Meet Nairobi’s slum lord ‘millionaires’


Nairobi’s slums, home to an estimated two million poor people, are unknown to many lucrative havens where some enterprising Kenyans rake in millions of shillings.

Most of these people have taken advantage of the huge demand for housing and the sheer numbers to make a fortune.

Slumlords lay a claim on dozens of single-roomed houses, built using rusty mabati or mud, for which they earn attractive returns.

Some, however, sell all manner of consumables and take advantage of the numbers to make their money.

Tenants pay rent ranging between Sh700 and Sh2000 a month, depending on accessibility and the proximity to basic extras like toilets, bathrooms and water.

Daivid Karanja owns 47 such units in Mukuru Kwa Reuben village for which he lets for Sh1,300. His tenants use commercial toilets about 50 metres away, which charge Sh8 for a shower and use of the latrines.

Landlords here do not provide toilets, the rent is only for the house,” said Mr Karanja who has lived in the slum since 1996, adding that the commercial toilet facilities remain open from 5am to 10 pm.

His monthly rental income from the houses alone is Sh61,100, comparable to revenue from letting four two-bedroom apartments in Nairobi’s middle income neighbourhood.

Farming fortune

He, however, admits that he does not know whom the land he has built his houses belongs to.

Nearby, Stephen Kamanga is tending to his five dairy cows and four piglets.

Mr Kamanga gets about 30 litres of milk per day from the three cows, which he sells to his neighbours at Sh35 for half a litre.

His daily income from the milk is more than Sh2000, which translates to about Sh60000 a month.

That is besides the income from selling of piglets and male calves.

I have bought my farm in bits from neighbours who are willing to sell said Mr Kamanga, a retired mechanic who feeds his livestock on waste from vegetable vendors.

There are tens of Kamangas in this densely populated slum, where some of his neighbours across the river live on the upper floors of two-storeyed shanties and keep dairy animals on the ground floor.

Across the city in Kibera slums, touted as the largest informal settlement in Africa where close to a million people reside, Justus Mulwa would easily be among the biggest slum lords.

His monthly rental income is over Sh150,000 exclusive of taxes from the 88 single rooms that he owns.

The rental houses are spread among several villages of the expansive slum, from the more affluent Laini Saba to the poorer Silanga, where he lives.

I want to build 14 more on this space,” said Mulwa while pointing for a space that on the last row of Silanga village.

He would easily pass for any slum dweller with a misery income going by his dressing, old clothes and torn plastic sandals.

You have to look like every other person to make it here, he adds in explaining his humble lifestyle even when he is among the people with the highest incomes in the city.

As a supplier of electricity, Mulwa’s present monthly income is more than twenty-fold the country’s minimum wage, which the majority of his tenants hardly earn.

The massive housing development of the wider Langata area has helped in the drying up of the Nairobi Dam, previously a massive water body where in the 1980s families enjoyed their weekend outings, but now play host to a big part of Kibera.

Just like in Mukuru, Mulwa’s tenants use commercial toilet facilities which charge Sh5 per visit while amenities like water and electricity do not come as a package with the house.

Tim Nyaoma, a graduate from a middle level college who has failed to secure a formal job, is one of the suppliers of electricity in Tetra Park village in Mukuru.

He says that the energy trade is tightly controlled by cartels all over the slums.

Not anyone who can supply electricity, it’s a tightly controlled business, said Nyaoma who has about 30 clients so far whom he charges Sh300 a month. €œOthers control more than 100 connections.

The illegal connections are tapped from the three-phase power lines that run across the city on about a ten-metre wide leave way.

Tim represents millions of college graduates who had hopes of finding a stable job but have now been pushed to earning a living from illegitimate means.-The Nairobian


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