As Nairobi’s population grows, its land has become too scarce and expensive for middle-class investors.
As a result, new homeowners have to venture out to the city’s outskirts for spacious and affordable land.
While the peri-urban areas offer the best bet for people who would like to provide homes and grow food for city dwellers, lack of proper road networks to homes and markets remains the biggest challenge for those acquiring properties far from the city.
In some cases, those putting up properties in areas without access roads are forced to develop their own feeder roads, eventually raising the costs of land to the chagrin of buyers or tenants.
Developing access roads in peri-urban areas goes a long way in decongesting a city’s human population and vehicular traffic.
Linet Mwende is a homeowner in Mukukuni, Machakos County, where many Nairobians have moved to buy land.
Mwende explains that in 2016, just before construction began on the Konza-Tala corridor (the road connecting Mombasa Road at Konza and Kagundo Road at Tala), a plot of land went for less than Sh100,000, but the road project changed everything.
The road was built under the Nairobi Metropolitan Services Improvement Project (NaMSIP) with support from World Bank and the Kenyan government, to strengthen urban services by enhancing connectivity and accessibility to crucial services and regional markets.
With the road now completed, more people are streaming to buy land even in remote parts of Machakos, one of the four Nairobi metropolitan counties where new homeowners are looking to for investment, along with Kajiado, Kiambu and Muran’ga.
Land prices also shot up to over Sh400,000 for a 50m-by-100m plot.
“Even small market centres along the 70-kilometre road have begun growing into townships as investors put up more shops, rental houses, lodges and restaurants for travellers. It’s very convenient living here since we can now easily access health centres, something that was dreadful a few years ago,” says Mwende.
While rural development is known to raise land prices in the respective areas, it also facilitates food producers and traders to easily access markets, thereby lowering the cost of food.
Ngelani (Machakos) sub-location Chief Martin Kuvika noted that the Konza-Tala corridor had enhanced the movement of fresh farm produce from the area to Nairobi.
“In the past, the road was full of potholes and we would spend more than two hours travelling to Nairobi. It now takes us 45 minutes. The distance between Machakos and Ngelani is about 10km, but we used to take one hour.
"Now, it takes us 20 minutes to get to town. Further, many new businesses have been opened; land has appreciated; many petrol stations are springing up, and you can get a vehicle even late in the evening,” the chief said.
Machakos County is known for fresh fruits such as mangoes, passion fruits, pumpkins and pawpaw, but lack of a proper road network in the remote areas barred traders from venturing into villages to buy them.
As a result, farmers toiled in vain as their fruits rotted in farms due to poor transport infrastructure.
“Now, young people can venture into agribusiness without worrying about the market,” the chief said.
He further notes that road crashes used to be frequent because the road was rough and narrow,
“A day hardly passed without accidents, but today the number of the accidents has gone down with the new road,” he added.
Motorists travelling from Thika Road to Mombasa can easily connect to Mombasa Road via the Eastern Bypass to the Tala-Konza corridor without driving through the traffic-prone Nairobi city centre.
NaMSIP director Benjamin Njenga explains that urban renewal projects such as integrated solid waste management and expansion of roads strengthen urban services and infrastructure in the Nairobi metropolitan thus making the city more liveable.
“Proper road networks reduce the time and amount of money people spend travelling. It also improves the business environment and makes it more competitive,” he says.