Document Type


Publication Date



Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Gary Prevost, Political Science


Nairobi, Kenya is one of the most volatile urban centers in Africa, suffering from 60% of its population living in crowded and poverty-stricken informal settlements around the periphery of the city. Efforts to upgrade Nairobi's slums have been attempted by the Government of Kenya (GoK) for decades, using different theories and strategies ranging from forced eviction and demolition to the current Sustainable Livelihoods Approach that claims resident participation as its hallmark. A new initiative based on this strategy entitled the Kenya Slum Upgrading Programme (KENSUP), headed in partnership between the GoK & UN-Habitat, is focusing on Kiberia - East Africa's largest slum of over 700,000 residents. Specifically, the KENSUP's starting point is a "village" of Kiberia called Soweto, which has a population of approximately 60,000 residents and is considered the poorest section of Kiberia informal settlement. This current venture is entitled the Soweto Slum Upgrading Project (SSUP).

On paper, it appears to offer a plausible solution. However, upon interviewing Kiberia's residents, key NGO, UN-Habitat, and the GoK, it is clear that there is a lack of coordination, dialog, and cooperation between the stakeholders of this project. This combined with more enduring factors, such as the lack of clear national policies on land tenure and allocation, and Kiberia's dominant political power structure that has strong economic incentives to maintain the status quo, suggest this large-scale slum upgrading project will not be successful, while smaller and more localized self-help efforts provide a brighter alternative.