In the spring of 2019, the Kenyan Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing, Urban Development and Public Works (MoTIHUD) officially requested to France to benefit from the expertise and feedback of French urban transport systems in order to support the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (NaMATA) in terms of capacity building, and to support the implementation of urban mobility policies and projects.
Urban mobility is considered as an increasingly crucial issue by the Kenyan national government and local authorities. In Nairobi especially, where the metropolisation process is associated with high population growth rates and urban sprawl, a significant increase in commuting distances and a greater dependence on motorized modes of transport can be observed. These dynamics, which result from several factors, are leading to an important increase of road congestion and access inequalities. Nairobi is currently one of the most congested cities in Africa and the one with the longest average commuting time.
With the expected growth in car use and household car ownership, the traffic congestion will worsen in the next few years. The increase in car dependency in Nairobi is all the more problematic as the public transport services (Matatus) are only very partially compensating for the access inequalities, since these services are spatially and financially accessible to only a minority of urban dwellers. This situation result in significant accessibility gaps in terms of services and employment opportunities.
Since the early 2000s, transport policies in Nairobi have been largely car-oriented, through infrastructure projects aiming to develop or improve urban road network, which has in return encouraged urban sprawl. Nonetheless, in order to reduce traffic congestion and tackle accessibility gaps, the Kenyan authorities, supported by international donors, are also trying to carry out various Mass-Rapid Transit projects, including the creation of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network and the rehabilitation and extension of the urban rail network (commuter rail line).
In February 2017, the establishment of the NaMATA which has been entrusted with the task of integrating the urban transport systems and implementing the BRT network, was one of the first milestones in the achievement of mass rapid transit projects. However, this Public Transport Authority is still struggling to affirm itself since the urban transport governance remains extremely fragmented between national and local (counties) authorities. NaMATA currently has neither long-term source of funding nor clearly defined functions. As a result, it still plays a very limited role in terms of stakeholders’ coordination, and it struggles to ensure the consistency of urban mobility projects and the implementation of the BRT system.
Thus, through the French Technical Assistance Program (FEXTE), a partnership between CODATU and NaMATA has been established in order to support NaMATA in terms of institutional and technical organization. Through its knowledge of the international institutional context and its capacity to mobilize short-term experts, CODATU will thus play a central role in the setting up and coordination of the capacity building activities.
On 2 March 2020, this partnership between CODATU and NaMATA has started following the arrival of the CODATU’s cooperation manager in the PTA offices. This arrival is a decisive step for the launching of the Technical Assistance Program, whose activities should start in the coming weeks.