National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA) registers around 7000 vehicles monthly and 90,000 every year in Nairobi. This is owing to the growing middle class and the easy accessibility of credit from financial institutions. And although acquiring a private means of transport provides convenience for car owners, it is rapidly becoming a dilemma to the Nairobi business community and its citizenry at large.
For instance, if a major road is temporarily barricaded, thousands get stuck on the roads for hours. These traffic snarl-ups are also very unpredictable and costly, that a 30-minute drive could easily turn into a 5-hour journey. According to the World Bank, the time wasted in traffic jams represents a cost to the economy of Ksh 50 million in lost productivity a day, which equates to over Sh17 billion a year. Traffic is not an acceptable excuse in places of work or even social meetings in Nairobi. It is a justification that completely sheds a bad light on an individual who arrives late for any kind of event.
This very excuse is costing businesses money and now stakeholders in the hospitality industry are calling out the bad public transport system and city road works asking for a better road network and management to salvage what is left of their businesses.
International conferences, for example, are mostly hosted in Nairobi due to the convenient proximity to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. This means at one time hotels in the city could be fully packed, usually the city’s opportunity to buzz with business.
However, this is not the case, the first thing conference organizers think of when it comes to congested roadways is the delay. City hoteliers led by PrideInn Group of Hotels Managing Director Mr. Hasnain Noorani say that traffic problems have a significant impact on hotel’s daily operations and especially on the conferencing business.
Delays caused by traffic causes inconveniences. And at the end of the day, the afternoon rush hour is again a frustrating time because the conference is done and visitors now want to tour Nairobi markets, sceneries and enjoy the nightlife. Traffic in the city does not favor these kinds of activities and hoteliers are losing potential revenues and business opportunities from visiting delegates and tourists.
Design of the roads
Poor design of the roads has heavily contributed to this menace. Many roundabouts in a stretch of less than two kilometers, for instance, we have four roundabouts from Nyayo Stadium to University way. And because of such designs, all major roads will always lead you to immense traffic or what many like to term as ‘parking lot’. Also, most of the roads in Nairobi have neither cyclists’ bike paths nor pedestrian walkways.
The lack of a scheduled public transport system and an elaborate non-motorized transport network forces people to use personal vehicles over short distances, whereas they would have otherwise walked, cycled.
“Our guests experience the frustration of being stuck in a traffic jam for hours which can also be tiring for someone who has just landed for a conference or a business meeting in Nairobi,” says Noorani. “No one likes getting stuck in traffic, but for conference delegates, traffic jams aren’t just affecting their timeline, they negatively affect your entire conference business.”
The projected number of vehicles in Nairobi alone is likely to be more than 1.35 million by 2030, going by the current rate of registration by the National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA).