According to the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census, more than six million people sleep and wake up in our three main urban centres – Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.
The three cities, and many others across the country, have become magnets that draw thousands of Kenyans in search for better living conditions.
Sadly, their dreams soon become nightmare. From poor housing, fragmented infrastructure to little or no sanitation, millions of urban dwellers are living on life’s edge.
This week, the 2019 edition of Legatum Prosperity Index placed Kenya at position 113 out of 167 countries.
The country scored poorly in both the living conditions and economic pillars, turning a score of 132 and 135 respectively. Since 2009, Kenya has moved up the rankings table by four places.
In addition, a study done by the World Bank over the last three years states that Kenya’s main urban centres have been unable to satisfy the basic needs of residents.
Currently, Nairobi needs 790 million litres of water against the installed capacity of 525 million litres. The little that trickles to the city is periodically rationed as the county government assures “all the city residents of reliable supply of water.”
But such basic infrastructure is missing. “Only about 18 per cent of total urban population has access to a sewer line,” states the Word Bank document titled, Kenya Urbanisation Review. “70 per cent rely on septic tanks and pit latrines and the rest have access to no sanitation services at all.”
The fact that an estate like Karen, one of Kenya’s high-end suburbs is not connected to the city sewer line only points to a deep underlying problem.
But if water and sanitation have sunk Kenya’s urban dwellers into a hygienic quagmire, there is little to write home about the state of housing.
“Majority of urban dwellers live in shacks that remove all dignity from a human being. Even our secondary towns are nothing more than continuous slums that lack proper housing and other basic amenities,” says Professor Alfred Omenya, an environmental architect.
The housing statistics are not inspiring either. Every year, the housing deficit tops at 200,000 against an input of 50,000 homes, mainly in the middle to high-end segments of the market. The lower segment is left to scramble for about a thousand homes.
Even for those with some savings, the World Bank says, there is little property one can buy in Nairobi for Sh4 million. Market dynamics have conspired to push the vulnerable out of the housing bracket.
Speculative property market
“Much of the formal property market is speculative, with 75 per cent of apartment buyers doing so to rent the apartments and 16 per cent purchasing to ‘flip’ them,” says the report.
Paradoxically, the ongoing infrastructure upgrade being witnessed means the price of hitherto affordable land escalates as the projects open up these areas. Urban planning experts say the poor always pay the price for this development.
Many occupy land with no ownership documents. They cannot develop or use such land as collateral. “Remove these people from these areas and the land becomes prime. However, such ones cannot move out since they live close to workplaces they can access by walking on a daily basis. Their low incomes cannot support house rents in their preferred locations,” says Abraham Samoei, president of the Institution of Surveyors of Kenya.
Omenya says the degrading lifestyle of urban residents boils down to poor or no implementation of urban and spatial plans. He says allocation of funds for urban infrastructure is political and those in power will give little heed to “intangible” infrastructure projects.
“Planning has heavy political overtones. County chiefs are more interested in projects that further their political interests. Boda boda sheds with their names inscribed on top make more sense than a sewer line buried underground,” he says. In any case, Omenya argues, our counties have turned to external donors to fund basic urban infrastructure while there is money to suit their fancy.
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“Why put such matters in our constitution when we cannot even afford to fund the formulation of an urban plan? Sanitation is so basic that we should fund it from our pockets,” says Omenya.
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World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021
World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.
“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.
He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.
The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.
People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.
For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.
Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.
“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.
Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans
The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.
“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”
According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.
Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans
The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.
Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.
Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.
Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options.
This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.
The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.
The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.
The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).
The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.
The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour; Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).
The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.
Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”
He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.