I previously did an article about Kenya which highlighted some things about the country. This article focuses on the country’s capital city, Nairobi. There are a lot of things to talk about this big city with a high population density. How about we get started? Here are the top 10 things you need to know about Nairobi City.
Let’s begin with the name of the city, Nairobi. It is a Maasai name which means a place of cool waters. What’s even interesting is that before the city became a city it is now, it was an uninhabited swamp. That was so until the Kenya-Uganda railway engineer Sir George Whitehouse identified the area. He found the area suitable for a store depot, shunting ground & a camping ground for Indian laborers. Sir George even went on to say this:
Sir George Whitehouse
Nairobi itself will in the course of the next two years become a large and flourishing place and already there are many applications for sites for hotels, shops and houses
He was spot-on with his prediction as Nairobi soon replaced Mombasa as the capital of the East Africa protectorate.
Nairobi City is found in Nairobi County, the only pure urban county in Kenya. The county itself has 17 constituencies and eighty-five wards. The county is headed by a governor and the constituencies and wards are headed by Members of Parliament and Members of the County Assembly respectively.
8. Growth Rate
Nairobi is one of the few cities in Africa that is experiencing a very high growth rate of its population. As it stands, the city’s population growth is at 4.1% every year. The city’s population as at 3.1 million people in 2009’s general census. Analysts suggest that the population might rise to 5 million people by 2025. But, the country recently had another census and the predicted figure hints at 4.2 million.
We’ll just have to wait for the official numbers from the national government in the coming six months or so.
With the city’s high population comes it’s biggest problem; crime. Nairobi, for the longest time, has had a reputation for being a dangerous city. One report by the United Nations stated that a third of Nairobi’s residents experienced some sort of robbery.
Common acts of crime reported include pickpocketing, violent armed robberies, and carjacking. While most robberies don’t end up with the victims injured or dead, insecurity is still a big concern. The police force has stepped up its role in protecting its citizens but corruption scenarios have seen them turn a blind eye on most crimes committed.
6. Things to do while you are in the city
Nairobi is a big city where you can find and do everything. For the most part. This part alone deserves its own list (which I did write) so why don’t you hop over there and see the fun activities you can do while you are in the city.
5. Nairobi National Park
Kenya’s first national park has a lot of history to it. It was first established in 1946 and is located 7km from the city center. The park covers an area of 117 square kilometers and hosts a diverse population of wild animals. These include black rhinos, zebras, cheetah, lions, giraffes, baboons, and buffalos.
The only thing that divides the city from the park is an electric fence. What you get is quite an interesting view of the animals but from a distance, you can see the city. It’s weird and cool at the same time. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been any conflicts between the animals and the local residents. There are many reports of livestock being attacked by lions and farmers losing their crops to herbivores.
Remember how I said Nairobi is a big city where you can find and do anything? This is especially true for businesses. Almost every local and international company has its headquarters in Nairobi. Most offices can be located in Westlands, the city’s central business district, and Upper Hill.
Special mention goes to the Upper Hill region of Nairobi which has become its own business district. Companies are now basing their operations in the area due to land and office space being more readily available and less expensive.
Nairobi is also home to the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE). Previously known as the Nairobi Stocks Exchange, it is Africa’s 4th largest in terms of trading volumes, and fifth largest in terms of market capitalization. If you are having a hard time understanding what I’m trying to say, just know it’s a big deal on the continent.
Matatus are a common form of public transport in the country but its culture is truly appreciated in the capital. You can easily spot these vehicles in the form of pimped out minibusses and vans. The extent of the pimping is only limited by the money invested in the vehicles. Some even consider them to be portable clubs because of their loud music and colorful lights.
They, however, have a record of being notorious on the roads. Private car owners consider matatus as a menace on the road because of their reckless driving. Matatus also have a bad record of poor safety standards posing a high risk of accidents on the road. The government has enforced several regulations in the matatu industry such as that of safety standards to improve their safety standards.
2. Kibera Slum
The name, Kibera, is a Nubian word which means forest or jungle. It is the largest slum in Nairobi and the largest urban slum in Africa. One thing which people can’t agree about the slum is its population. The government declared in 2009 that its population was 170,000 but slum experts suggest that the number could be more than 800,000.
What makes this slum be so high up in this list is the upcoming elections in Kibra constituency. Politicians consider the area as a key area of influence in Nairobi County. Win Kibra’s heart and you basically own Nairobi. So they say. What you may not know is that the Kenyan government owns all the land upon which Kibera stands. Of course, they won’t acknowledge it, most services offered in the slum are privately owned.
1. Malls. Malls. And some more malls.
One thing you will notice about Nairobi is the common presence of malls. They are everywhere. New residential estates are even being opened with their own malls to serve the residents. It is home to the two largest malls in the country: Two Rivers Mall, and Garden City Mall.
Two Rivers Mall is actually the seventh largest mall in Africa but is easily crushed #6 on that list. Sandton City Mall is twice the size of Two Rivers Mall. You can imagine how large that mall is.
There is no clear reason why so many malls came up this decade but at the moment, they are so common that they are losing their relevance quickly and owners of the malls are starting to feel the pinch.