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At the crossroads: the politics of road safety in Nairobi

Research reports

Written by Clare Cummings

Nairobi is one of Africa’s fastest growing cities: in just 16 years, its population has doubled. An increasing number of people and vehicles move around the city every day, creating competition for space and ease of travel. Congestion is acute and collisions are common: 668 people were killed in traffic collisions in Nairobi in 2015, accounting for 22% of all traffic fatalities in Kenya that year. The available data, though not robust, suggests that pedestrians and motorcyclists are the most seriously and frequently affected by road traffic collisions. And these people are also likely to be among the lowest income groups.

Overcoming road safety issues remains a low political priority. Even if public demand was there, politicians are still more likely to prioritise road construction over road safety improvements, as shown by consistent government funding for road construction, the prioritisation of new roads in urban development plans and the recent expansion of several highways in Nairobi. New roads are a tangible sign of government action, whereas road safety improvements are less visible, and so politicians can gain more public recognition for road improvements than for road safety improvements.

To overcome these challenges, strategic interventions are needed. In this case study, we make several recommendations to local and international reformers:

  1. Increase the authority of road safety assessments.
  2. Work in partnership with the new bus rapid transit (BRT) system.
  3. Foster intercounty competition on road safety.
  4. Incentivise safer boda-boda driving.

Read the interactive report.

This is one of three case studies, analysing the politics of road safety in low- and middle-income countries. More information about the project can be found here.

Clare Cummings and Beatrice Obwocha