Matatu Culture or BRT?

Let’s take a moment and thank the emergence of online meetings. We all can agree that the pros of online meetings are way more than the cons. I mean who could have imagined one could have access to these prominent workshops that one needed great connection to get in. Also taking classes in the comfort of my home. Interesting if you ask me.

Wait that’s not what we are here to talk about today on this post. Hail to the online everything. At least now most of us have cut the cost of travel expenses, the chaos, traffic jams. Thank God we don’t have to go through that anymore. And please if any meeting can be done online don’t bother setting up a physical meeting, I mean we are keeping up social distance (or don’t just make me go through Nairobi’s Traffic chaos for that)

Today’s post was inspired by the virtual workshop I attended last month. It was organized by ITDP Africa. The workshop assessed the current and planned BRT systems in Africa which is:

  • Nairobi Thika Road BRT.
  • the Addis Ababa B2 BRT system.
  • the Cairo BRT system.
  • the Dar es Salaam BRT.
  • the Kigali bus sector modernization.

Head over to their website and listen to the webinar recordings and presentation of the workshop.

Mobility is a crucial topic in Kenya. The experts discussed most of the solutions that can be used to sort the mobility issue in Nairobi. The major takeaway I had from the webinar is that it is better for Kenya to benchmark on the already similar working systems rather than generating new unproven systems to be implemented.

Let’s talk about matatu culture. We refer to it as a “Club on Wheels,” Most of them are loud, with beautiful graffiti-style paintings, custom designs, flashing lights, and onboard entertainment to attract the attention of the young passengers.

The matatu sector has benefited greatly from technological advancements. Some offer high-speed internet access as well as power outlets for charging phones and other electronic devices. Once the car has been pimped up and it has left the garage, it will be marketed to matatu fans on social media sites.

According to Kenya’s Transport Ministry, 70 percent of the city’s 4.5 million commuters rely on these minibusses to get around. these privately owned taxis that transport multiple passengers have developed from a mode of transportation to a way of life.

  • they are the largest employer of youth in Kenya.
  • they are used to communicate Kenyan pop culture,
  • premiere new music videos and sometimes interactively transmit conscience messages.
  • They are an important part of Kenya’s heritage and authenticity.

The uniqueness of the culture attracts visitors who tend to be amazed by the vibrant design, including American celebrities like Cardi B, Chris Brown, and Trey Songs.

While Matatus are the preferred mode of transportation for most Kenyans, they are inexpensive, easy but sometimes chaotic. To keep ahead of the competition, matatu touts and drivers are known for causing havoc on the busy streets of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. They are known for violating most traffic laws, particularly during rush hours.

The Matatus have destinations, but no schedules. They compete for the same routes and leave only when all passengers are on board; otherwise, the trip would not be worthwhile. Buses with the best artwork, the friendliest drivers, and the most entertaining conductors fill up fastest.

As a regular user of Matatus, I have had a fair share of some negative experiences with them. some touts are always rude for no reason and it is believed that “nganya” has some favoritism that only attractive girls are allowed to take the front seat with the driver.

A loving and loathing culture paradox exists within Matatu culture. The urban youth see them as a source of identity while some visitors and older generations see all they are as chaotic.

However, government bans and alternative modes of public transportation can soon put Matatu culture at risk. Clearly, the introduction of the BRT in Nairobi will have a significant impact on many workers who rely on the matatu industry for their livelihoods.

Read about BRT

Govt announces schedule for Nairobi BRT buses

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/business/sci-tech/article/2001406387/brt-system-begins-to-take-shape-on-superhighway

After the introduction of BRT, it is also certain that the matatu business would continue to play an important role in Nairobi’s transportation system, providing feeder routes and transit services in areas where BRT does not serve.

Therefore, the key question is how to develop and integrate this crucial aspect of the public transport system properly with BRT needs to be dealt with.

Whether or not BRT is successfully implemented, Kenya’s plans for an eco-friendly and integrated passenger transport system still need to address some key issues in the city. The formalization of employment, elimination of extortion, corruption, reducing congestion and pollution are essential to mobility in Kenya.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Post Pandemic Cities

Urban centers are home to half of the total populace and are drivers of development and creativity in the economy. The high concentration of people and events in urban areas, also, makes them inclined to different stressors, for example, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.People were seen fleeing out of most urban centers for safety.

