New Karandini Market: The crucial role of information in transparency and accountability
Author: Gitura Mwaura
When the time came at the end of October and early November 2018 for the relocation of informal traders to pave way for construction of the proposed Karandini Market in Dagoretti Corner, Nairobi, many were not certain the process would go smoothly.
Some residents and business owners in the neighbourhood were bracing for the worst, expecting resistance and chaos.
Many did not trust the process would be above board. Speculation was rife, fuelled by the common perception of rampant corruption that Kenyans are presumed to engage in their dealings up to the highest level.
Tellingly, the speculation was based on real concern that livelihoods could be at stake, fear of which only served to cast doubt on the transparency of the new market initiative.
Set to be affected were up to 204 informal traders—owners of building hardware and motor vehicle spare parts shops, M-PESA kiosks, greengrocers, food stalls, etc—occupying the triangular one-acre piece of land that marks the proposed Karandini Market site (see pictures below).
It would affect the old and young alike. The oldest surviving trader, according to a 2016 census of the informal traders, had started operating at the Dagoretti Corner location over 50 years ago in 1967.
The census also reveals that that 66.3% of the traders had stayed in the market for over 10 years. 17.3% had stayed in the market between 6-10years. Majority (53.5%) of the traders are male and 46.5% female.
They “would not agree to leave without a fight,” so went the neighbourhood narrative, feeding off sympathies in the friendship networks built over many years with the traders. This is in addition to the perceived traders’ attachment to the market that assured their livelihood to easily let go of it.
Yet the traders’ relocation went well without any incident.
An alternative market site off Ngong Road about 200 metres from the informal market had been identified and constructed to receive them. The traders were also financially compensated for the inconvenience the resettlement occasioned.
The doubters, how were any possible crises anticipated and, or averted?
The answer, in a word, lies in information. It is well known how dearth in information promotes speculation with rumours and falsehoods taking its place.
International best practice for such resettlements, which the World Bank insisted upon as supporter of the project, demands that the affected communities and any host communities receiving them should be provided with timely and relevant information. They must also be consulted on available options and offered opportunities to participate in planning, implementing and monitoring the resettlement process.
While the neighbourhood community was not necessarily engaged thus provoking the speculations, all the 204 traders at the informal market were fully involved.
Guided by project consultants, a resettlement coordinating committee and sub-committees, as well as a grievance redress commission involving the traders at every level were constituted.
A cost-benefit analysis was then conducted, laying bare the traders’ current situation against the promise the new modern market held for them.
Before their relocation, the average estimated business profit per month stood at Kshs 19,414 with 65.3% of the traders in this market making a profit of between Kshs 1,000-30,000.
It is possible that with the new market it will attract clients from far and wide the immediate Dagoretti Corner environs considerably boosting this income.
The surrounding businesses, even those who previously doubted, are also banking on this with optimism that the new market will not only “change Dagoretti Corner forever” but will draw in a different, “better pocked” clientele that will likely change all their business fortunes for the better.
With the foregoing, it is demonstrable that four key principles were at work. These include accountability, transparency, participation, and inclusion. Bound together in timely and relevant information, neither principle may be viewed aside from the other.
In recent years the four principles have become nearly universal features in informing policy where community welfare is concerned.
While the transition market the traders are supposed to have temporarily relocated is still largely empty as per the writing of this article, the mood is hopeful the traders will re-establish their businesses at the spacious modern market environment with all the necessary amenities, including water and sanitation as well as security.
The New Karandini Market will have ample parking space within the building and is expected to accommodate all the displaced traders, as well as sign in new tenants.
The project initiative is supported by the World Bank as part of the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development through the Nairobi Metropolitan Services Improvement Project (NAMSIP) that aims to upgrade 15 markets in the Nairobi Metropolitan Region (NMR).