, they wouldn’t even mind paying heavily for the privilege if only they had the money to spare – but they don’t.
Right now, it is difficult for every middle-class office worker who owns a jalopy to pay Sh2,000 a week for parking, especially if the car was acquired through a loan that has to be serviced, not to mention fuel prices which are always fluctuating in an upward trajectory.
But some people argue that if you can afford to buy and drive a car, you should be able to afford an extra Sh200 for parking.
This is balderdash. These people are already too heavily taxed and they don’t see where their money goes.
Early in the week, I chanced upon a highly amusing plea by the UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Sharif for Kenyans to cycle or walk to work because it is not only a healthy habit, but also good for the environment.
Apparently, although the Habitat boss lives in Nairobi, she knows little about the city. Many do, indeed, walk to work, but not for health reasons – they simply cannot afford bus fare.
However, it is almost impossible to find anyone willing to cycle to work unless they live and work in up-market suburbs.
Kenyans may be poor, but they do not have a collective death wish. Has Ms Shariff ever tried to ride a bicycle on any of the roads leading to the city during rush hour? If she did, she would not be talking that way.
Granted, while pushing for the non-motorised traffic system, she did acknowledge that city-dwellers waste valuable time stuck in traffic.
To cure this, she urged the government to provide the necessary infrastructure – walkways, bicycle lanes and relevant signage – but she was wasting her breath.
Such relatively low-cost infrastructure projects are unattractive to policymakers for they do not provide enough opportunities for hefty kickbacks.
I listened to the man in charge of county traffic management, Mr Tom Tinega, defend the hefty parking fee increases on TV.
Some of his arguments were fascinating. It appears his main concern was not how to decongest the city but how to raise more revenue.
He even advised motorists who may feel the pinch to park in outlying zones like Ngara, Kilimani or Westlands.
If only the good man would tell us where the unoccupied parking slots in Ngara, for instance, are located, I am sure everyone would be grateful.
There are reasons why authorities in highly-populated cities have managed to keep private motorists away from their CBDs by charging exorbitant fees.
It works very well in cities like London and Bonn because they have workable transport systems with subways, trams, trains, BRT and well-guarded parking areas in the suburbs.
Commuters see no reason to drive to work and they enjoy much healthier lifestyles.
Nobody knows how the High Court will rule on the matter of the parking fee increase on January 21, and it would be foolhardy to second-guess the verdict, but one thing is clear: the city government will have a hard time implementing it – at least in the public service sector, judging from the reaction of the Matatu Owners Association boss, one Mr Simon Kimutai.
It appears both the county and national governments are unable to implement any plan to decongest the city without impoverishing its denizens further.
The city managers should try more innovative ways to solve its numerous problems besides throwing hard-earned taxpayers’ money at them.
In the meantime, parking boss Tinega may consider donating his free parking slot to distressed motorists. No doubt the gesture will be highly appreciated.
Our wizards saw the Brave New World, but none saw coronavirus
Last year in December, Nation Media Group held its first Kusi Ideas Festival in Kigali. The festival tried to peer ahead the next 60 years in Africa.
There were many Brave New World ideas about how that future might look like, and also the perils that progress almost always brings. Needless to say, no one saw Covid-19 coming.
A futurist curtain-raiser in The EastAfrican, titled Africa in 2079, came close to outlining a mirror universe to the one Covid-19 is bequeathing us.
Between London, Zimbabwe, and the corners of Africa where Econet’s fibre optic network reaches, Strive Masiyiwa, founder and chairman of Econet Wireless and former chair of the board of AGRA wrote:
“I recently invested in a tech start-up that has created an Uber-like platform for tractors, enabling farmers to link up with a central database and order a tractor via SMS…freeing the farmer from the drudgery of the hoe. This service is particularly valued by women farmers, enabling them to circumvent social norms that might otherwise hamper their ability to hire a tractor.” From wherever we are hiding from the virus, unable to roam the farm, Uber farming could be the new way a lot of our food is produced.
From Tanzania, Aidan Eyakuze, who is executive director of Twaweza East Africa and has been confined in-country as an elegant prisoner for nearly two years because of his love of inconvenient data, painted an intoxicating but strange utopian-dystopian picture of Africa at the end the century.
By 2079, he foresaw the “vast majority of Africans earn their living through multiple micro-tasking (MMTs) ever since every ”job” was unbundled into its component tasks…leaving only those unbundled micro-tasks needing social intelligence, creativity or dexterity to be done by people. All ”taskers” are always-on private contractors who bid relentlessly for the privilege of tasking.
