The Nairobi Metropolitan region is divided into four sub regions and the city of Nairobi forms the core centre to this region in terms of, provision of goods and services, employment opportunities and a market of the goods from the rest of the region. On the other hand, the surrounding areas serve largely as dormitory corridors for the population working in the Nairobi City.

The four regions which cover approximately 32000 square kilometres (twice the size of Frankfurt metropolitan) are

  1. Core Metro that includes the City of Nairobi (684 square kilometres)
  2. Northern Metro includes the municipal councils of Kiambu, Limuru, Ruiru, Thika, and Karuri, the Town councils of Kikuyu and the County Council of Kiambu;
  3. 3.      Southern Metro that includes the Town Council of Kajiado and the County Council of Olkejuado;
  4. 4.      Eastern Metro that includes the Town Council of Kangundo/ Tala, the Municipal Councils of Machakos and Mavoko and the County of Masaku

While states are defined by geographic and political boundaries, Metro area are shaped by economic activity, sometimes across states and national borders .

Housing in the Core Metro

Nairobi is characterised by a single major employment centre composed of the central commercial area (CBD) and adjacent industrial area which together hold a majority of the city employees.

Beyond the CBD, several distinct residential areas are located; to the North and west are predominantly low density and high income areas; to the south and east they comprise areas of high density accommodating middle and low income households ranging from the relatively prosperous Nairobi South area to the more modest Neighbourhoods of Eastlands and Umoja

A substantial part of the population reside in high density clusters  of low income housing in Dagoretti, Riruta and adjoining low income neighbourhoods;

Cons of the Core Metro

  • Failures in decongesting the CBD into three commercial districts as suggested in the 1973 proposals. This would have seen the rise the CBD decongested into three commercial districts, Westlands to the North West, Dagoretti to the west and Eastlands. Unfortunately only westlands commercial district was established.
  • A high intensity of informal business activities in the CBD and within residential areas, warrants mentioning.
  • Frequent violent confrontations between vendors and city policy and hence the need for a clear strategy
  • Increasing rate in slum development
  • Existence of old dilapidated housing estates constructed during the pre-independence period and which are due for development.
  • The current social facilities such as schools and hospitals within the city boundary have been strained since no new facilities have been planned and developed in the recent years to cater for the increased population.
  • Lack of a clear policy on how to protect the rivers and streams that dissect the city landscape.
  • Pollution from agricultural and domestic waste

Pros of the Core Metro

ü  emergence of special districts such as Gigiri into a diplomatic centre, Upper Hill into a financial and office development complex including a few government offices.


The Ruiru-Thika corridor consists of Thika district which was separated from Kiambu district in 1995. The area has 3 established universities and a number of university colleges.

Ruiru is traversed by a super highway (Nairobi-Thika highway), two bypasses namely, eastern and northern bypass and a railway.

The expansion and upgrading of Thika Road to a six lane super highway at a cost of approximately Ksh 17 billion has opened up Ruiru to better infrastructure and accessibility.

The following issues emerged as key challenges to the political, technical and administrative leaders of this region.

  1. Government owned land set aside for public infrastructure has been allocated to individuals thereby leaving the municipal council without areas for development of public facilities.
  2. Most decisions regarding land use planning and development of the area are made at the government head offices. However, local administration considers that there is a need to decentralize service delivery decision making, at the same time strengthen linkages between the municipality and central government. The relationship between central and local governance is considered to be poor.
  3. Ruiru municipality lacks the capacity for enforcement of development regulations and as a result there is a lot of development taking place without the benefit of assessment using planning procedures and standards.
  4. The municipality falls under a different tenure system with government land within the central CBD area while the larger municipality has leasehold large farms owned either by individuals or cooperatives and the upper part land being freehold.


Thika has more professional municipal managers than Ruiru.


 Issues affecting Thika

  1. 1.      There has been heavy subdivision of land and loss of a recognized economic base as a result of construction of the super highway; this has led to destruction of coffee estates.
  2. 2.      Thika is one of the key suppliers of building stone and sand to the construction industry in Nairobi region. While this contributes to the local economy, the large scale environmental degradation is yet to be addressed.
  3. 3.      Underutilization of some companies like Kenya Vehicles Manufacturers Limited has led to industrial decline. This has been attributed by the high levels of international competition and lack of investment.
  4. 4.      Maintaining a balance between new urban land and rural character has been a major challenge as a result of rapid urbanization.
  5. 5.       Thika town is extending southward towards Nairobi as well as northeast along Garissa Road through the subdivision of former coffee and sisal farms. Due to large subdivision of large farms the challenges experienced by Thika include;

–          Availability of reliable spatial information in a systematic manner that can allow for monitoring and updating.

