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The provision of urban services

The provision of basic urban services has not kept pace with the rapid growth of the city. The vast majority of the urban poor do not have access to such services, which are inadequate and not properly maintained. Whereas the urban population has doubled in size during the past decade, infrastructural development has proceeded far more slowly. The result has been an ever-widening gap between the need for and the supply of essential services. Revenue is collected primarily from property taxes (80 per cent in 1986/87), and also from fees (4 per cent), rents (15 per cent), and other sources, but is not adequate to finance urban services (Mazingira Institute, 1993, p. 10). Revenue sources have been depleted as a result of the central government abolition of the Graduated Personal Tax. Although a Local Service Charge Tax was introduced in 1988, because of corruption, mismanagement, and cross-indebtedness between the central government and the NCC between 1973 and 1988 the NCC is still running a serious financial deficit.

Urban sprawl is associated with a rapidly deteriorating quality of life, with particularly adverse impacts on the urban poor who have the poorest access to the existing facilities. Mostly affected are housing, water supply, sewerage, and transport. Access to infrastructure has been dependent on income levels rather than population density, with higher standards of provision in high-income areas than in high-density, low-income areas.


Racial segregation was promoted by the early European settlers and this resulted essentially in ethnic tripartition of Nairobi, with the Europeans overwhelmingly inhabiting the north-western and western areas of high rents and land values, and the Asians predominating in the north-eastern parts, while Africans were relegated to the densely populated areas to the east and south. This residential segregation has been reduced since the attainment of independence and the exodus of the European and Asian population, although ethnic partition has not been completely eradicated. Thus, three distinct sections can still be recognized today in Nairobi. There is the high-income residential region to the north and west of the CBD formerly devoted exclusively to the European residents, but which now accommodates a few affluent Africans and Asians. The second discrete section of Nairobi is Eastlands, where the predominantly African working class resides. The third distinct area is the Parklands-Eastleigh area, which houses the majority of the Asian population.

The colonial rulers regarded Africans as temporary sojourners in Nairobi and thus made little provision for their accommodation. It was thought that the provision of extensive public housing would encourage an excessive influx of Africans into the city, resulting in increasing criminal activities and disease. Inadequate provision of housing led to the emergence of squatter settlements during this period (Obudho and Aduwo, 1989, pp. 17-29). Colonial efforts to curb such settlement by demolition did not succeed, because most of the residents continued to construct houses elsewhere. Housing stress zones in Nairobi are, therefore, not new. They date back to the first decade of the twentieth century when the city was still in its infancy. The emergence of many more such settlements has been a function of the relatively high rate of demographic growth in Nairobi during the post-war decades, coupled with a growing shortage of conventional housing and related infrastructural facilities. After the lifting of the Mau Mau Emergency in 1960 and independence in 1963, there was a large influx of people into the city. Nairobi developed a reputation for a good standard of living and, therefore, attracted in-migrants from around the nation. An acute housing shortage developed. Homeless people resorted to squatting on unoccupied land or renting land from private owners and building houses. Tiny shacks proliferated on empty land throughout the city. Over time, the use of permanent building materials and the development of rooms for rent became widespread. These housing areas are characterized by: overcrowding and high densities; small one- and two-room dwelling units; poor sanitation and lack of other communal facilities; lack of adequate support infrastructure; buildings in poor structural condition and constructed of temporary and semi-permanent materials; and a high degree of tenure insecurity. In Nairobi the main zones of poor housing are in the Dagoretti, Langata (Kibera), Kasarani, and Makadara divisions (fig. 9.7). Informal settlements occupy 6 per cent of the residential area but house 55 per cent of the city's population, a total of 750,000 people (Alder, 1994).

As noted above, the result of inadequate formal sector housing provision has been the development of informal settlements (Ross, 1973; Hake, 1977; Memon, 1982; Kabagambe and Moughtin, 1983; Obudho and Aduwo, 1989; Obudho, 1992, pp. 102-103). There are at least four different types of such development in Nairobi, with some overlap between types: semi-permanent rural; semi-permanent urban; temporary urban; and temporary and semi-permanent infill. The first two groups account for the oldest areas and the largest number of people. A distinction is made between uncontrolled urban and rural areas in the city to underline the difference between traditional rural housing and newer urban settlements, whose population is committed to developing its own brand of urban life. The households in these informal areas have poor access to communal and infrastructural services such as water, sanitation, and solid waste disposal, and are thus exposed to ill-health and disease. Frequent demolitions of temporary dwellings destroy the lives and housing of Nairobi's poor. The shelter problem is intensified by the exorbitantly high rents for single rooms.