Incomes are kept low by the relative scarcity of tasks requiring the human touch.
“The unrelenting competition for tasks is both stressful and socially divisive — you are competing against everyone all the time…even marriages have renewable term limits, ‘in case someone better comes along.’” With work-from-home regimes, the former has come 78 years earlier.
Indeed, even for the latter, more people now probably think being cooped up with the same man or woman in the house “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part,” is a very archaic model.
Between Italy and Kenya, the Society for International Development’s Arthur Muliro, peered into a what a truly borderless Africa might look. Among others, his gaze settled on, of all places, Libya.
“Libya…was now welcoming other Africans and allowing them to settle. The peace deal that had come after a decade of civil war was holding and there was new optimism, in part boosted by the arrival and expansion of new migrant groups who had settled there and were helping rebuild their adopted country.”
On a close re-reading, turns out Aidan hinted that Turkey, which jumped in the Libyan fray as the coronavirus made its way out of Wuhan, might have something to do with it.
Stadiums progress welcome – Daily Nation
Last week, the Sports ministry’s top officials, led by Chief Administrative Secretary Hassan Noor Hassan and Principal Secretary Joe Okudo traversed the country to access the ongoing construction of stadiums.
President Uhuru Kenyatta also made an impromptu tour of the Nyayo National Stadium to ensure that all is well besides giving Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed full support. That has made sure that renovation works resume at all the stadiums — including Kasarani, Nyayo, Kipchoge Keino, Kamariny and Wote — and that everything is running on schedule.
Upon completion of some of these arenas, the country will have positioned itself to host major world events, especially in football, athletics and basketball. The ministry must, therefore, ensure that, while it has given contractors an ultimatum to finish their work, it also insists on quality delivery.
But there are concerns about work at county stadiums, especially in Mombasa, where those who redesigned the arena have done away with the internationally approved running track.
The new stadium has been designed for football only hence won’t host any track and field events. The four lane track will only be for warm up and this has raised eyebrows.
Mombasa County Chief Sports Officer Innocent Mugabe said Bububu grounds in Likoni and Kenya Ports Authority’s Mbaraki Sports Club will be upgraded for sports use. Mombasa being at low altitude, it is suitable for staging major World Athletics events, having staged the 2007 World Cross Country Championships.
Kenya is bidding to host the 2025 World Championships in Athletics and Mombasa can easily be the venue with a good stadium in place. There is still time to build a county stadium.
Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly
When Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha announced a fortnight ago the postponement of school reopening to January next year, he gave an exception. Universities, teacher training colleges and technical training institutions were directed to be ready to reopen in September.
Consequently, they were asked to put in place safety measures prescribed by the Health ministry, including reorganising classrooms and hostels to ensure social distancing. Just a month to the planned reopening, are those institutions really prepared?
In the past few days, Prof Magoha has convened meetings with the heads of the institutions to plan for the reopening and visiting the colleges to assess their preparedness. Preliminary reports from these engagements indicate that just a few institutions are ready.
At the university level, so far, only Strathmore has been declared ready for reopening. Ensure reopening of schools runs smoothly
For teachers’ colleges, three — Murang’a, Kibabii and Kericho — have met the threshold. Assessment is ongoing for the technical training institutions.
But the broad observation is that most of the institutions are not ready. Though not surprising, most of them are ordinarily in poor state and Covid-19 has just exposed them. Beyond the situation, long-term actions are required to revamp and revitalise them.
Reopening the colleges in September will be the starting point for relaxing restrictions in the education sector. The reason for beginning with colleges is that they have mature students who understand the health protocols and can, therefore, take care of themselves and minimise infections. Their experience would then inform plans for reopening primary and secondary schools.
Closure of schools and colleges has dealt a huge blow to education. Learners in schools have lost a whole year and have to repeat classes next year. This comes with high social, economic and psychological. Indeed, this is the first time in history that schools are being closed for a year.
The last time the education sector suffered most was in 1982, when, following an abortive coup, the University of Nairobi and then-Kenyatta University College were closed for nine months. That created a major backlog and that took five years to clear. This is the reason steps should be taken at the earliest opportunity to mitigate the damage.
The challenge, therefore, is for the colleges to work on those health protocols to prepare for reopening. All other sectors, such as transport and tourism, are reopening and, therefore, colleges have no reason to lag behind. We ask the management of the institutions to expedite the required processes and get ready for reopening in September as directed.