Service provision in majority of Kenya’s informal settlements is predominantly controlled by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) and cartels. This phenomenon is prompted by government’s reluctance to provide services in informal settlements owing to their informal nature.
In Kenya, provision of services is closely tied to land tenure and planning, thus locking out unplanned informal settlements from formal service extension. This is however changing owing to steps the government is taking together with development partners to address the challenge of infrastructure and services in informal settlements. For instance, in 2007, the government in partnership with the World Bank launched the Water and Sanitation Improvement Project (WaSSIP) at a cost of US$425million. The project seeks to expand water and sanitation services in Kenya’s three major cities - Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa. In 2012,the Bank approved a second phase of the WaSSIP project co-financed by AFD. The second phase consist of a component to invest about US$8 million towards improving water and sanitation access in the slums of Nairobi (US$5 million), Mombasa (US$2 million), and Malindi (US$1 million).
In 2010, the government launched a US$330million Kenya Electricity Expansion Project (KEEP), funded by the Bank. Of the project amount, US$15million will go to extending electricity connections to slum areas. In 2011, the government launched the Kenya Informal Settlement Improvement Project (KISIP)co-funded by the Bank at a cost of $110 million. In 2015, this amount was further boosted by another US$8.3 million and US$40 million financing from SIDA and AFD respectively. KISIP’s main objective is to improve informal settlements in 15 counties. This will be achieved through investment in four component areas that include: institutional strengthening; tenure security enhancement; investments in infrastructure and service delivery and; planning for urban growth. The government is currently working on the possibility of a second phase of the KISIP project.
The presence of these publicly financed projects challenges the future existence of NGO’s and cartels in informal settlements. Originally, most NGOs in Kenya’s informal settlements have organized around issues of service provision, security of land tenure and housing. Cartels on the other hand take advantage of government reluctance to provide services in these settlements to illegally tap and provide services to slum residents, usually at higher fees than government agencies would charge. Now with government entities coming to provide the services that cartels and NGO’s are funded to provide, the question remains what their future advocacy will be based on.
Though there is so much ground left to cover to reach all informal settlements, and eliminate cartels and the need for humanitarian NGO’s in informal settlements service provision, in areas where services are provided through the above projects, service based cartels are automatically eliminated. In settlements like Kayole Soweto and KCC village in Nairobi which are among the settlements under KISIP, residents are already celebrating the presence of individual water connections that has saved them from cartel harassment. Narrating the benefits of KISIP, one resident in KCC village in Nairobi said ‘the KISIP project has greatly benefitted us, before the project, access to water in this settlement was controlled by youth gangs who would charge us exorbitant prices, disconnect the taps at their wish, but now they are nowhere to be found because we are dealing directly with Nairobi Water and Sewerage Company’.
Section of newly constructed road in KCC Village
Similarly, a government official talking on the impacts of KISIP project noted that ‘NGO’s that have traditionally organized under land tenure and lack of services will now find it difficult to approach donors to request for funds, because there will no longer be desperate images of slums they can use to solicit for funds abroad’. The NGO sector is a multibillion dollar industry in Kenya. In the financial year 2013/2014, the NGO sector received Ksh 120 billion from both local and international sources. While majority of the NGOs mean well and do good, others are motivated by selfish interests and gains. Further, a substantial amount of NGO financing go towards administrative costs, thus undermining the purpose of soliciting money to help the poor, as only little of that funding goes to actual development and directly to target beneficiaries. For example, of the Ksh 120 billion to NGO’s in 2013/2014, over Ksh 43 billion went to staff and running costs.
While there is still more to be done before NGO’s are no longer relevant in informal settlements, the current government financing of slum projects is a step towards the right direction. Well-meaning NGO’s thus need to take advantage of the governments momentum and interest in informal settlements and partner with the government in improving the living conditions and livelihoods of slum dwellers. Alternatively they may need to redefine themselves and focus on aspects likely to compliment government efforts.
Keziah M. Mwang’a is currently a PhD candidate at the Gran Sasso Science Institute in Italy with a particular focus on urban politics and governance