Sustainable urban communities: challenges and opportunities in Kenya’s urban sector
During the last forty years, the economic and demographic structure of Kenya has become increasingly urban. In the 1980s the urban population in the country grew at over 6.5 percent a year, more than double the rate for the rural population. This expansion has occurred even under the most adverse conditions of repressed urban investment, as was the case during the 1990s. 1 Presently, urban areas account for the predominant share of GDP; that is five largest Kenyan cities and urban centres generate more than 70 percent of the country’s GDP 2 . The central role of cities in economic growth has been highlighted in the ongoing policy work especially the Economic Recovery Strategy for Wealth and Employment Creation for the period 2003 - 07 (ERS - WEC) and Vision 2030. 3 The contribution of industry and services is estimated at 88 percent of economic growth over the same period. 4 Policy acknowledges that development of urban areas is cl osely linked to the rural economy through the exchange of labour, capital, goods, services, information and technology that benefit residents in both settings. 5 The urbanization process is accompanied by excess demand for housing, water, sewerage, and othe r basic urban services, and by increasing levels of urban unemployment. These problems are compounded by poor public policy and institutional challenges. This paper describes the major challenges faced by the government, local authorities and the Civil Soc iety Organisations as they grapple with the processes and dynamics of urbanisation. The paper draws from past experiences; lessons learned, and the opportunities that these lessons, existing policy frameworks and the challenges themselves present for actio n.