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Lessons from South Africa: the little take homes

  • By Sarah Makena
  • April 5, 2018
  • 0 Comment

This is just but the beginning of my documentation of the key take homes from my short trip to South Africa. What being away from home reminds you is the little facts like Kenya is not the only place you can be and there are bigger and better things happening out there we can learn from as an economy. The highlight of the trip was a security briefing just after settling at our hotel. After that briefing I did not even want to leave my room, it felt like we had just landed inside Kamiti maximum prison and someone was baying for our blood. But forget about that let us pick it up later.

Clean Pretoria:

When the governor of Nairobi came into power the promise and the very short lived efforts to clean the city made me start dreaming about Nairobi as a clean city, how wrong was I.  I don’t need to explain to any Nairobi resident what our city looks like. The floods are a real testimony, so yes our city is dirty and sadly we don’t seem to really care. Pretoria to me looked spotless. I will not even waste writing space trying to compare that with Nairobi. You may find a piece of paper here and there after driving for “days” but the city is well kept and is a site to behold. A look at the city you can tell the urban planning department, the local government there and whoever else is responsible took their time and still is taking time to maintain a clean city. Just like Nairobi at every corner of Pretoria we have a dustbin, the difference though is there is a culture of maintaining cleanliness in Pretoria while in Nairobi we all are seemingly allergic to putting garbage where it belongs. Proper Waste management is one aspect a developing city and a capital like Nairobi cannot ignore. The collection and management of waste should be top of the agenda of any local government especially for the urban centres. Nairobi is the regional financial and business hub and thus partnership between the local government and the business community is one of the strategies that needs to be employed for a cleaner city. I still have dreams of waking up to Nairobi as one of the cleanest cities in the world and my dreams are valid.

City with no roundabouts:

While you were all floating in the floods of Nairobi I was busy imagining of no round about between Nyayo and Westlands. How good would that be to imagine you could be on Mombasa road for a ten O’clock meeting and possibly hack another one hour later in Westlands. This is called efficiency which saves the country of economic time, we would have more done rather than sit in traffic for half the day. I noted there were no roundabouts in Pretoria and the movement of traffic was rather seamless. Once again urban planning comes into play and it becomes fundamental to think about the flow of traffic as we design roads especially in urban areas. I am sure those who have been to South Africa will be quick to put a comparison to Johannesburg but no I choose to look at the unique aspects I saw in Pretoria that took me back home to my crazy drive to work and back.  Part of conserving the environment is also reducing the amount of time cars are on the road. The more the time the cars are on the road the more amount of emissions released to the environment. Nairobi needs to deal with the challenges of traffic to contribute to the reduction of GHS.

Unemployment and Crime in South Africa

The level of unemployment in South Africa stands at 26.7%.  Let’s get back to the security briefing that scared the life out of me. After my very curious enquiry of why the level of insecurity seems higher than Nairobi even though the level of unemployment is almost the same as in Kenya my findings led me to the level of inequality in addition to the level of unemployment. Unemployment is an Africa wide challenge, one of the ways of dealing with unemployment is encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship for the younger generation to create employment opportunities rather than seek for what is in the market. For any city to grow there must be an opportunity to run a 24-hour economy.  This is a real challenge for both in South Africa and Kenya where the two have not succeeded yet in creating a 24-hour economy.

My main takeaway from South Africa was that the small things make a big difference in the development of an economy. It’s the low hanging fruits that leave an impression even before we look into the macro economic issues in an economy. 

Picture courtesy of World Atlas

By Sarah Makena