Nairobi and the 100 Resilient Cities Programme

Dandora Dumpsite 2015

More than half of the world lives in cities. Estimates indicate that by 2050 about 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. Cities are the centres of civilization, commerce, innovation and culture. They have diverse populations with different needs dependent upon various variables such as age, culture and economic levels. However, they are significantly affected by the modern challenges of climate change, mobility and energy consumption.

It is important for the good of the citizens that authorities work towards better social, economic and physical environments in cities. This includes their ability to be able to respond to unexpected natural or manmade events and occurrences. Thus, city management needs to have a strong focus on resilience.

Time and experience have shown that many cities share common challenges. These range from climate change and energy consumption to population growth and housing among other issues. These concerns have led to cities slowly recognizing the importance of building their resilient capacities.

As a result of this growing awareness, the Rockefeller Foundation pioneered the 100 Resilient Cities Programme. 100 Resilient Cities Programme has an ambitious goal of helping cities worldwide build resilience to the growing social, economic, and physical challenges of the 21st century. The initiative aims at enabling cities to work together towards solving their challenges in a proactive and inclusive manner rather than in  a reactive secluded manner.

As part of the Programme, a selected City will benefit through:

  • Recruitment of a Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) who will be the point of contact between the City Mayor, Different Departments and city silos.
  • The City will create a resilience strategy, which will determine areas of strength, weakness and health levels. The strategy is expected to be implemented.
  • The City will have access to platform partners which includes tools, services and advisory support from academic and corporate sector partners who want to help the cities achieve their resilience goals.
  • The City will enjoy access to a network of Cities and CROs, where cities can acquire global knowledge from the experiences of others.

In a six-to -nine month process, the CRO (‘‘resilience point person”) will involve a wide variety of stakeholders in identifying the city’s resilience challenges, its capabilities and plans to address them, and then identify the gaps between these two. By applying a resilience lens, the CRO will ensure that the city’s resources are leveraged holistically and projects planned for synergy.

The City of Nairobi, Kenya, was on Wednesday 25th May, selected together with 37 other Cities to join the final list of 100 Resilient Cities. With an official population of 3,100,000 as of 2009, Nairobi’s case addresses the main challenges of aging infrastructure, terrorism, disease, flooding, high unemployment, infrastructure failure, lack of affordable housing, pollution/ environmental degradation.  This list may sound all too familiar to residents but a quick check with other cities shows these problems are not unique to Nairobi.

Cities with Similar challenges:

  • Aging infrastructure: Cape Town, Chennai, Accra, Rio de Janeiro
  • Disease Outbreak: Lagos, Paris, Vancouver
  • Flooding: Panama City, Nashville, Kyoto, Jaipur
  • High unemployment: Addis, Enugu, Tbilisi, Athens
  • Infrastructure Failure: Lagos, Honolulu, Buenos Aires, Tel Aviv
  • Housing: Pune, Calgary, Seoul, Milan
  • Pollution: Jaipur, Guadalajara Metropolitan Area, Panama City ,Accra
  • Terrorism: Tel Aviv, Atlanta, Greater Manchester

Nairobi’s resilience is normally tested during its long rains season where in recent times flooding has led to destruction of property and loss of lives. A substantial amount of blame is credited to the municipal authorities who are perceived as allowing or turning a blind eye to sub-standard public works like drainage and roads. The urban poor are often the biggest victims of the resulting state of affairs. With over 60% of the population living within informal settlements (Nairobi does not have any social housing policy), during heavy rains these areas have witnessed massive destruction of property and associated  loss of lives. Rapid spread of diseases also occurs as many of these poor residents lack access to safe drinking water and adequate healthcare.


Studies on Nairobi’s air quality have recorded high levels of toxins . Most of Nairobi’s water bodies can be mistaken for open sewers due to years of pollution.  Once again, these appear to affect the urban poor more than anyone else as several informal settlements are located near heavily polluted water bodies.

Aging infrastructure and failure to adapt to various needs of a modern city have hindered the development of Nairobi. The last decade has seen the construction of various roads and highways some 30 years after they were planned. However, a slow approach towards implementing expedient requirements like a mass rapid transport system, better land use management and infusion of the informal sector in planning directives is now evident.

