Count 80,000 people homeless and a bunch of goats happy after Kyang’ombe, a squatter community near Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, in Nairobi, was demolished last week. The airport authority suggests that the neighborhood was dangerously near runways and in the flight path of many planes. But Muungano Wa Wanavijiji, a squatter federation and advocacy group, has suggested that the real impetus for the eviction, which started at around midnight on Friday, was that politically connected developers had taken control of the land.
I spent most of the past four years hanging out with street hawkers, smugglers, and sub-rosa import/export firms to write Stealth of Nations, a book that chronicles the global growth of System D--the parallel economic arena that today accounts for half the jobs on the planet.
Prior to that, I lived in squatter communities across four continents to write Shadow Cities, a book that attempts to humanize these vibrant, energetic, and horribly misunderstood communities.
My articles on cities, politics, and economic issues have appeared in many publications, including Harper's, Scientific American, Forbes, Fortune, The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Metropolis, and City Limits. Before becoming a reporter, I worked as a community organizer and studied philosophy. I live in New York City and do most of my writing on manual typewriters.