In 2008 the Kenyan government unveiled its plan to construct a city from scratch 60 kilometers outside of the nation’s capital, Nairobi. Konza Technology City is a flagship project for Kenya Vision 2030, the country’s development program covering the period 2008 to 2030. The new city is expected to relieve Nairobi of some of its traffic and overcrowding issues, and also support the country’s growing technology sector.
KTC, designed by SHoP Architects is a planned 250,000 person city designed with the goal of being a sustainable, world-class city and technology hub that will serve as an economic driver for Kenya. The city is planned with a focus creating a vibrant, walkable, green urban environment that will integrate a broad range of inhabitants. Currently a greenfield site, KTC will be built in 5 phases. The first phase, to be built over 5 years, will contain 30,000 residents and is the focus of current planning efforts. Phase one is designed as a “stitch” in the overall masterplan. The primary east-west axis of the stitch contains mixed-use program and two primary roadways, a green-park boulevard with public transportation and a commercial/retail boulevard. The two boulevards are designed to bring traffic into the city from the expressway at the eastern edge of the site. The boulevards also connect a series of north-south cross-stitches, each of which contain bands of specific program.
KTC is just one of many proposed city plans all over sub-Saharan Africa reflecting a growing phenomenon. Due to the challenges many African cities are facing – around sanitation, overcrowding, and unplanned growth – many African countries, with the help of international investors, are planning to build new cities adjacent to larger existing urban centers to address some of these issues. These cities are branded as “smart” and “futuristic,” and provide leisure facilities, business opportunities and social amenities for their residents. However, while these project have gained a lot of excitement and support, there are many concerns over these plans. Critics argue in a part of the world where many people live on less than US$2 a day, lack access to clean water, health facilities, and proper sanitation these cities will not lead to meaningful development and will serve only a small elite.
The project seeks to understand the expectations of residents near the Konza City site in Malili, Machakos Town and Old Konza Town as well as assess the impact this city will have on these communities. In addition this project examines key differences between community expectations and government and professional expectations for the project. Ten interviews were conducted over a month period in Malili, Machakos Town, Old Konza Town and Nairobi to gather information. The results show that lack of local involvement in the project has resulted in some key disconnects between community members and the government. In addition while many argue information technology has the potential to change the lives of Kenyan citizens, it remains unclear whether Konza will.