PETE THE PUNDIT: On Railway Belts – And The Need For Subways

12:10 in Magazine - article by stationmaster

Two eminent Kenyan writers have been putting down thought-provoking observations that deserve a wider audience.


Onyango-Obbo, executive editor of The Nation media group’s Africa and digital media division, writing in The Citizen (published in Dar-es-Salaam), observes:

“At the end of last year, senior editors at The Nation media group were studying the Kenyan population and political map, and trying to understand how it might change with the new constitution that established 47 counties as the new administrative units.

Kenya’s “railway belt” – colonial legacy. Photographer unknown.

“As we added the numbers, and plotted them on a map we realised that nearly 75% of Kenyans lived within about 100km of the railway. Recently, I looked at the Tanzanian and Ugandan maps to see if the pattern was the same. It was.

“The ‘railway belt’, if we may call it that, is a great population pull. The main reason for this is that the colonial economy was built around the railway. That became the foundation of the dynamics of our societies. Thus, Machakos was the first ‘capital’ of colonial Kenya. However, the capital was moved to Nairobi in 1899 for one reason – it [Machakos] was bypassed by the Kenya-Uganda Railway. Nairobi, in turn, had been founded as a rail depot on the line linking Mombasa to Uganda.

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