Housing development problems in Nairobi are a result of high rates of urban growth; a lag in the development of the urban infrastructure that supports housing development; the low purchasing power of the majority of urban households; and a lack of appropriate building standards owing to restrictive building by-laws. Constraints on the improvement and supply of housing in Nairobi include the limited supply of serviced land; rapid growth of unserviced peri-urban settlements in urban centres such as Githurai, Ngong, Machakos, and Kikuyu; and serious restrictions on access to formal housing finance, because of the strict lending criteria of financial institutions. Nairobi is suffering from a shortage of cheap and affordable housing. The public and formal sectors do not build enough houses to cater for the need arising from the increase in population. About 25,000 housing units are required annually (fig. 9.8) but the public and private sectors together have built, at most, 3,000 "standard" housing units per annum in recent years.

The NCC policy is to formulate and adopt realistic and performance-oriented building standards, especially in the area of low-cost housing. In publicly constructed houses, the housing standards are usually followed. Formal private housing schemes also observe the prescribed building standards. However, in private housing, especially in informal settlements but also in middle-income housing areas, standards are not adhered to. The issue of standards is closely linked to affordability. The requirement for standards that are comparatively high has often led those who cannot afford such houses to resort to units that are substandard, but the penalties for not building according to the standards are not enforced. The first phase of the Dandora site and service scheme, for instance (see below), failed to conform with health regulations. At the policy level, attitudes and approaches to building standards seem to be changing. This has been demonstrated by the Council's use of cheap building materials designed by the University of Nairobi. In addition, the NCC has not tried to interfere with the housing upgrading activities of the Undugu Society of Kenya. At the central government level, there is a consensus that the building regulations should be revised.

Fig. 9.8 Nairobi: Housing needs, 1983-2000 (Source: Mazingira Institute, 1993, p. 8)

Approaches to the housing problem

Until the 1970s the typical response of the NCC and the wider public sector was to provide conventional housing either for rental or for sale. This approach had little impact on housing need, because the dwellings provided were invariably not affordable by low-income groups. Moreover, the subsidies that underlay public housing were, on the whole, both inefficient and inequitable. Many tenants occupy prime properties rented out by the NCC at rents far below the market rates (Karuga, 1993). Starting in the mid-1970s, the NCC received substantial support from foreign donors and was able to focus its attention more on the shelter needs of lower-income groups. A second generation of housing projects thus emerged, largely taking the form of sites and services and core housing.

The first of these was the Dandora community development project to the east of the city, implemented between 1975 and 1978 and financed jointly by the World Bank and GOK. It consisted of 6,000 serviced plots of 100-160 m² each, with individual water and sewer connections, access to roads, security lighting, and refuse collection services. The project included community facilities such as primary schools, health centres, multi-purpose community centres, and market stalls. The beneficiaries were intended to be poor households, but, although some low-income families were allocated plots, many allottees were not in the lowest income group, many plots had absentee landlords, and many residents were tenants (UNCHS, 1987; Lee-Smith and Memon, 1988; Syagga and Kiamba, 1988).

The second urban project, also financed by the World Bank, comprised 14,409 serviced plots and some upgrading. It, however, covered other urban centres in Kenya as well as Nairobi. The third urban project, comprising 25,000 serviced plots and squatter upgrading programmes, also sponsored by the World Bank, covered small and intermediate urban centres in Kenya, excluding Nairobi. In all these programmes, the element of improving informal settlements was very small. This is possibly because, in the eyes of the political élite, administrators, and professionals, upgrading is not attractive for political display.

The other low-cost shelter schemes implemented in Nairobi were: Umoja Phase I, comprising 2,400 units, financed by USAID, and completed in 1976; and Umoja Phase II project, also funded by a loan from USAID and completed in 1991. It was decided to provide condominiums instead of housing units on individual plots. Umoja Phase II, which started in 1985, consisted of 4,406 condominium units. Five to six people share communal facilities, and each allottee is provided with a room and an option to build another. The element of subsidy was, however, tremendously reduced and each allottee paid for 96.3 per cent of the development cost, with the NCC being responsible for only off-site infrastructure and land. However, affordability of housing schemes in Nairobi has been limited by excessively high building and construction standards, the application of rigid restrictions on the use of houses for commercial and informal sector activities, and limitations imposed on the way in which loans could be used. Recent developments of flats in Majengo, Pumwani, and Kibera by the National Housing Corporation have been advertised at a cost that is unaffordable by the low-income groups for whom they were meant.

