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As unhappy Nairobi residents trek to work, there’s little evidence it’s Africa’s most congested city

This article is more than 5 years old

Thousands of Nairobi residents faced long walks after the city’s popular minibuses were barred from the central business district.

The ban was meant to reduce traffic, Nairobi governor Mike Sonko said. Matatus, as the country’s public transport vehicles are known, were to drop off passengers at specific locations.

The fallout has seen Nairobi senator Johnson Sakaja and public transport owners go to court to have the order overturned. They argue that the city has not provided enough alternatives.

Bowing to public pressure, Sonko stayed the ban “to facilitate further consultation with all affected parties”.

Nairobians spend ‘62.44 minutes in traffic’

Nairobi is one of the most congested cities in the world, Kenyan media reported in the debate over the ban.

The evidence for this was a traffic index run by Serbian website The website surveys users on how long they spend in traffic.  

Its latest data for November 2018 found that “on average, Nairobians spend 62.44 minutes in traffic, making it the worst hit in Africa”.

This is ahead of Cairo in Egypt (51.56 minutes) and the South African cities of Pretoria (49 minutes) and Johannesburg (45.15 minutes).

In July 2018 Africa Check looked into a similar claim and found that Nairobi’s “second-worst” ranking in the world was based on only 10 responses in 2017. In the three years to 2017, there had been 29 responses in total, Mladen Adamovich, the website’s head, said at the time.

Site’s data based on perceptions

Adamovich told Africa Check that only four more contributors had joined up to November 2018, taking the number to 33 contributors.

“These data are based on perceptions of visitors of this website in the past three years,” he said.

Such a sample size is too small to draw accurate conclusions about Nairobi’s traffic, experts previously told Africa Check. The sample would also be “non-random” because only those with an internet connection and interest in the topic were likely to respond.

People also tend to overestimate the time spent in traffic. An online survey would thus be a poor way to collect commuter data, Africa Check was told. - Vincent Ng’ethe (03/12/2018)

Editor’s note: This article has since been edited for clarity and to reflect the suspension of the ban.

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