Despite its reputation for being one of Africa’s leading hubs for urban development, there are still pockets of Nairobi, like the area known as Kibera, where residents do not have access to basic city services, like electricity or running water. Kibera, the largest slum not only in Nairobi, but also on the continent, is home to approximately one million people living in poverty just five kilometers outside city center.
While sheet metal roofs and old tin walls resemble little of the Nairobi familiar to travelers, Kibera has its own buzzing industry, which includes rows of tilted shacks selling produce, homemade breads, second-hand clothes and shoes, and just about anything else its residents could need. While people here appear to be living in peace, during Kenya’s last elections violence erupted, in part because each of the country’s major ethnic groups is represented in Kibera’s crowded streets.
Catching a bus or matatu from center city to the outskirts of Kibera is easy. But without a guide, finding a bus for the return trip can be difficult. Travelers can walk the streets alone safely, but finding someone familiar with the narrow passes and abandoned railways can make navigation easier. In 2009, the government began a program to remove and rehouse people of Kibera in, so today luxury apartments hover above the sprawling slum.