To begin with, Nairobi is congested and all we have gotten for solutions are quick-fixes, just as quickly withdrawn. While the experts ponder viable options, plus being a concerned citizen, here’s my two cents on solving the dilemma.

By-pass the middleman and focus on the end-user

Next, for decades, banks had stubbornly positioned themselves as the bastion of access to the customer. So entrenched were they, that they frustrated any attempts to access the customer that did not benefit them. Their stranglehold was not intended to benefit the customer either-just to enrich the bank. Fighting banks was a losing battle.

Until M-PESA.

What happened? Not surprisingly, banks fought it tooth and nail, but they had nothing to grasp on to. You see, their infrastructure was not needed. M-PESA (Safaricom) went straight to the customer by creating its own distribution network, bypassing banks. Cartels, matatus and private car owners are all forms of middlemen. They are too entrenched in their personal interests to see a solution that does not immediately benefit them. By-pass them. How? That’s next.

Make and sell walking as ‘cool’

Now then. Jogging and ‘gyming’ are driven both by the desire to be ‘cool and to keep fit. The electronic health measuring gizmos add to the coolness. ‘Coolness’ is a powerful motivator especially among the growing middle class. Unfortunately, walking on our roads is not ‘cool’. It doesn’t help that the roads are not paved; and those that are, find pedestrians regularly ducking to avoid the horn-blaring, boda-bodas and matatus that use the pavement to avoid traffic!

Sweat and dust

And then there is the sweat and dust from the sweltering heat, not to mention the fear of being mugged. With these downsides, I think the alternative is a cool-looking footbridge. Not the eye-sore Muthurwa kind, no. I’m thinking elevated elongated tunnels; with FM radio blaring, Wi-Fi, temperature regulation, well lit, security guaranteed, and hawker-free. The kind you would get at an airport and anyone would be happy to walk in. But not built by the government.

Private Public Partnerships (PPPs)

Who will build them then? Private firms. How? Assign the build and maintain role of such a tunnel to a private entity, like what was done with the roundabout beautification project, complete with the appropriate incentives. Imagine the CBD- Westlands, say, Safaricom tunnel, complete with a business centre in it. Or, grabbing a cold coke along the Coca-Cola tunnel running from CBD to Hurlingham. Imagine, the EABL CBD-Nyayo Stadium/Muthaiga, or Co-op Bank CBD-City Stadium tunnels. It may take longer to walk than drive (or take a matatu) but throw in the grid-lock traffic, pollution, man-hours lost, rainy days, cost of fuel, growing unfitness and being at the mercy of matatus and you see a different picture.

Outcome

Finally, with this practical and sustainable ‘walking’ alternative in place, Nairobi can breathe again. And the other alternative infrastructure for mass transportation can be laid down unhurriedly. However, by this time, with dwindling passengers, the middlemen (just like the banks) will be dancing to the tune of the new Piper.

What do you think?


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