Various housing for sale schemes have also been started in Nairobi. These include the Kayole North Mortgage Housing Scheme located in the northern sector of Kayole, which is being developed by the Kenya Building Society Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Housing Finance Company of Kenya. The scheme was intended for the medium-income group, but rapid inflation led to final sale prices above those affordable by the target group. The private sector thus builds houses that are for the middle- and upper-income classes.

Water resources

An estimated 89 per cent of Nairobi's population is supplied with water through house connections, communal watering points, and water kiosks. The remaining 11 per cent obtain their water supplies from boreholes. The major health problems related to inadequate water supply and sanitation are centred on the poor urban areas. None of these areas has an adequate water supply. Informal settlements are entirely dependent on public water kiosks. Thus residents restrict their water purchases to levels that are barely adequate. The city has a growing problem of water supply which has its roots in the original choice of the site. Nairobi was not originally planned to be a large conurbation and the available water resource was sufficient only for a smaller population. To meet the growing demand, water has to be pumped from locations outside the city. However, apart from occasional water shortages, especially during the dry seasons, the basic problem has been one of distribution. Annual expenditure on water and sewerage declined dramatically in real terms between 1981 and 1987 - capital expenditure by 91 per cent and expenditure on maintenance by 68 per cent (Mazingira Institute, 1993, p. 10) - and the situation has not shown any significant improvement since then.

Sewerage systems

The sewage produced in urban areas consists of waste water, industrial effluent, and storm water, which may enter sewers through faulty or damaged manholes. The inadequate capacity of existing treatment plants results in the disposal of untreated sewage into Nairobi River and other small streams. This poses a health hazard to users of such streams. Approximately 58 per cent of Nairobi's population is served by the existing waterborne sewerage system, which suffers from a number of problems, including poor maintenance, illegal connections, use of toilets for the disposal of garbage, and deliberate blocking of sewage pipes for irrigation. The remainder of the population is served by septic tanks, conservation tanks, or pit latrines, which contribute to the pollution of groundwater and of piped water owing to seepage into pipes when the pressure is low. There are no foul or storm water connections to the sewerage systems in the slum and squatter areas. Instead, filthy uncared for pit latrines are used. The sanitation problems are compounded by densities in some housing areas that are higher than those for which the sewerage system was originally planned, and the location of some informal housing in areas unsuitable for residential use.

Solid waste disposal

The collection and disposal of solid wastes in Nairobi has become increasingly infrequent. It is estimated that, in 1994, 800-1,000 tonnes of refuse were generated per day, out of which fewer than 200 tonnes were collected. The NCC has the responsibility of collecting and disposing of solid wastes. However, lack of resources, especially vehicles, and the general apathy of residents have led to uncollected waste piling up in several parts of the city. Some private companies now operate, and privatizing waste collection has been considered as a possible remedial measure, but has not yet been adopted as official policy. As Nairobi grows and the volume of refuse increases, the NCC should promote reclamation, re-use, and recycling of materials as a way of reducing the problems. Such activities could create employment for a section of the population as well as being a source of raw materials.


One of the earliest problems that Nairobi faced during this period was that of traffic. It has been argued that in 1928 Nairobi was in fact the most motor-ridden urban centre in the world in proportion to its non-African population (Aduwo, 1990). Parking and speeding became major problems that were often discussed by the authorities. From 1929 a programme to tarmac all roads in the CBD was carried out. The relatively large numbers of cars contributed to the thinning out of the western side of Nairobi, which by 1962 had a population density as low as 6.1 people per acre, compared with the African residential zone in the east with 125.9 people per acre during the same period (Hake, 1977, p. 24). Meanwhile, a public bus service was inaugurated following an agreement with United Transport International (Aduwo, 1990). The result of this agreement was the establishment of the Kenya Bus Service (KBS), which was given the exclusive franchise of carrying fare-paying passengers in and around Nairobi. During this time the demand for public transport was low, consisting mainly of European and Asian expatriates and a growing number of African workers.

