Bryan's View: The Rise of Slum Tourism





Recently, Bryan asked if there were specific topics we would like him to blog about. I asked on social media - and the first question he   received was about tourism in tough places like Kibera and how it is perceived.... here is his response. If you have a question of your own -  please message us! 

For residents its normal life but for visitors there’s more to Kibera than just being Africa’s largest urban slum. Kibera has over the years established itself as a tourist’s favorite’s destination. More and more tourists flock into Kibera every year to see and capture the daily lives of the residents. Slum tourism has however been a subject of debate with two parties concerned; the tour operators and the slum dwellers, however there are those who totally support tourists flocking into Kibera but also there are majority who critic their visits.

Advocates say the visits are an economic base to Kibera since it is defined that Kibera has been abandoned by the government, for the residents to take care of themselves. They would go ahead and say the visits encourages developmental growth and raise awareness of the slum all over the globe thus attracting investors, well-wishers and more like minded individuals willing to help the people of Kibera in one way or another. Most youths who are jobless get jobs as tour guards and operators and the proceeds from a day’s activity is enough to push them through the week. Most tour operators would charge between 25 to 30 dollars for a 2 hour walk around the slum and this money would go to the development of the slum by either paying school fees or aid in the construction of a new community toilet.

However not all share the same concept behind slum tourism despite its innumerable positives, critics deem it as despicable, contemptuous and a degrade to the people of Kibera. For some reasons it has turned Kibera into a zoo where tourists mostly foreigners from the west would
come with big cameras and take photos typically focusing on the negative side of Kibera, for instance drunkards lying in the streets and dirty trenches, children walking in the streets with tattered and dirty fabrics, women selling groceries. Residents, especially the children, however love tourists visiting the area but the moment they see them with cameras then they would frown because at some point they believe that the tourists will come here take photos of them and then live them just like that, struggling to survive. These are incidents that have dubbed slum
tourism as tourism of poverty and Kibera is a human settlement and not a Masai Mara or Serengeti [Masai Mara and Serengeti are popular tourist attractions in Africa].

(Image is of graffiti in Kibera done by local artists who are against what they call "slum tourism")

Despite all the factors, Kibera residents are however very happy and hardworking individuals. They treat every visitor with all the respect and honor they deserve and as you walk around the streets of Kibera, you’ll see the peace and unity that exists in what is preconceived as the world’s most entrepreneurial place.



 Krista asked Bryan a few more questions about this topic... 

Krista - Do you have suggestions on things visitor should do and not to do when visiting places like Kibera?

Bryan - They should not just take random photos of everything and anything especially humans. They should ask for permission before taking photos, however they can take as many photos as possible of the landscape and general view of Kibera. And, the photos they take, they should not keep all the benefits for themselves, however they can help the people of Kibera in one way or another. Taking photos of the bad side of Kibera - the open sewers and everything, shouldn't be their first priority, we have heroes over here with awesome projects and stories to tell. People should spread the gospel of how friendly the people of Kibera are.

Krista - We try to operate under the philosophy "a hand up rather than a hand out" - if you just give someone money, it helps them today but not tomorrow. If you contribute to their community or organizations or providing them a job ... that helps them long term. Would you agree?

Bryan - I've always encouraged people, especially those interested in helping Kibera, not to give money. Instead buy food items, clothes, or other tangible stuffs, for instance paying fees and requesting for receipts if need be.

Krista - Is there a way you'd suggest for visitors to help those in Kibera that they visit? 

Bryanif maybe a tourist is interested in helping the people of Kibera in one way or the other, then being a partner with local CBOs would be a good step towards bringing hope to the people of Kibera. CBO means Community Based Organization. These are set to help the community in one way or the other. One can help an individual or a selected few friends the community.

Bryan Jaybee was born and raised in Kibera slums where he still resides. He is 22 years old and a journalism student at Multimedia University of Kenya, currently in his final year. Bryan will be sharing an insider’s view on life in Kibera every Tuesday on our blog with his photos and words. You can follow Bryan on instagram at @kiberastories for daily posts on life in Kibera. 

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