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Pr. Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, Governor of Kisumu County, Kenya

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In the run-up to the Africities 9 summit scheduled for 17 to 21 May 2022 in Kisumu (Kenya), under the theme: “The contribution of African intermediary cities to the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063”, UCLG Africa is conducting a serie of interviews with mayors of intermediary cities on the continent. For this second issue our guest is the Honorable Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, Governor of Kisumu. He reveals the ambition of his city to improve its green coverage, the urgency for Local Governments of the continent to agree their violins to face the problems related to governance in Africa. The host city of Africities also wishes that during the 5 days of the Summit, Kisumu is a connected city with free Wi-Fi access. In advance, Governor Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o welcomes participants to Kisumu, “the city of infinite possibilities”.

“We may have to come up with a common understanding at the continental level on how to restructure our cities”

AFRIMAG : Can you introduce your city?

Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o : Kisumu is the third largest city in Kenya, sitting almost on the Equator, to the West of Nairobi, on Lake Victoria, the second largest fresh water lake in the world. Therefore, the fishing industry is one of the most important industries in the Kisumu County, of which I am the Governor. Kisumu is also known for its sporting population, with young people who excel in soccer, hockey and other games, and who have won several medals in international and African matches. As we sit here today, Kisumu is going to hold the 9th edition of the Africities Summit, as an intermediary city. Indeed it is, because the population has been growing and we do believe that by the year 2050, the population of Kisumu may be easily 3 million. One of the reasons why the population is growing very fast is because the economy is also growing. The county has a strong agricultural sector which supplies the city with agricultural commodities, both for consumption and for export to other parts of East Africa. We are therefore talking about a very dynamic, lively and entertaining city. We have a lot of entertainment sports in the county, on the lake, and anybody who comes to Kisumu will come to a city that is typical of cities which sit on great sizes of water resources.

AFRIMAG : Intermediate cities occupy a strategic place in Africa’s urbanization. By 2050, the majority of new urban dwellers will settle in cities of less than 500,000 inhabitants. How is your municipality preparing for this change?

Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o : One of the ways we are preparing for this change is by having a local, detailed geophysical and special plan of the city, to know exactly where people live, what kind of natural resources and infrastructure we have, and what kind of problems we have in terms of use of land and environmental control, because environment is a very important issue. During the COVID pandemic, it was realized that we need to revive urban farming because access to market beyond Kisumu became difficult, but people had to be fed. You know, human beings are very innovative. All of a sudden, we saw corn gardening in the city. It provided people with meals daily, and corn gardening has been proven to be a very effective way of producing food. We also found during this pandemic, that when there are lockdowns in the city and people can’t travel to the central business district to have access to malls and other facilities, they need to have them in their neighborhood. Following our special geophysical plan for future urban planning, which we have already initiated today, the neighborhood must be integrated in this planning, and not just in terms of apartments, but also in terms of what people need on a day-to-day basis: markets, playgrounds, health facilities… This must be integrated in planning so that agglomeration of settlement within the city can actually be as self-sufficient as possible.

AFRIMAG : The Africities 9 Summit will be crucial for intermediary cities…

Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o : During the Summit, it will be important for us to compare notes with other cities in Africa, to find answers to the following questions: what is the mode of financing of urban areas in other parts of Africa? How do they envisage dealing with emerging problems of growing and exponentially growing urban areas? Do we, in Kenya, have any lessons that we want to share with others? What lessons do others have to share with us? The answers will help Africa develop a common pool of knowledge and ideas on how to deal with urban development and with the problems that the urban areas face. I think it is very important because we may find that what happens in Burkina Faso may be relevant to what happens in Kenya.

AFRIMAG : Intermediate cities play an important role in rapid urbanization in developing countries, balancing territories, providing services to surrounding populations, creating jobs and generating income, and mitigating rural migration, rather than large cities. Can you share with us your city’s experience on these aspects? 

Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o : Sometime ago, before infrastructure was improved in Kenya, people from the region went to work in Mombasa or Nairobi for the Kenya Railways and Harbours Corporation. They worked on railways, in the port of Mombasa, the Thika plantations… Policemen and teachers were also employed in big urban centers like Nairobi. There was a big export of labor from our region, and they stayed for long, often not even coming back for Christmas. They finally came back later when they retired, which means whatever they have earned was invested in the cities where they worked. Lately, with devolution, there has been the opposite movement of human resources. This has lead to other people who are not necessarily residents of Kisumu County coming to invest in it. We have seen an increased backflow of skills and expertise to the County. It is very interesting because we might assume that people who are coming back might create unemployment, yet they actually come back because they have money to invest in something, so they actually increase employment. More people are staying in the rural areas of Kisumu because they have to produce food for the new comers in the city, which is an expanding market for rural commodities from the countryside.

Middle class people leave Nairobi and come back to Kisumu to build houses. A single person needs a watchman, a cook and a domestic cleaner. Those are three workers for one house. Given the numbers of houses being built in some areas, the amount of employment created is not small.

AFRIMAG : What is your message of invitation to the participants of the 9th Africities Summit?

Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o : Welcome to Kisumu, the city of limitless opportunities, as we begin our journey for Africa’s renaissance and for intermediary cities which will become the metropolises of Africa in the next 20 years.

Sommaire<< Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of United Cities and Local Governments of AfricaSanzhie Bokally Thierry, Senior Knowledge Management Officer UCLG Africa >>
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