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Nairobians hoping for a better year

Nairobians are hopeful lot that 2014 will bring with it good fortunes and prosperity as the curtains fall on a year that has been described as ‘terrible’ according to a recent survey.

Insecurity, runaway unemployment and high cost of living are some of the reasons why most Nairobi residents hold this year in such low regard. How these issues are addressed during the next year will be of major concern to city residents.

“For me the year was a bag of mixed fortunes but of concern are the rising levels of insecurity in the city which have had adverse effects on the local business environment. Security should be given priority in 2014 if we are to stimulate the county’s economy,” said Francis Wachira an auto parts dealer on Kirinyaga Road.

Terrorism is also another reality that Nairobians have had to contend with in 2013. The Westgate terror attack was the most deadly atrocity perpetrated on innocent Kenyans in over a decade. Also, the recent bombing of an Eastleigh matatu has raised fears that the country’s security organs are ill equipped to prevent acts of terror.

“Acts of terrorism may be impossible to avert but the government should seal all the security loopholes that these terror groups take advantage of to kill and maim innocent Kenyans. Cases of terrorists having valid identity cards like those involved in the Westgate Mall terror attack did, should never happen again,” says Anthony Kibara a lawyer.

Low and middle income household Nairobi are operating on shoe string budgets attributed to a drastic increase in the high cost of living.

For many of the families, 2013 has been a difficult year, characterised by a general rise in the cost of consumer goods following the government’s decision to charge value added tax (VAT) on items that have been traditionally exempt.

Mary Wangui a housewife in Umoja Estate says VAT on essential commodities should be scrapped altogether to ease the burden of putting food on the table.

“Providing three regular meals for my two children and my husband is becoming increasingly difficult, at this rate it will be impossible to save something little for investment or emergencies,’ she said.

Benson Mwangi a second hand clothes dealer in Donholm says: “Most of what I make from my business goes to the family budget of which a huge chunk goes to buying food. This is straining my business especially when I have to get new stock.”

Transport and infrastructure development are also other major areas of concern. A recent report indicated that 61 per cent of Nairobi residents said that traffic jams were affecting their productivity, forcing them to sacrifice time with their families and work in order to get to destinations on time.

The majority of commuters are on the road as early as 5am to beat the jams, spending over 45 minutes to two hours to travel an average 13km to get to work or school.

“Traffic jams have become a way of life. You just have to cope with the situation as the worst is yet to come,” says Chris Simiyu a Pipeline resident.

“Stakeholders and government agencies should come up with a solution to decongest these roads lest things come to a complete standstill in the near future,” he adds.

The road and drainage network in areas such as Eastleigh and its environs has been described at the worst in the city. The rainy season spells doom for residents who have to maneuver their way around rivers of sewage and flood waters as they go about their daily activities.

Vincent King’ethe a shoe shiner in Eastleigh says: “We don’t want to hear any more promises. The drainage problem in this area is known to every concerned government official. We hope that next year will not be the same.”