The role of residents’ associations in urban service delivery: the case of Nairobi city, Kenya
Echessa, George M.
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The study examined the role of residents’ associations in urban service delivery in the City of Nairobi, Kenya. Urban service delivery has been on decline while local authorities have been overwhelmed by challenges in providing public basic services. One of the reasons cited for declining urban basic service delivery has been rapid expansion of Nairobi and population increase. In response to failure by the local authority and deteriorating basic services, city residents have formed associations. Urban residents’ association refers to a group of neighbours coming together so as to share ideas and work together to make their neighbourhood a better place to live. Four residents associations drawn from low, middle and high income zones were sampled and comparative analysis was done. The objectives of this study were; to identify reasons for the formation of residents’ associations in urban service delivery across different income groups, to establish the relationships between residents’ associations and other stakeholders responsible for urban service delivery and find out challenges encountered by residents’ associations in urban service delivery. Data was collected using semi-structured questionnaires administered to 120 households, in-depth interviews with key informants and officials of associations. Descriptive statistics that included frequencies, percentages and means were used to analyze data. Chi-Square (χ2) was used to test relationship between associations and stakeholders in urban services delivery as well as participation of residents in the activities of association at significance level of 0.05. Findings indicated that external forces were behind formation of associations in low and high income areas. Internal factors were behind the formation of associations in middle income areas. Associations were formed to address insecurity, garbage disposal, fight land grabbing, lobby for better services from city planners and represent neighbourhood in planning. Associations also address water shortage, streets and access paths, environmental degradation, mutual support during time of adversity, and promote friendship. The associations differed in original purpose of formation. The original purpose of associations in low end neighbourhood was welfare; however, associations were being used as bargaining chip for undelivered services. The core objective of middle income associations was to lobby for the undelivered service; managing neighbourhood has become secondary venture. The associations in high income areas were formed to provide services like security and environmental degradation. They have formed committees and hired professional staffs to meet their purpose. Associations in all the three income groups have initiated partnership with city agencies although at different levels. Associations in middle and high income areas have more elaborate ties with city agencies compared to low end associations. In implementing neighbourhood agenda, associations experience challenges that include low residents’ participation and finances. The study recommends need to sensitize residents and associations on opportunities available for their participation in community development, and initiation of pro-active engagement between association and city planners as one way of addressing challenges of public services delivery.