Today transport in Nairobi can be split into five components: private vehicles, buses, matatus, commuter trains, and taxis. Private vehicles are almost exclusively reserved for the middle- and upper-income groups because of the high cost of purchase and maintenance. The KBS, which has over 300 buses, operates commuter transportation mainly oriented towards the eastern part of Nairobi where low-income people live. Although the fares are quite low they are still high for the majority of residents. It was hoped that the Nyayo Bus Services launched by the GOK in 1986 would ease the commuter problem in the city, but 90 per cent of its buses are not functioning owing to gross mismanagement and lack of spare parts. The matatu is an African invention. Originally private taxis, they offer regular services with better frequencies than the bus service, thus providing a relatively quick means of transportation to the CBD and increasing the accessibility of many of the outlying areas (Aduwo, 1990; Obudho, 1993b, pp. 91-109). Recently, commuter trains were introduced by the Kenya Railway to help ease transportation to the sub-urbs and this service has been well received despite the high fares (Aduwo, 1990; Obudho 1993b, pp. 91-109). Taxis have little impact on the mass transportation systems in Nairobi, because they have primarily geared themselves to tourists (Ndegea, 1995). Despite all these urban transportation systems, the majority of trips are still undertaken using non-motorized forms of transport, even over long distances.

The inherited transport patterns, together with the additional travel generated mainly by an increased population, exerted demands on the urban form and its infrastructure that they were ill equipped to meet. A major problem here has been the centralization of the civil service, commerce, and other service activities in the CBD and industrial area, where it is estimated that over 75 per cent of commuters are employed. Much of the employment in wholesale and retail trade, restaurants and hotels, transport and communications, finance, insurance, real estate, and business services is located within the CBD. The CBD has for a long time been subjected to numerous traffic problems, which are exacerbated by a lack of space in its vicinity. The post-independence period also witnessed a relaxation (not by design) of traffic regulations, parking restrictions, and land-use control. Hence within a few years after independence much of the formal land-use urban pattern of the original settlement structure was eroded. Since 1970, the city has expanded tremendously and a new population distribution pattern has emerged. Even more important is the fact that a large percentage of low-income users of public transport now live further away from the CBD. Expansion of the city to the east, south, and north has not been matched by an expansion in transport facilities and services. The annual rate of growth of daily passenger journeys is currently estimated to be almost 6 per cent (table 9.5). A clear manifestation of the unmet demand for public transport services is the daily stampede and jostling at most of the city's transport terminals, especially during the rush hours, and the overflowing number of passengers transported by the existing modes of public transport. Nairobi's transportation problems are due to neglect of maintenance, inadequate investment, poor management of traffic systems, breakdown of road discipline, and failure to develop an adequate policy and planning framework.

Recreation and leisure

The aesthetic and recreational environment has received little attention from planners in Nairobi. Industrial and commercial enterprises have so far received attention at its expense. Urban parks and gardens have been usurped for the development of commercial buildings. The few that remain are not cared for and continue to be threatened by commercial development. Currently there are only six major open spaces: Uhuru/Central parks, Jamhuri and City parks, one arboretum, and two forest areas. In addition, there are several public playing fields and sports centres and a number of privately owned parks in various parts of the city. Nairobi also contains the renowned Nairobi National Park and the affiliated Wild Animal Orphanage. The dramatic growth of the city in size, numbers, and complexity has had profound impacts on its open spaces. The impact is manifested basically in the form of overcrowding in some recreational areas such as Uhuru Park, Jevanjee Gardens, and other neighbourhood parks; the conversion of existing open spaces to other development purposes, for example the "Uhuru Park saga" where the government wanted to take part of the park for an office complex; open spaces being turned into open-air markets; and illegal usage of these spaces for agriculture and squatter settlements. The importance of open spaces for recreation and environmental protection is given low priority in the development and spatial planning of Nairobi. New neighbourhoods are constructed without open spaces or playgrounds.

Table 9.5 Nairobi: Public transport demand, 1985,1990, and 2000

Year Passenger journeys per day ('000) Growth rate per annum (%)
1985 676  
1990 873 5.82
2000a 1,393 5.95

Source: Obudho (1993b), p. 97.
a. Estimate.