  1. 6.      Construction taking place without corresponding infrastructure and approval.
  2. 7.      Rising land values.
  3. 8.      Heavy speculation and hoarding of land;
  4. 9.      Change of users that is carried out without a clear planning framework
  5. 10.  Environmental issues that require addressing include
    1. a.      River pollution by coffee factories in the region
    2. b.      Diminishing economic base of Thika Town as a result of original industries closing down or scaling down operations without replacement industries coming in to take their place.


  1. 11.   Thika district is governed by three local authorities. Coordination between local authorities is considered important to ensure common policy development and implementation, synergy in development and provision of services as well as coordination of planning and implementation which is currently lacking and which would form a key to growth in this area.
  2. 12.  Land administration procedures at the Ministry of lands are considered to be both confusing and time consuming to both local land management and the town’s residents. There has been an influx of people with the expansion of the highway resulting in intensive and uncontrolled subdivision
  3. 13.  There lacks a clear economic base for this area despite the huge potential in the area. The industries located within the town centre pose huge environmental problem through the emissions of gases and noise pollution.
  4. 14.  The area lacks adequate services particularly water, sewerage system and refuse/ waste collection


The town, recently elevated from village to town status is very close to Nairobi, and includes the well known settlements of Banana Hill.

 If the estimated cost of implementing the metro strategy is Ksh33 Trillion and housing accounts for 30%, where will that housing be?


That is the question aimed at stressing the important role played by the peri-urban communities like Karuri which have plenty of undeveloped land and and potential for commercial and commercial and industrial development.

In all the areas visited, the issue of land information ( availability/ tenure / prices / services etc) has been dominant, together with the question of development control and enforcement  .

Issues affecting Karuri

  1. 1.      Young people are seen as a major problem, Karuri being viewed as the breeding ground for young criminals operating in Nairobi. The breeding place is Karuri but the crimes are committed in Nairobi.

Sports has been introduced to keep the youth in Karuri focussed on something positive. Such initiatives aimed at promoting good behaviour should be encouraged. The football tournaments sponsored by MoNMD (Ministry of Nairobi Metropolitan Development ) has been a success. Providing boots to children will help promote football.

  1. 2.      Ruaka Division is the fastest growing area in town since it is so close to Nairobi resulting in a transport crisis.
  2. 3.      Bylaws need to be reviewed, for example, there are no municipal burial grounds. As a result , you find cemeteries next to residential apartments.
  3. 4.      Lack of street lighting.


Proposed new developments include Aga Khan University and a development of 400 houses. LASDAP (Local Authority Service Delivery Action Plan) has been very useful in providing resources for roads improvement in the town.

According to the councillor, improved roads, “have also helped girls widen the catchment area for suitors”

Land price will be seen to increase to the tune of 0.1 per acre with the improvement of roads.

  1. The Ministry of Roads standards are unaffordable and the government is therefore seeking to widen roads to 9metres wide but local way leaves 3metres and land acquisition is expensive and difficult. Remote areas in the interior also need attention . especially road access.
  2. Karuri has low levels of education therefore provision of technical schools and colleges will be more than important.
  3. It has a shortage of farm land, which then contributes to unemployment and crime. So the MoNMD should indeed cater for the needs of the young and uneducated population.
  4. Sanitation is an issue. You can find 4 to 5 houses on a quarter acre with no proper sewerage and even a borehole in the same plot. Cholera is thus a real threat….. it happened in Thika, well within the metro area
  5. It is difficult to attract investors since of course insecurity spoils everything
  6. There has also been a problem of access to Nairobi. Banana Hill road needs to be widened.
  7. The town needs parks, woodlands and public open spaces to prevent the town from becoming a big slum  as is the trend in Thika and Kiambu Districts .
  8. It is important to take the bold step of defining the boundaries and replanning the whole area. What is needed is action not paperwork.
  9. There is a lot of uncontrolled residential development on agricultural land.
  10. Lack of a stadium in the area.
  11. Meeting the needs of disabled people in the area is a big problem.
  12. A new town hall is urgently needed.


A windshield survey of Kikuyu town revealed that it is a busy and prosperous town. Physically, the town is occupied by a large number of tall buildings providing office space, education facilities for higher education including colleges as well as living space in the form of apartments.

Retail activity include the range of outlets typical to those found in similar towns within the NMR such as banks, hardware stores, grocery stores, butcheries, pharmacists etc.

Administrative buildings include district offices for government ministries, police post and county council office.

The national poverty index shows Kikuyu as the richest constituency in the country. It has four divisions, each with its own type of economy including.

