State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Transforming Urban Transport in Nairobi

By Nathalie Zapletal

In an effort to strengthen and expand public transport in Nairobi, Kenya, the Volvo Research & Educational Foundations  is partnering with the Center for Urban Sustainable Development  on a new project, “Reimagining Nairobi: A Policy Network Approach,” led by Dr. Jacqueline Klopp, associate research scholar at the Center for Sustainable Urban Development and Winnie Mitullah, director and research professor at the University of Nairobi. Through a contribution of $175,400 a year for two years, the Volvo Research & Educational Foundations will support the center’s efforts to transform Nairobi into a more accessible, livable city.

In Nairobi, the majority of people rely on walking and public transport, and for the poor in particular, the cost of transport consumes a substantial part of an already scant income. Furthermore, urban projects tend to ignore the needs and safety of pedestrians and those relying on public transportation.  As a result, these problems contribute to poorer quality of living and slowed economic growth and productivity overall. As Nairobi is an emerging city that will play an important role as a regional hub in Africa, it is vital to acknowledge and tackle the city’s mobility challenges and land-use issues in order to establish a sustainable urban future.

The metropolitan area of Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Nairobi Planning Innovations
The metropolitan area of Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Nairobi Planning Innovations

To overcome these obstacles, the project aims to link alternative policy networks in Nairobi to advocate for improved public and non-motorized public transport. The Center for Sustainable Urban Development is partnering with the University of Nairobi’s African Centre of Excellence for Studies in Public and Non-Motorized Transport, the Kenya Alliance of Residents Associations and the Reality-Tested Youth Program. The project aims to strengthen institutions like these, as they can serve as strong transport research and advocacy networks in the long-term.

Drawing on a policy network approach, the Center for Sustainable Urban Development and its partners will develop creative approaches to public advocacy to draw attention to key issues like road safety and public transit improvement. This will include using traditional and social media and surveys to reach out to the broader public. In particular, the project will include an Urban Ideas Competition which will collect the concerns and views of Nairobi’s youth on specific urban transport challenges faced by undeserved communities. Using ideas and feedback received through this competition, the project will produce a film which will include Nairobi’s youth and their views of the city. Additionally, the partnering centers will collaborate with local stakeholders on high-level panel discussions on strategic issues in an effort to reach out to constituencies and advocate for fundamental changes to Nairobi’s urban planning and policy sector. Through these efforts, the project aims to create a stronger coalition for reform.

The project is the latest chapter in the Center for Sustainable Urban Development’s fruitful relationship with the Volvo Research & Educational Foundations. Through this long-term partnership with Volvo, the center has embarked on various projects in Nairobi, all of which aim to establish sustainable and equitable urban development. In addition to the new project in Nairobi, the Volvo foundations are supporting the center’s director, Elliott Sclar, and assistant professor David King’s project on financing for accessibility and sustainable transport, which will be done in collaboration with the China Urban Transport Research Center. Furthermore, the center is one of 10 Centers of Excellence established by the Volvo foundations and is part of this global network of centers. The urban development center will be hosting the network for a conference on “Transforming Access and Mobility in Cities” in New York in October 2014.

Through the generous support from the Volvo Research & Educational Foundations, the Nairobi project will initiate a new approach to engage stakeholders and promote sustainable urban development in a rapidly growing city.

Notify of

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
9 years ago

What is the period (e.g. 2014-15) In which this is being implemented? Any publications?