The 100 cities are expected to become the lynchpin of a global movement and eventually spread to over 10,000 cities. With cities facing the intertwined forces of globalization, urbanization, and climate change this is viewed as one of the best opportunities to solve our modern challenges. By transforming how we think, plan, and operate, cities can turn most challenge into opportunities. Some cities have already developed their resilience strategy; an example is Rotterdam’s Rotterdam Resilience Strategy.

CRO Conferences will enable sharing of information as a key aspect of problem solving. CROs can celebrate successes, support each other as well as create a powerful, peer-led catalyst for resilience building across the world. Dr. Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation states that the coordination will work towards ensuring that no city experiences a failure that another city has already had.

The programme also has several partnerships that cities can benefit from such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC) (challenges related to displaced populations). A partnership with The Street Plans Collaborative (Street Plans)  will provide “Tactical Resilience” workshops to 100RC network members to help implement cities’ long term resilience strategies.

Will cities be able to receive enough political backing to take the necessary steps towards improving their urban resilience? How can the programme be extended towards smaller growing cities beyond the selected 100?

Images by Constant Cap, Data Linked to Sources

Nairobi’s Long Rains: A failure in Urban Resilience?

Nairobi’s Long Rains season traditionally brings several urban challenges. A year ago, during the same season, a school bus was trapped in flooded waters and pupils had to wait for over 10 hours to be rescued. Unconfirmed reports indicate that on the same day and along the same road, one motorist died while trapped in […]

Intern at The Global Grid

Since 2010, The Global Grid has offered localized and unique architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, urban planning and related news every weekday.The Global Grid uniquely publishes news specific to the town or city in which the author resides or is traveling. With a 150+ writer alumni, The Global Grid continues to grow as a destination for […]

Participation: Using Social Media in the Urban Planning process

The role played by communication and participation in urban planning cannot be underestimated. Without proper communication to various stakeholders, plans and projects can easily fall prey to misunderstandings or be swayed by opponents and selfish interest groups. This predicament has been witnessed worldwide in various transportation, housing development and even urban renewal projects. As a […]

Nairobi Public Spaces: Viable or open for Grabbing?

As a means of ensuring a good quality of life for residents, city planning guidelines require provision of public spaces in all residential areas. These include space for playgrounds, public parks, gardens and general open spaces. Public purpose land use management also provides for market centres, shopping areas and public halls  In Nairobi City, most residential […]

Kenyan Blog Awards: Blog Needs your Vote!

The annual Kenyan Blog Awards showcase the Best of Kenyan Blogs. has been nominated in Environment/Agriculture Category (Category 6) in the 2016 Kenyan Blog Awards. Show your support by placing your vote here: Thanks for all the feedback as the blog continues to be a mechanism of sharing ideas on urban and regional planning […]

Nairobi: How can buses help decongest?

There has been lots of talk over the last few years about ‘decongesting’ the city of Nairobi. Unfortunately most of it has been done on paper with the few practical attempts towards ‘decongesting’ proving to be either short term or complete failures. Nearly all of these proposals have been dubbed as ‘Quick wins’ focusing on […]

Public vs Private Urban Housing, what direction for Nairobi, Kenya?

The recent drive towards an open market economy has led to the private sector providing various services that were traditionally under the mandate of the state or municipality. Critics, however, view this development as an opportunity for well-connected individuals to control essential services and reap profitable returns. In Nairobi, Kenya, some of the key areas […]

Aerial Cable Transit: Urban Gondolas for African Cities?

Recent decades have experienced a revolution in urban transportation with the ensuing development of ‘alternative means’ of modern urban transport. Harvard professor Clayton Christensen  calls these alternatives ‘disruptive technology,’ which uses simple innovations that differ from the traditional modes of urban mass transit like regular bus services, light rail trains and Metro Rail. South American […]

How Sustainable are the emerging Private Cities around Nairobi, Kenya?

Years back Ebenezer Howard proposed a ‘Garden City’ in his famous text ‘Garden Cities of Tomorrow’. The world famous urbanist envisioned self-reliant and independent cities that are spacious and organized; have limited/controlled populace and unified land ownership. Le Corbusier later analyzed the challenges faced by increased urbanization in Europe and came up with his version […]

2016 African City Planner