  1. Specialization in  kikuyu  in small scale farming, producing fresh vegetables and poultry products for the Nairobi market and zero grazing;
  2. Kabete and Kinoo which house commuters due to their close proximity to the CBD and provide Kikuyu Town’s role as a dormitory town. These are having a strong renting market

A  physical strategic plan is currently being prepared with a ten year horizon, guided by the vision “to be a model constituency for the whole country”

To give a boost to the economic activity, the council is looking for investors in the slaughter house sector; of the 6 slaughter houses in Dagoretti (the source of most of Nairobi’s meet) 5 are in Kikuyu. Residents thus make a good living from this economic activity.

The council is also looking into the feasibility of growing Aloe Vera , for which there is a market.

Challenges include


  1. The towns environment is generally poor with an appearance that reflects the uncoordinated nature of development and dust from the unsurfaced roads. This environment is not reflective of the town’s status as an important commercial centre for the NMR and university town including the University of Nairobi campus , Alliance Girls’ High School and the Alliance High School.
  2. Due to population increase in the area, there has been a rise in informal housing evidenced by the mushrooming of settlements such as the Shauri Yako settlement. Accommodation for Nairobi workers is thus a problem.
  3. The environment found in Karai Division, close to Ngong Hills which covers a large area, is arid with poor quality soil and economy.
  4. The area is not as fast growing as Kitengela , a fast growing town to the south east of Nairobi, dependent on cement Factories, mining and industry, because of insecurity ,
  5. Kikuyu needs to be developed and capture tourist needs since it indeed has the potential. E.g. Ondiri Swamp is well located camping site en route to Maasai Mara.

Historic sites include

  • Alliance High School
  • Church of Torch.
  1. Pollution of rivers, ground water, air pollution and land contamination from industrial waste.
  2. The degradation of the general environment by uncoordinated development of retail facilities such as shopping centres and bars; as well development of hotels to service tourist needs.
  3. Lack of adequate street lighting.
  4. Development of a decent sewerage system is highly needed in Kikuyu.
  5. The steel rolling mills and the dye factory in Kikuyu town emit a lot of untreated waste, and NEMA (National Environment Management Authority) has not done anything to that accord.
  6. Finally, the need for improving property task assessment and collection is highly stressed alongside strengthening the council’s capacity.


Mavoko covers an area of about 659 square km with 80% still rural in nature. This area is composed of 2 feet cotton soil. There are five emerging and fast growing centres.

  • Mlolongo Town;
  •  site around Daystar University;
  • Kenani at the site of Mua hills,
  • Chumvi at the Machakos junction.

Mavoko municipality was started as an industrial town to take spills over from the Nairobi city. ( in the 80s, the government policy encouraged dispersal off industries into the rural areas)

The population is estimated at 400,000 up from 60, 000 in 1999.

The area is traversed to major highways (Mombasa Highway and Namanga Hihgway) and the Nairobi-Mombasa railway traverses across the main town.

Lately Mavoko Municipality has been acting as the main dormitory for Nairobi city workforce. This then led to investors moving over to take advantage of this demand including the advantage of lower land rates and cheap building materials to develop building residential estates.

Challenges are;

  1. Limited infrastructure to meet this growth
  2. Haphazard approval of these developments without a comprehensive plan
  3. Allocation of public land to private investors without consulting the municipal council seeing as land in Mavoko is government land. There is thus no clear policy on land management within the municipality
  4. The industries within Mavoko have had a significant impact on the NMR in terms of employment and revenue generation

Recently the council has initiated a public-private partnerships with local industries on projects including a 13km sewer line and oxidation ponds developed through partnerships with the Kenya Manufactures Association to serve the industries in NMR.

  1. Opportunities in the area remain untapped. These include economic activities such as floriculture taking place within the municipality and uses supporting institutions such as Daystar University and other colleges of higher learning in the area. The region is a major source of building stone and sand.
  2. The municipality does not have its own water source and relies on a connection to Nairobi water supply; the Kilimanjaro water project, a few existing dams managed by institutions or key industries; and boreholes. ( the area has an underground water table of between 100m – 200m) for its supply. These water sources are inadequate to meet the the demands of the current and future populations.
  3. The municipality is poorly served by roads
  4. Parking of long haul vehicles in the area is a major problem in the area.
  5. Two key environmental issues affecting the area include air pollution, gas emissions from the four existing cement factories located within the main town and at close proximity to the Nairobi National Park as well as abandoned limestone and other quarries.
  6. The municipality has inadequate professional staff to provide with the planning, advice and guidance in as far as developing the area is concerned.

It indeed goes without saying that the journey to achieving the Vision 2030 and more specifically a Nairobi Metropolitan Region that can compete at international standards and markets is one full of trials and tribulations alongside bumps and potholes.  We all need to work together in PERFECT HARMONY to see to it that we achieve our DEFINITE CHIEF AIM.

Compiled by Kevin Ogutu,

Special thanks to;

– Nairobi Metropolitan Spatial plan;

-Google Images.


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