Significantly more than one city has been closing down, converting urban commercial centers, suburban malls, and other public areas into ghost towns as the infamous coronavirus rips through the globe. A few nations are as yet under lockdown to contain the spread of the COVID-19. Kenya was one of the nations that partially pre-owned this methodology to contain the infection.

https://www.usatoday.com/storytelling/coronavirus-reopening-america-map/

This isn’t the first occasion when this has occurred—since days of old times, urban areas have become the focal points of transmittable infections.

With the coronavirus set to restructure the urban environment over the coming years, we are headed for rather momentous days with these upcoming changes. Urban centers being the epicenter of the pandemic, there should be more of advocating for the reimagining of cities and proposing alternatives ways for creating a resilient built environment. The main aim of this blog post is to explain the effects of the pandemic on cities and to highlight valuable lessons that can be learned from urban planning post-COVID.

Positive impacts brought by pandemic to the city

New concerns have been presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, compelling us to reconsider the manner in which we fabricate our urban areas. Without neglecting the idea of a city as a social community, the emergency has additionally allowed us a chance to rethink the connection between urban design and public health. Allowed us to re-examine the manner in which we plan urban areas. How urban areas are planned is crucial to the management of infectious diseases.

Following the imposition of social distance, lock-down and minimal human contact with nature at its peak of the pandemic proved to be a blessing of nature and the environment. It caused a huge drop in air and water pollution.

The pandemic also encouraged the emergence of the most essential businesses that we didn’t know we needed. In Kenya delivery of products surged since most people were quarantining from home, this made a lot of people get conversant with online shopping. While most of the population lost their jobs, a good number used the break to venture into new activities and explore several things that they are interested in. The pandemic fostered creativity because of the availability of time.

Some of the changes that should be considered includes

New mobility options:

In general, human mobility and transport networks that improve inter-and intra-urban connectivity are seen as the main factors leading to the spread of infectious diseases and their role in previous outbreaks of diseases. This is a strong indicator of the greater resilience of non-motorized transit systems to pandemics. Investing in such infrastructure not only helps to contain the strain of the virus but also improves access to services, and reduces demand on overcrowded transit systems in emergencies. To ensure social distancing, the management of bus stops and the transport sector must be rethought comprehensively. Kenya is embracing the use of Non-motorist transport.

Digital Infrastructure:

Techno-driven techniques i.e., tracking down infected people. has been effective in suppressing the virus, but has raised questions about data rights and accountability. During the pandemic, most of the institutions in Kenya embraced online learning while this disadvantaged some of the people that couldn’t have access to the internet. A lot of businesses also went online this created a lot of activities on the internet. With many of us now embracing online activities better digital infrastructure needs to be put in place to facilitate remote work where possible.

Access to essentials:

The coronavirus pandemic was a wake-up call for cities around the world to reconsider community development with health protection as a top priority.  Easier access to hospitals and public health systems makes regions of high density less vulnerable to pandemics. Designers’ focus should be directed to rediscovering and redesigning social and leisure places according to individual needs and to constructing them as pandemic-resilient, adaptive spaces.

Talk about Mental Health more:

In a country like Kenya with inadequate public health and crippled mental health services, and where the majority of the population lives on less than $1 a day threshold, mental health is essential to an effective response. Suicide and quarantine breakdown stories demonstrate that care for mental wellbeing needs to be incorporated at all levels of response.I deduced a while back on an article on how urban centers affect our mental health.

https://urbandesignage.wordpress.com/2020/09/16/how-cities-affects-our-mental-health/

Making city infrastructure more flexible:

Embrace cashless economy:

Mechanisms to be incorporated that can drive Kenya to a cashless economy to aid in the prevention of the spread of the virus. Although this may have lots of Limitations since a large percentage of the population in Kenya lives on less than $1 a day. Some public transport currently discourages the use of M-Pesa for transactions because most of them incure losses due to Reversal of transactions.

Enabling more peripheral development, which would involve major changes in land use and zoning regulations. Other strategies in different sectors of the country must be established in order to improve the post-covid economy, including :

  • FOOD SECURITY AND NUTRITION. .                                                   
  • TOURISM SECTOR.
  • HOUSING SECTOR.
  • SOCIAL PROTECTION.
  • SPORTS SECTOR.
  • ENVIRONMENT, WATER AND SANITATION.
  • EDUCATION.

What are your thoughts on this?

What Makes Rwanda Africa’s Most Inspiring Success Story

I’m curious, where do you get your news from? apart from memes and twitter. I did a poll on my Instagram account but I’d love to hear from you. As for me, I prefer not watching Tv news, especially during these pandemic times, coz of the negative anxiety that’s comes with it. I think watching the news makes me worry about things that are beyond my control.