Environmental and health problems

Urban environmental problems are as old as Nairobi itself. They occur because of rapid population growth, poor planning, scarcity of capital resources, industrial growth, and poverty. In addition to the environmental problems related to water supply, sewage disposal, and solid waste management, a range of pollution and health problems will be discussed in this section.

Atmospheric, water, noise, and odour pollution

The main sources of atmospheric pollution are vehicles and industries. Vehicles emit fumes that contain carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and sulphur dioxide. Lead and smoke are particulate matter produced by vehicles. Although the penal code is particular about emissions by motor vehicles, nothing so far has been done to reduce the level of air pollution in Nairobi. Industrial establishments, most of which are located in proximity to the residential estates of lowiincome earners, also contribute to air pollution. In 1992, measurements of the concentration of suspended particulate matter revealed the highest concentrations in the industrial area (252 µg/m³). Other areas of the city had levels less than a third of this (80 and 83 µg/m³). in Buruburu and Woodley areas, respectively).

Surface water pollution in Nairobi has also reached an alarming level. The main surface water sources are the Nairobi and Ngong rivers. Clean when they enter the city, by the time they pass through it, they have collected all sorts of refuse, industrial effluent, and effluent from sewage works.

Noise pollution is on the increase, mainly from motor vehicles, locomotives, motor cycles, aircraft, industries, and construction sites. It may lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, mental illness, loss of hearing, fatigue, and irritability.

Odour pollution arises from industrial activities such as food processing and chemicals production, as well as urban farming. The unpleasant odours are caused by industries that use sulphur and nitrogen components, ammonia, hydrogen sulphide, and phosphorus, among others. As Nairobi industrializes, the problem of odour pollution, which causes adverse physical reactions including nausea and loss of sleep, as well as reduction in the enjoyment of external and internal environments, will increase.

Health problems

More than half of Nairobi's residents are crowded into unplanned or inadequately serviced settlements, living and working in unhealthy environmental conditions. Residents, especially children, in these areas are frequently ill with diarrhoea and intestinal parasites, colds, influenza, and skin infections. All these illnesses are related to poor environmental hygiene, which in turn is a consequence of poverty, overcrowding, and neglect of the urban poor, and is exacerbated by the high densities in some of the areas, such as Pumwani (42,633 inh/km²), Mathare (33,470 inh/km²) and Kariobangi 133,195 inh/km² (Republic of Kenya, 1994). The problems particularly affect women and place an unfair burden on them because of their low incomes and their responsibilities for child care, fetching water and domestic fuel, and providing food for their families.

The AIDS epidemic in Kenya has been on the increase particularly in the major urban centres (Obudho, 1995). According to the Kenya National Aids Control programme, Nairobi had a total of 2,542 cases by 1991, of whom 1,664 were men. In 1994, 250,000 urban AIDS cases were reported (National Aids Control Programme, 1994), of which two-thirds were in urban centres such as Mombasa, Kisumu, and Nairobi. The rates and patterns of increase in AIDS and HIV cases suggest that it has urban origins in Kenya. Urban centres are the gateway to cross-border international migration. Nairobi attracts a substantial number of international migrants as well as migrant labourers, prostitutes, and sexually active adults. Since about 90 per cent of HIV is transmitted through sexual relationships, the link between urbanization and sexual mobility, especially commercial sex, means that Nairobi's population is very susceptible (Konde-Lule, 1991). In Nairobi, the suspected risk factors for HIV and AIDS include living or working in the city without a permanent spouse, having a large number of heterosexual partners, using unsterilized syringes, and receiving infected blood transfusions. However, sexual relationships account for the largest number of transmissions. It appears that urbanization has led to a decline in sexual relations within the family circle, with commercial sex being on the increase. Sexual networks have broadened and there is a lot of overlapping, making people extremely susceptible to disease. Although prostitution is illegal in Kenya, commercial sex workers are found in bars, in lodging houses, and even in the streets. For many people, increased access to cash promotes sexual mobility because there are more opportunities and society is more permissive (Konde-Lule, 1991). However, to counteract this, Nairobi also provides better opportunities for the dissemination of information related to the preventive measures that individuals should take: the National Aids Control Programme has its headquarters in the city; and people in urban areas are usually better educated and have easier access to medical services and mass communication facilities than their rural counterparts. Nairobi may, therefore, be seen as a source of contracting STDs, HIV, and AIDS, while at the same time providing channels through which to educate residents about preventive measures (Obudho, 1995).

