An investigation into the role of socioeconomic factor in slum management programmes; A case of Kibera-Soweto east Nairobi Kenya
Slums continue to pose the greatest challenges to the urban areas of developing countries Kenya included. As a result, Kenya has an elaborate slum upgrading strategy which aims inter-alia at improving the physical and social infrastructure and provide security of tenure among the residents of Kibera. The success of the current slum management strategy would however depend on whether the root cause of slums is understood and whether past mistakes in slum management have provided sufficient lessons for those who manage slums. Current slum upgrading strategy for example tend to emphasize the physical aspect of the slum component: land tenure, and physical infrastructure. There is current thinking among scholars that the past slum management strategies emphasized the physical component and ignored the socioeconomic component, thus occasioning the failure of past upgrading strategies. However details of what constitutes socioeconomic components are not known. It is not clear what role the socioeconomic component plays in the slum management process. This information is critical if slum management approaches have to incorporate the socioeconomic component towards the slum management process. This then formed the purpose of this enquiry; to determine the sub components of the socioeconomic factors and the role they play on sustainable slum management process. The study used culture of poverty and other related literature to formulate a conceptual framework of understanding the role of socioeconomic components. The framework was used to integrate the past slum management strategies within the framework of the socioeconomic factor. The conceptual framework was also used to interrogate the various forms of social and economic networks which constitute the slum community. The study population in this research was the Kibera-Soweto East slum dwellers where the upgrading program is currently underway. Interviews were conducted and questionnaires distributed to obtain information from the respondents. Secondary data was obtained from existing literature on the subject of study. Finally, the study interrogated how useful these networks are among the residents of the slum community. The study used SPSS and Excel to analyze data, and also t-test in testing the study hypothesis. The study found that slum communities are poor, earn income which barely covers the cost of living per month and this makes them vulnerable. Knowing their problems, and to ease their burden they form and engage in various socioeconomic networks which enable them survive and cope. Some of these networks include forming welfare associations, “chamaas”. It was found that most of the slum management models often end up relocating them, following which they lose ties and remain vulnerable hence regrouping to form yet another slum community with similar ties. The current slum management also focuses on the physical site ignoring the socioeconomic ties of the community. This is seen as the cause of the failure of the past approaches and the likely cause for the failure of the slum upgrading program. This study demonstrates that the socioeconomic factor is critical among slum communities and slum management programs should incorporate this integral component.