The Cabinet Secretary in charge of ICT will have the final say on street naming if Parliament approves a proposed law that seeks to clear hurdles faced by e-commerce and emergency service providers.
Street naming and house numbering remain problematic in Kenya due to poor planning, dealing a blow to delivery firms and emergency service crews such as ambulance and firefighters.
A State-backed National Addressing Bill 2021 now seeks to streamline the naming mainly to spur e-commerce.
“The Cabinet Secretary may make regulations generally for giving effect to this Act, and for prescribing anything required or necessary to be prescribed by or under this Act,” the Bill says.
The Bill is backed by a draft national addressing policy that says that a lack of consolidated, unique, and harmonised legal and policy framework is standing in the way of Kenya’s development.
If the Bill becomes law, any business that names any street or building without State authority will be fined Sh500,000 or its official to be jailed for 10 years. For individuals, the fine will be either Sh100,000 or five years in jail.
The draft national addressing policy says that for instance, many street names in Nairobi appear to be in honour of famous people in the absence of national standards for the display or assignment of official street names.
The Bill and the draft policy represents Kenya’s latest quest to have a uniform guide for the naming and numbering of streets and properties after more than 50 years of missteps.
Kenya, for instance, in 1964 formed a street naming sub-committee leading to addressing in Nairobi’s Eastlands estates such as Buru Buru, Kaloleni, and Ofafa Jericho before the plan collapsed.
The Bill has proposed the formation of the National Addressing Council that will be co-chaired by ICT Cabinet Secretary and council of governors chairperson.
The council will advise and make recommendations to both national and county governments on addressing.
Under the Bill, the Office of the Registrar of Addresses will be established and a Registrar appointed by the ICT Cabinet Secretary to input address data into the national addressing system to ensure proper naming.
“All addresses shall be allocated in the manner prescribed by the Office of the Registrar pursuant to this Act,” reads the Bill.
A reliable information system is expected to be vital for facilitating location identification, support finance and trade, public service delivery, and planning for county governments.
ICT CS Joe Mucheru says the poor addressing system is making it difficult for businesses to locate customers and also deny some individuals whose physical addresses are not well-known.
“A national addressing framework is key to e-commerce, e-trade, e-government, digital financial services, e-navigation, and modernisation of postal services,” says Mr Mucheru in the draft policy.
The Couriers Industry Association of Kenya (CIAK) says the lack of a unified addressing system translates to higher costs and delays when tracing locations and connecting with customers via mobile phones.
“CIAK reports indicate that of all misdeliveries,17 percent are as a result of the wrong addresses on the label, 58 percent are delayed pending further information from sender/recipient and 25 percent are not delivered at all,” says the draft policy.
Unreliable locational data is also seen as a major obstacle to the prompt deployment of emergency services such as police attempting to locate criminals and medics as well as firefighters rushing to save lives and property.
The draft policy further says the absence of a clear system of addressing has meant that individuals, companies, and properties cannot be identified and taxed appropriately.
The National Addressing Policy comes at a time proper identification has become essential to e-commerce and last-mile delivery of goods and services.
Kenya is undergoing a rapid switch to digital services, partly driven by the rising number of technology-based start-ups.