Once again, Kenya has registered a first in hosting international conferences. All through this week, about 3,000 delegates have gathered in Nairobi for the first session of the UN-Habitat Assembly (UNHA).
The assembly seeks to make decisions aimed at framing the global urbanisation agenda, by analysing the major trends, norms and standards related to human settlements and sustainable urbanisation.
The theme of this year’s assembly is ‘Innovation for Better Lives’. The outcomes and resolutions are expected to inform implementation of the New Urban Agenda (NUA), Sustainable Development Goals and other global housing initiatives.
As the first country to launch a national implementation plan for NUA during the 26th UN-Habitat Governing Council in 2016, Kenya may want to show her commitment to achieving the NUA shared vision of inclusive and sustainable cities and human settlements.
As a precursor to this conference, various players including the government, experts, civil society, residents associations, the UN and academia convened a public dialogue last Friday at the University of Nairobi to share experiences in citizens’ participation.
The theme of the forum was, ‘Citizens Role in Innovating for Better Quality of Life for Urban Communities in Kenya’. During the public forum, emerging satellite towns such as the 5,000-acre Tatu City in Kiambu county were cited as examples of emerging centres of urban innovation in Kenya and the continent.
Tatu is a project of Rendeavour, Africa’s largest urban land developer with over 30,000 acres of futuristic projects in large cities in Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Currently, it is arguably the largest private urban development in the country, designed as a controlled mixed-use development that will provide privately-managed utilities to guarantee reliability and high quality life for residents.
This and other upcoming mega cities represent a new way of living and thinking for Kenyans. Their aim is to create a unique live, work and play environment free from traffic congestion, long-distance commuting and slums. Such revolutionary developments will ease the pressure of urbanisation burdening Nairobi. They will also create a unique living environment and business opportunities for Kenya’s growing economy.
Currently, the trend is to develop mixed-use properties encompassing homes, schools, offices, shopping districts, medical facilities, nature areas, sport and entertainment complexes, and manufacturing precincts. Discerning homeowners are now searching for all amenities and utilities in a one-stop location.
Indeed, innovation is all about creation of new ideas in solving perennial problems. The weeklong UNHA is discussing matters affordable housing, blue economy, safe cities, climate change and the use of ICT to improve and secure the lives of urban residents.
Kenya is on course to embarking on SDG 11, which entails ensuring adequate housing and infrastructure to support growing populations, confronting the environmental impact of urban sprawl, and reducing vulnerability to disasters.
But it is a call that all stakeholders in both the habitat and environmental space must play in domesticating this new urban agenda. Specifically, the private sector must augment government efforts in offering decent housing for everybody. – The writer is a communication expert, and public policy analyst. [email protected]