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Conference to discuss Kenya’s path to metropolisation kicks off in Nairobi

By Standard Reporter | Apr 29th 2015 | 4 min read
By Standard Reporter | April 29th 2015

Nairobi, Kenya: The Directorate of Urban and Metropolitan Development has organized a workshop in Nairobi to discuss Kenya’s path to metropolisation.

The conference is expected to initiate a dialogue on the establishment and development of other metropolitan regions as per Kenya Vision 2030 and also establish collaboration with all counties listed in the Kenya Vision 2030 and other stakeholders.

The conference comes at a time when urban areas continue to be the drivers of economic and social development.

They are centres for knowledge, wealth and culture, generators of economic momentum (GEMs) and engines of growth .The fastest rates of urbanisation are in Africa and Asia. Kenya is significantly experiencing high rates urbanisation and population growth. The population size, from around 11 million in 1969, has increased to about 40 million to date, a more than threefold increase in four decades. The population is growing at a sustained rate of above 3 per cent which means that it would double every 24 years. During the period 1969 – 2001 while the population increased three fold, the urban population increased nearly 13 times. A settlement of 2000 people is defined as urban.  This has seen the urban share increase from 10% in 1969 to 35% in 2009. It is projected that by  the next 50years, the country will have a population size of 120-150 million, while the urbanisation level is likely to record a 80% growth (120 -120 million people is urban areas).


Given the current demographic trends, Kenya will be a predominantly urban country by 2030. The focus of managing urbanisation is to maximise the positive benefits of urbanisation and avoid the negative impacts.  In the   context    of   accelerated   economic growth and globalisation, cities need to be well planned, productive, competitive and bankable with high quality life for its residents and visitors.

It has been established that there is a strong correlation between urbanisation and development.  The Nairobi metropolitan region alone contributes over 60% to the country’s GDP, and the balance 40% from the other regions. Urbanisation, is a tool for creating employment and improved livelihoods. Urban  areas  will continue to play the role of drivers of economic and social development, centres for knowledge , wealth and culture, generators of economic momentum (GEMs) and engines of growth hence, the challenges they present must be addressed.

The Kenya Vision 2030 recognised that The pattern of urbanization in the country is highly skewed with the Nairobi city being dominant (manifesting primacy) and large regions of the country   manifesting relatively low and slow urbanization.  The current spatial distribution of urbanisation reflects a skewed scenario. Most of it is concentrated along the coast and along the East West (Mombasa – Kampala) transport corridor. Out of the 215 urban centres, 181 (84%) are concentrated in ? of the national space. A large part of the country, particularly northern parts are devoid of urban areas. The 181 settlements contain a population of 12.87 million out of the 13.72 million total urban population. This goes into explaining their comparative low level of social- economic development in the northern regions.

Worldwide, the spatial trend indicates that cities are growing beyond their established / territorial boundaries, merging with adjoining urban localities, towns, and other cities resulting in the “metropolisation” phenomenon. Kenya is no exception, notwithstanding the lack of appropriate institutional frameworks to manage the metropolisation process. Metropolitan areas play strategic roles at the county, national and international development and have the potential to become centres of global competition. They are also faced with complex and unique problems that require specialized skills and different approaches to efficiently address their mandates. Kenya vision 2030 being cognisant to this trend the development of six metropolitan regions to re-shape the urbanisation process in the country. This paved the way for the establishment of Nairobi Metropolitan Region. Kenya Vision 2030  therefore pegged the future of urbanisation in this country on the development of these metropolitan regions,  but did not stipulate parameters for their delimitation nor their governance and management and mechanisms.. The experience of the establishment and development of the Nairobi Metropolitan region, the first Metropolitan region to be rolled out provides lessons and insights for further steps on the country’s Metropolisation agenda.

Urban management in the country has in the past been conducted in the absence of a comprehensive policy framework. A sound policy framework is important for the rational planning, development and management of urban areas.The anticipated transformation will not yield the intended results in the absence of proper planning, with requisite institutions and legislation. Some of the key challenges experienced thus far are traceable to a lack of an enabling policy environment that would have been created by the enactment of appropriate legislation such as the Metropolitan Areas Bill, as well as the non-existence of a national urbanization policy to inform critical processes like Constitution making. This resulted in the  exclusion of the  metropolitan domain as an urban management sphere interfacing the national and County level  in urban management. The metropolization of the country lacks a legal anchorage since the role of metropolitan development is not  explicitly recognised by the Devolution Act nor the Cities and Urban Areas Act.

Further interventions are necessary in harnessing urbanisation in the context of accelerated economic growth and globalisation. A sound national urban policy is key to ensuring that the metropolitan areas envisioned in the Kenya vision 2030 are developed. The  sound management of the metropolitan regions call for the enactment of a Metropolitan Areas Bill to provide a framework for the establishment and assignment of powers to metropolitan institutions for sustained Metropolisation.

The theme of the conference is “ Kenya on the path to Metropolisation”. 

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