Urbanisation in Kenya has a long history with urban agglomeration in the form of trading centres being found along the Kenyan coast as early as the 9th Century AD (Obudho 1988: 3) . However, the growth of many urban centres can be traced to the pre-independence period when they were used as centres of administrative and political control by the colonial authorities (UNCHS 1985). The proportion of Kenyans living in urban centres increased from 5.1 percent in 1948 to 15.1 percent in 1979, to 18.0 percent in 1989 and 34.8 per cent in 2000. There are currently194 urban centres, with 45 per cent of the urban population residing in Nairobi (GOK 1996:35; GOK 1989:74; GOK 2001). The growth of the urban population, which has resulted from both natural population growth and rural-urban migration, has led to an increased demand for resources required to meet the consequent demand for infrastructure services (Olima 2001). Statistical analysis shows that the rank size distribution of the urban places that comprise this urban population is and will be well distributed; corresponding to what regional geographers would consider as balanced (GOK 1993:7).
The evident slowing of growth of the urban population in Kenya opens up possibilities for social and economic consolidation, aimed at bringing about a balance between rural and urban growth (GOK 1993:6). However, while demographic projections show that rural migration will also slow down, the position in respect of the economy has not been good. Economic growth has slowed from an average of 3.8 per cent per annum in 1986-90. It further continued to decline, from 1.8 per cent in 1998 to 1.4 per cent in 1999, -0.2 per cent in 2000 and increased marginally to 1.2 per cent in 2001 (GOK 2002).
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