Urban development programmes, policies, and strategies

The problems associated with the development of Nairobi call for gearing urban development programmes, policies, and strategies to achieve sustainable growth. The planning of Nairobi was done on an ad hoc basis until 1926, when the first plan was prepared. In 1948, a Nairobi Master Plan was completed (White et al., 1948). Since the introduction of the 1948 plan, the city boundary has been extended, its population has grown beyond that projected, and a post-colonial government with a new political orientation has come to power. The Nairobi Metropolitan Growth Strategy was formulated in 1973, but it has never been implemented. Because of the lack of a clear planning strategy, the city has experienced an unplanned, haphazard pattern of development, leading to settlements containing incongruous mixtures of activities, an overconcentration of employment in the CBD and industrial area, resulting in traffic congestion and environmental pollution, and rapid growth of informal settlements. Coordinated and focused urban and regional policy strategies for the city region are lacking. In addition, there tends to be too much emphasis on the provision of services and too little on involving the people and their resources in the planning and development process.

The overriding objective of urban development must be to contribute productively to urban, regional, national, and spatial development. Attention should be focused on the role that Nairobi could and should play in supporting development in the essentially rural agricultural economy of Kenya. It is worth noting that urban residents have benefited from the "urban bias" in investment and employment creation. Hence, reducing or eliminating this bias will be politically difficult, especially because the urban élite control political power. There is a need for a series of specific operational objectives that should comprise the building blocks for achievement of a long-term urban planning strategy for the city. City planning must provide a series of policies and a spatial framework to guide social and economic activities, coordinate and integrate development activities, and mobilize the involvement of residents in the planning and development process. The planning of Nairobi, despite past planning mistakes, should take into account and protect various racial and ethnic community interests, be cost-effective, be sensitive to the environment, and be consistent with broad regional and national urbanization policies. Owing to the severe shortages of trained staff, fiscal resources, and administrative capacity, major programme objectives clearly cannot be achieved in the short term. Instead, incremental improvements are needed on various fronts.

Because policies and programmes to control rural-urban migration and redistribution of population have not been successful, there is an increasing recognition that the growth of Nairobi is inevitable and that the solutions to the city's problems depend heavily on their effective management. The main issues faced by Nairobi are gaining greater control over the urban growth process; improving its financial and institutional structure and management; providing shelter, basic urban services, and infrastructure; strengthening the role of the informal sector; and formulating environmental policies and programmes.

Gaining control over unmanageable urban growth

In order to reduce the attractiveness of Nairobi to migrants and increase equity in national resources, the present level of national subsidies to the city needs to be reduced. This will require a review of the present system of pricing of services to recover an increasing share of the cost (see also below).

Both to encourage economic diversification and to avoid further urban sprawl, planning for the city region should pay more attention to the development of satellite urban centres including Machakos, Ongata, Rongai, Ngong, and Kikuyu. Neglected in the past, these centres have an important role in agricultural processing, marketing, storage, and distribution. Their prosperity depends on the availability of markets in Nairobi and the city's ability to supply them with goods and services such as agricultural equipment and repair services.

Land use in Nairobi was basically a reflection of the British colonial land-use patterns, which were determined by race. Although the legacy of these earlier patterns is seen in the segregation of residential areas by income, land uses have become mixed and poorly planned, because planning norms and standards have been ignored in land allocations and development control has been ineffective. Improved land-use planning is needed, to anticipate problems and plan for them in advance rather than reacting to crisis, to produce an environmentally sound and healthy urban environment, and to ensure that public needs are satisfied.

Improving the management of the financial and institutional structure

The resources to support urban development in Nairobi have been supplied by both local and central government, but those available from the latter in particular have been insufficient to deal with worsening urban problems. International agencies or donors have been of substantial assistance especially by providing financial support and/or equipment to the NCC. At least 14 international agencies have sponsored projects in Nairobi since independence, including the World Bank, USAID, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, the Canadian International Development Agency, the Chandaria Foundation, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit, and eight UN agencies. In addition, friendly countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, the Nordic countries, Italy, the United States, and Belgium, have provided loans and grants. The projects that have been funded include housing, roads, refuse collection vehicles, fire fighting equipment, water supply and sewerage, public health, education, the informal sector, and social service projects. Housing and water supply, in particular, have received enormous funding from the World Bank and USAID. The delivery of services has, however, not improved significantly despite this financial assistance. This may be attributed to inappropriate programmes and conditions imposed by the donors, corruption during the implementation stage, and apathy on the part of NCC officials.

