KIAMAIKO, Kenya, Jan 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) -
D ressed in a white apron and black gum boots, 24-year-old Osman
Idris waits patiently outside a Nairobi slaughterhouse as scores
of customers stream past in search of fresh meat.
A delivery man, Idris is just one of many residents of
Kiamaiko, a slum 12 kms northeast of the Kenyan capital, who is
making a decent living from its thriving trade in goat meat.
Unlike the majority of Kenyan slums where unemployment,
insecurity and crime are rife, Kiamaiko has seen more jobs and
small businesses flourish as a result of the goat market.
"Most of us here depend on these slaughterhouses for a
living, it's our daily hustle," said Idris, his eyes searching
for clients who might need his services.
Nearly 1 billion people live in slums where their survival
often depends on the informal economy - activities such as
hawking clothes, food and other goods on the street that do not
fully comply with tax or labour market regulations.
The United Nations says improving transport, sanitation,
hospitals and schools is imperative in slums, but authorities
must also work to integrate shanty towns and their informal
economies into their cities.
Success will require policies to address the problems faced
by slum dwellers and their businesses including a lack of
documents to prove land or property ownership which allows
re-sale or loans, according to a senior official at the United
Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
"Given its size and importance, the informal economy is a
fundamental element of accelerating Africa's long term vision
for development," said Edlam Abera Yemeru, a UNECA specialist on
RISING COST OF RENT
UNECA estimates that overall nearly 70 percent of workers in
sub-Saharan Africa are engaged in the informal economy.
Increasingly, African governments are exploring new ways to
slash red tape and help legalise micro-businesses to give slum
dwellers a legitimate income to invest and improve their lives -
while creating a new taxation stream for city administrations,
Africa's population of slum dwellers is expected to rapidly
increase in the coming years with United Nations projecting that
around 187 million more Africans will live in cities in the next
decade, boosting both formal and informal urban economies.
In Kiamaiko residents say the goat market has transformed
the sprawling slum - once notorious for guns and young, violent
thugs - and even attracted investment.
"The slum used to be very risky," Idris told the Thomson
"I've witnessed countless muggings here before, but since
the slaughterhouses started expanding they have opened up job
opportunities for youths thus helping reduce cases of crime and
The growth of the goat market has led to other businesses
opening their doors from car wash points to barber shops, fruit
and vegetable stores to money transfer services and even
recreation centres, locals say.
But not all residents are happy.
In some areas, the cost of rent has soared placing pressure
on poorer families to leave their neighbourhoods in search of
cheaper housing further away from Nairobi's peripheral
settlements and potential jobs.
"We can no longer afford to pay rent here. The rent has
surged ten-fold and only those that can afford a year's rent in
advance are favoured by the landlords," said Macharia Karanja, a
mechanic who has lived in the slum for the last 10 years.
JOBS MEAN SERVICES
Karanja says he and many other young men have become trapped
in a vicious cycle of low incomes and family responsibilities at
a young age.
"Most of the traders in the slaughterhouse business have
bought ghetto houses and converted them into two to three storey
buildings which have become unaffordable," he said.
While some residents have been forced out of Kiamaiko,
others like Abdul Hassan are happy wealthier new tenants can
afford services such as garbage collection and security.
"At least tenants from these high-end houses don't give us
headaches like those in ghettos. They are very co-operative when
it comes to paying our services," said Hassan, a member of a
self-help group that collects garbage in the area.
Kiamaiko's fast-growing slum economy has also started to
attract investors, residents say.
"The slum has become safer, less risky and more attractive
to outside investors," said John Kibichu, a beer distributor.
"The local environment has made it possible for businesses
to operate 24 hours a day and traders are all keen to grab a
share of the revenue generated in this slum".
(Reporting by Shadrack Kavilu, Editing by Paola Totaro and
Katie Nguyen.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate
change. Visit news.trust.org)