February 24 2014

Opportunities of Urban Sprawl: Mlolongo Township, Kenya

Most African cities are characterized by an ever-rising urban population growth and the city of Nairobi is no exception. Various factors such as the natural rise in population, expansion of boundaries, and rural to urban migration have put Nairobi on the map as one of the cities with the highest urbanization rate.

Kenya population trends in Millions

Kenya’s population in the Millions

The development of numerous satellite towns such as Athi River, Kikuyu, and Rongai, among others, best illustrate the urban sprawl resulting from this expansion and the failure of urban planning in urban developments. Through urban sprawl, numerous townships that provide cheaper housing and more economic opportunities have been developed. One interesting case is the development of Mlolongo township, along the busy Nairobi to Mombasa Highway. The township lies about fifteen kilometers from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, and traces its origin and development from the lorries that parked around the area in an attempt to avoid weigh-bridge payments that are located nearby. It is these same trucks that are said to have influenced the name “Mlolongo.”

Mlolongo township rose from a slum of just a few iron sheet shacks that had no amenities, such as water, to a considerably large township that accommodates several thousands of people. Business is booming, with real estate development being a popular venture.

Modern Housing Development In Mlolongo

Modern Housing Development In Mlolongo

From what was just a plain of rocks, there now lies a human settlement that provides a home to numerous Kenyans, most who commute to work in the city, thanks to well-organized and reliable road transportation. For those others who fancy the rail, the Syokimau railway station, that links the area with the city, is not far. It is not all splendor, however, as the township is tainted by sex business that is alleged to be thriving, prompted by long-distance drivers who normally take a rest in the area.

A Popular Entertainment Spot In The Area

A Popular Entertainment Spot In The Area

The most fascinating thing, however, is how the Mlolongo township developed to its current state without any urban planning input. Despite being in Mavoko County Council, which was one of the richest councils in the previous administrative structure, there has been no significant contribution from council in the town’s development. This begs an interesting question with regard to the development of towns. Can all towns or cities develop out of nothing and grow into well-functioning systems without urban planning? It is true that most cities and towns in Kenya do not have plans and the current chaos with regard to congestion and other urban issues is evidence to that.

Is this type of development sustainable or is it time to engage urban planning and management?

Credits: Images by Joseph Waithuki. Data linked to sources.

Waithuki Joseph

Waithuki Joseph is a graduate of University of Nairobi’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning with a Bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning. Upon graduating in 2013, Joseph has been involved in a number of planning and research projects in Nairobi, Kenya. Joseph has a great interest in sustainability, transportation planning, and the application of modern technology in solving urban planning issues. He is a believer that urban planning is one field that has an impact in a city as its influence cuts across all sectors. Joseph hopes that African countries can use it as an engine to prosperity. He is currently working as a consultant for an organization in Nairobi.

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This entry was posted on Monday, February 24th, 2014 at 9:38 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Joseph Waithuki, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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