Improvements to revenue generation are needed, initially by increasing the proportion of service costs recovered from users wherever possible in order to reduce subsidies and eliminate financial constraints on extending delivery. The present system, whereby services reach a small proportion of the urban population and many of these are not obliged to pay, is unsustainable. In addition, measures are needed to ensure that higher-income residents are not subsidized and that service provision is extended to currently unserviced or inadequately serviced low-income areas. Alternative means of generating increased revenue, such as increasing the yield from existing taxes and fees, bidding for a larger share of national taxes from central government, and mobilizing resources from the private large-and small-scale sectors and NGOs, need to be investigated.

However, political support and administrative capacity are crucial in implementing resource mobilization policy. Increased revenue generation is unlikely to succeed without greater decentralization of power to the city government and political support at both central and local levels in order to surmount pressures from vested interests. Further obstacles include a severe shortage of trained personnel in the local authority, particularly accounts and finance managers, low staff morale because of low wages and limited career opportunities, and ineffective monitoring and evaluation systems.

Thus public sector institutions in the city need to be strengthened. In particular the Nairobi City Council should be given greater financial autonomy, its responsibilities defined more clearly, staff development supported, adequate staff and finance provided for planning functions, and the urban information system improved. Given the financial and institutional weaknesses of the city government, however, it is imperative that programmes be designed that stimulate greater community participation in the financing and delivery of services (see below).

Providing shelter, basic urban services, and infrastructure

Policy and programme responses to deficiencies in shelter, services, and infrastructure have been disjointed and ad hoc. The access of the urban poor in particular to shelter and services has been constrained by high land prices, lack of access to credit, inadequate opportunities for participating in the planning and implementation of shelter projects, inadequate cost recovery, high and inflexible building codes and standards, and the high cost of building materials. More appropriate standards for infrastructure provision and housing construction are needed, in addition to measures to reduce other constraints and provide services more cheaply. The efficiency of relevant institutions needs to be improved, and private sector provision, the use of community-based organizations and NGOs, and self-help programmes encouraged.

Strengthening the role of the informal sector

The informal sector significantly contributes to Nairobi's economy, generates a large volume of employment, and has strong backward linkages with commercial and public enterprises. It provides a variety of goods and services, a greater part of which enter into the "consumption basket" of individual households. Although large-scale public sector investment is probably not needed, appropriate support to the sector might include improved infrastructure, credit, and training.

Formulating environmental policies and programmes

There are major gaps in policy with respect to environmental protection and management. In addition, institutional weaknesses inhibit the enforcement of controls that do exist and the realization of the potential for enlisting the participation of residents in solving environmental problems. Environmental policies and action programmes need to be formulated in accordance with the call emerging from the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development for local Agenda 21s to be prepared. These must deal, inter alia, with solid waste management, pollution control, and the conservation of natural resources (including forests, flora, and fauna) and must involve a wide range of interests, including public sector institutions, private enterprises, and residents.


There has been heightened public awareness of the need for the Nairobi City Council to take decisive measures to improve conditions in the city. The requirement for a clearly formulated urban policy thus arises precisely because of the importance of ensuring an appropriate perspective for urban and regional development. In view of the economic crisis, declining agricultural productivity, and scarce capital investment and management resources, the city should strive for "affordable decentralization." In doing this, the following policy options should be considered: ensuring that sufficient investment is made in Nairobi to maintain its overall contribution to national economic growth, but at the same time reducing the subsidies that encourage development of the city; emphasizing investment in other growth centres; and investing in the inter-urban transport and communications network, which is essential to link up the city with other urban centres of major economic potential (Van Huyck, 1988, p. 201). At the regional level, development should be encouraged in satellite centres to reduce unplanned sprawl. Within the city, efforts should be made to decentralize activities out of the CBD, to improve environmental conditions at the city and neighbourhood levels, and to sup port economic activities. Reforms to financial and institutional structures and procedures will be needed to achieve these policy goals.


1. For an account of Nairobi's development and characteristics set within a wider framework of relationships between African cities and the world economy, see Simon (1992).


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