Not that I don’t care about what’s going on, but the news makes me look at the world within the mindset that created the problems. someone might say, why don’t you just have a mindset shift or watch the news with an open mind but different people have different ways of protecting their mental health.

That has been my biggest hack to stay sane during this time. I avoid the news to keep my head around the things I care about, so I prefer customizing my google to bring me news on topics I care about or just randomly checking my socials especially my twitter account to keep myself on the know.

Speaking of twitter, Today’s post is a series of urban tweets I came across, that might interest you, and simply admiring Rwanda as a country. Y’all have heard how the country is termed as beautiful and of the most inspiring success story in Africa. I know that title’s huge, but the country has really done a good job of bouncing back from the tragic 1994 Rwandan Genocide. In this post, we will highlight and discuss several things that make the country unique and beautiful. I too, wish was writing about my country. But there’s a lot of lessons we can learn from them. More so what we can achieve with good leadership and discipline from its citizens.

Rwanda is one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever see. We can say this country is generally blessed just like many of the countries in Africa. Although the country is landlocked, it’s geography is beautiful, filled with mountains, savannah, lakes (Lake Kivu), and hills hence its nickname:” The land of a thousand hills

The city has Instagram-worthy view, so there’s plenty of viewpoints. Environment and animal conservation are a major priority in the country. The country has a diverse ecosystem and Its government is committed to ensuring that, the local environment is preserved. Since they have worked tirelessly to protect the mountain gorillas in the Virunga mountain range and the environment generally. In 2008, Rwanda banned the use of plastic bags in efforts to go green.

Kigali’s growing business district simply explains the country’s growth stories. This is coz of the successful government policies that have enabled the country to experience a fast transforming economy. Although a percentage of its citizens live below the poverty line, The Rwandan president has noted his ambition to make the country the ‘Singapore of Africa’. In spite of being the smallest country in East Africa, it is listed among the safest country in the world, ahead of countries like New Zealand. This has made tourism to be one of the fastest-growing industries in the country. Interesting places to visit are the Volcanoes National Park and the Kigali Genocide Memorial. This tweet will explain the kind of leadership this country has.

Simple policies like having a clean-up session that every able-bodied person age ranges from 18 to 65 participates have made them be ranked as the cleanest country in Africa. The clean-up session is called Umuganda meaning: coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome. Some will argue that it’s because of how dense its population is, but it takes a lot to achieve that, from its leadership to the discipline of its citizen. If you’ve seen the recent story: Lessons from Rwanda that Jeff Koinage (Kenyan news anchor) did that was aired on Citizen tv then you’ll understand what I’m talking about. The streets are so clean!

The city is an example of a human city since its beautiful, functional, and able to accommodate its citizen population. It is at the forefront of urbanism and sustainable transport, it’s quite easy to get around the city because of the safe motorbike taxis. Beautified streets and quality footpaths of the city center and people can walk safely at night. Kigali Convention Centre being one of the most iconic places in the city

67 Percent of the parliament’s positions are occupied by women. This is a wow factor since women around the world are going against the traditional gender roles to take positions of power, which is happening at a higher rate than normal in Rwanda.

Rwanda is definitely a must visit place. You can add other fun facts about Rwanda that you know off and it’s fascinating. I came across this other tweet but that’s a topic for another day.


Get in Touch!

We need to Humanise Cities.

My introductions have always started with life insights or me recommending a nice book or a Tv show, (I assume you’ve noticed that by now), but today’s different. I remember commenting somewhere that I didn’t want this to be a rant blog, but our city’s situation is wanting!

I’m writing this with lots of emotions coz of the heartbreaking accident of a cyclist that happened on Thika Road, Nairobi. (may his soul rest in peace) I was so touched by the numbers that came out on the cyclist lives matter protest that happened on Saturday. That clearly showed how unsafe our roads are for the non-motorists in the Nairobi


I often imagine cycling (as an alternative to beat the traffic) but only the thought of it, is scary, from my safety, the routes to take, and where to park my bicycle. The city itself is discouraging the few that are reasonable enough to take responsibility on their own hands to reduce air pollution and at least decongest the city. I agree we all are responsible for how our cities turn out to be. But how can we even afford to take responsibility if the city itself isn’t built for us? Today’s post is a call for creating more human spaces in cities and towns.

Being a non-motorist in Kenya is clearly a death sentence. That’s the main reason why the majority of the population insists on driving themselves around the city. This continues to increase the number of cars on roads thus congestion and air pollution.

