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PIPE DREAM? The proposed ultra-modern plan that will make Thika the aerotropolis city.

The artistic view of the proposed ICT Park at Konza.
Vision 2030 is a sort of catch phrase in Kenya, thanks to a government development blueprint aimed at transforming the country into a middle-level economy in less than 20 years.
By 2030, Kenya hopes to be where eastern economic tigers like Singapore are today — economically, socially, and politically.

Over the years, urban planners have grappled with the problem of decongesting the city of Nairobi whose population is now close to four million. In March 2013, the then Lands minister James Orengo signed a document entitled, “Spatial Planning Concept for Nairobi Metropolitan Region”, in which six thematic cities are included as part of an ambitious Government plan to reorganise economic activities around the city.

According to the plan, world-class living standards — good infrastructure, affordable housing for all, effective transportation, effective governance, secure neighbourhoods and a booming economy — await residents under the jurisdiction of the City Council of Nairobi and 14 other former local authorities that make up the 32,000 square kilometre Nairobi Metropolitan Region.

The new region covers Nairobi, Kiambu, Machakos, Kajiado and Murang’a counties with a total population of 6.7 million, according to the 2009 national population census.

There are 4 regions that compromise the Nairobi Metro Region area. The city area of Nairobi measures 684 sq kilometres alone, with the larger metro area covering 3,000sq. km. The land of Nairobi’s region falls from the edge of the Rift Valley in the west at an elevation of 2,300 metres, to 1,500 metres to the east of the city, with the centre of the city standing at 1,700 metres. Nairobi was a staging post for agrarian and pastoral tribes. In the early 1900’s the trading boundaries were stretched from Uganda through Nairobi to Mombasa on the coast. The UAE has invested in broadband for all. Digital trade has started.

The envisaged metropolis will apply five levels of settlement:

Level 1 Regional Centre (Nairobi).

It will have the highest order of economic and social infrastructure, with specialised world -class services and facilities. It will, for example, have specialised medical facilities and will also host a number of universities. It will also have the highest administrative functions.

Level 2 Sub-Regional Centres. 

They will have administrative functions/county headquarters, major commercial centre, degree level and technical training centres, intermediate hospitals, and a sports centre. The proposed settlements are Thika, Kikuyu, Kiambu, Machakos, Tala/Kangundo, and Kajiado.

Level 3 Priority Towns. 

These are new towns to be developed with the main aim of decongesting Nairobi. They will provide support for the Level 1 and 2 centres. They will have industrial services, police stations, and social/recreational centres.

Level 4 Growth Centre. 

They will be intermediary towns for promoting rural development and will be useful in achieving a balanced distribution of urban population. They will also provide linkages between smaller towns and the sub-regional centres. They will include Limuru, Karuri, Juja, Mavoko, Kitengela, and Loitokitok.

Level 5 Basic Village. 

These will be all other remaining rural settlements within the Nairobi Metropolitan Region.

Here are the new cities.

1. Aerotropolis.

This proposed new aerotropolis town will be within Thika Constituency, North of Garissa Road between 
the proposed regional orbital and the Great Eastern Bypass extension to Thika.

The central core of the aerotropolis will be located towards Thika and will comprise a new international airport, a CBD and other commercial and administrative units.

The town will sit on 2,000 hectares, excluding the area for the proposed airport. It will accommodate a population of 100,000 with a population density of 50 people per square hectare. 55% of the working population will be engaged in the service sector at the proposed airport and another 15% in the airport related industrial area.

It is envisaged that all air transport related activities, currently scattered all over the current city and beyond, will be centralised in the aerotropolis. The structure of the new city will take advantage of two major roads in the vicinity: Garissa Road and the Great Eastern by-pass.

2. Knowledge/Health city.

This will be located in Kiambu County North of Limuru Road near Ruaka Town in the midst of coffee and tea plantations. It will be made up of agricultural research centres, a technological university, management institutes, agro-based health centres and hospitals, among other institutions.

3. Cyber city.

A new techno city was also proposed to spur economic growth with information technology as the key driver.

The Cyber City will be located in Machakos County at the junction of the Greater Eastern by-pass and Kangundo Road, approximately 30 kilometres from Nairobi.

It will host service-oriented industries in the field of information technology and information technology enabled services (IT/ITeS) Interestingly, Konza City, the much touted Kenyan ‘Silicon Valley’, is located within the same neighbourhood.

It remains to be seen how the Government will amalgamate the development of the two interrelated cities.

4. Sports city.

With Kenya’s global reputation as a sporting nation, a new town meant to spur further growth in the sector was also proposed.

To be located on relatively flat land at the junction of Mombasa Road and the regional orbital in Machakos County, the Sports City will incorporate world-class sporting venues and sports academies, including a 60,000-seater multi-purpose outdoor stadium, a 25,000-seater cricket ground, a 10,000-seater indoor arena and a 5,000-seater field hockey stadium.

There will be related amenities such as hotels, entertainment outlets, schools, medical facilities and retail opportunities where 70 per cent of the working population is expected to serve.

5. Transport city.

A major proposal in the concept is the establishment of a new transport and logistics hub to facilitate freight transport within the region.

The new town that will be located near the transport hub between Kajiado and Konza, will service the proposed transport and logistics hub, comprising a rail and truck terminal as well as an inland container depot.

6. Amboseli new town.

An interesting inclusion in the metropolitan concept is a new tourist town adjacent to Amboseli National Park, deep in Kajiado County.

The proposed town will include hotels, resorts, entertainment outlets, gaming arcades, outdoor activities with lush green landscaped gardens.

Well, the year 2030 is just 12 years from now. But the big question that lingers in the Kenyan mind is, will the journey to create a world-class metropolis that is expected to improve the quality of life for residents and create more business opportunities for investors be a reality or just another pipe dream, considering the country’s previous grandiose plans that never were.

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