A program was recently done by Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) which involved the conversion of spaces into pedestrian walkways and cycling lanes, to make it easy for residents to walk and cycle from home to work in the CBD. Instead, motorists are already parking along the walkways, inconveniencing pedestrians as well as cyclists. This article highlights the shocking numbers of pedestrians and cyclists that die in road accidents in Kenya.https://insuranceguru.co.ke/road-accidents-in-kenya/

The term humanising the city means humans become the dominant priority in the organisation of the cities’ spaces. (cities serving the people who live in them). This is important since the citizens are the city, if the citizens are not feeling comfortable then, the city certainly is not human-centered. There needs to be a shift in the way cities are developed, cities should be developed with the intent to create better places for humans to inhabit. Urban designers and planners should consider the following strategies to Humanise space in cities and towns;-

  • Have visions and goals towards human-centered cities.
  • Have approaches that recognize problems that city dwellers face yet it also providers economic incentives.
  • Have engagement platforms to get to know what the citizens want.

Human-centered design will have a huge impact on the sense and vibrancy of the city, its advantages include:

  • Create a better place for humans to live.
  • Will make cities and human settlements more inclusive, resilient, safer, and more sustainable.
  • It will empower citizens to make more informed decisions.
  • Attracts density of people to use the NMT.

We’d love to see less car-centric streets and more pedestrians oriented.

Get in touch!

How cities affects our mental health.

I love self- development books, the how-tos and the secret to kind of books, or scientifically proven ways on how to accomplish a certain task books. Just like the one I mentioned in my previous post.

Don’t get me wrong I also love me some good stories, first the logic-oriented books or the ones that introduce you to so many new concepts that make you change the way you think about certain things. I discovered another mind opener book called The courage to be disliked by Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga. The book has so many pieces of wisdom that not only had me rethink my life perspective but also allowed me to put new truths into action. Let me just mentions bits that broadened my thinking:

  • Trauma doesn’t exist, people just choose that kind of life. (yeah right, I was surprised too, sounds victim blaming but he explains his perspective)
  • If we are upset about something its coz of the story, we are telling ourselves about that particular thing.
  • We choose to be unhappy and we are using that particular circumstance to justify that. (happiness is a choice)
  • You are the only one who’s worried about how you look. (people are busy worrying about themselves, what makes you think that they are actively thinking about you?🤡)
  • Choose the best path that you believe in, what kind of judgment that other people pass on that choice, that’s the task of other people and that’s a matter you can’t do anything about it.
  • We should not compliment or insults anyone but only give affirmations.

I think that’s enough to get you reading the book. Just don’t overthink it, and question everything including people that suffer from mental health problems. I don’t know a lot about mental health but what I know is, some mental health problems are a result of both genetic and environmental factors. Read the book with an open mind and take away the good ideas.

Speaking of mental health. How are you feeling today? How’s your mental health? September is National Suicide Prevention Month, I thought I would write about how urban life affects our mental health. The questions of urban living and mental health is a complex issue that’s related to many other interrelated factors. Urban life exerts a huge impact on our wellbeing including mental health. The impacts can either be positive or negative.

Studies show that urban dwellers have a 20% higher risk of developing anxiety disorders and a 40% risk of developing mood disorders. Urban stressors include air and noise pollution, lack of enough greenery, traffic congestion, etc. These challenges are brought by the rapid pace that our cities and towns are growing. (Effects of urbanisation) Social stress is the main factor that causes mental disorders in urban areas. Like living in crowded areas will bring you stress.

The key to improving our wellbeing in urban areas is by making the city more livable and concentrating the city design on Sensory Landscape. By sensory landscape I mean the smelling, hearing, seeing, touching, and even tasting of the city. we often interpret the city through the technical rather than the sensory, yet it is the sensory from which we build feeling and emotion and through which our psychological landscapes are built.

Just differentiate the feeling you have when you walk on Moi Avenue street and the one that’s on Aga khan Walk on a sunny day. Lots of study shows how our interactions with nature improve our state of mind because people tend to be more active in nature and sights sounds and smell of the greenery boosts our mood.

Aga khan walk.Nairobi.

The physical nature of cities also puts a strain on the emotional wellbeing of their inhabitants. When planning new neighbourhoods and refurbishing existing ones we should put in mind phycological health. What if our city planners and designers start their plan with words like beauty, love, happiness, or excitement as opposed to spatial outcomes or ‘planning framework? We need to understand people’s emotions. A lot of us are talking about sustainable development forgetting that cities need to be psychologically and emotionally sustaining. If we are talking about sustainability let it be sustained across a range.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinion on this. Get in Touch!

Edited by Noor