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Background and history
Basic City Information
The City of
Kisumu, the third largest city in Kenya, is the headquarters of Kisumu District, as well as
Nyanza Province respectively. It has developed progressively from a railway terminus and
internal port in 1901, to become the leading commercial/trading, industrial, communication
and administrative centre in the Lake Victoria basin, an area that traverses three provinces of
Nyanza, Western and western Rift Valley. In addition, Kisumu serves as the communication
and trading confluence for the Great Lakes region - Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi
City Area: Covers an area of approximately 417 Km², of which 297 Km² is dry land and approximately
120 Km² under water
828 per Sq. Km
City growth rate: Estimated at 2.8% p.a.
Principally, the leading commercial/trading, fishing, industrial, communication and
administrative centre in the Lake Victoria basin.
Transportation hub for the western region, linking Kenya to the East African Countries via
Rail, Road, Water and Air
Inland depot for oil and containerized cargo serving the wider great lakes region
Host to Lake Victoria Regional Bodies including the EAC Lake Victoria Commission
The City Council
The City Council's main functions: - Mobilize internal and external resources and, within
existing regulatory framework, direct the resources towards addressing the following basic
social needs of the populace in the City;
- Provide social services esp. water supply and sewerage services;
- Infrastructure development (roads, parking spaces, houses etc.);
- Environmental sanitation, garbage collection and disposal;
- Housing, Health, Education, Welfare - Markets, recreation and Sports
A recent shift towards nurturing an enabling environment for the enhanced participation of
the citizens in urban development
• High levels of skilled and unskilled unemployment. With 30% unemployment rate, 52%
of the working population engaged in the informal activities have their monthly wage in
the range of 3,000-4,000Ksh
• 48% of the urban population live within the absolute poverty bracket (Nat. Avg. 29%).
• Main sources of income for the urban poor include;
- Wage employment in manufacturing and processing plants
- Petty/informal trades
- Urban livestock and agriculture (mainly subsistence level)
- Public transportation (non-motorized e.g. ‘Boda boda’)
• The city lacks adequate shelter with approximately 60% of the urban population resident
in the peri-urban and informal settlements lacking basic services.
• High congestion with 150 rooming/housing units per hectare in informal settlements
• Approx. 75% of peri-urban inhabitants live in temporary and semi-permanent structures
Kisumu was established as a settlement towards the end of the 19th century. In 1903, the township boundaries were gazetted and some 12,000 acres, including water, set aside for its development. The new township reverted to its original name, Kisumu, in substitution of the colonial name Port Florence. As the third largest urban centre in Kenya today, with an area of 417 sq kms, Kisumu has grown from humble beginnings to its current status. By 1976, the municipality had a total area of 53 sq kms. When the boundary was extended to include the densely populated peri-urban settlements of Manyatta and Nyalenda, plus a large portion of largely rural land. This new boundary covered 157 sq kms of water and 260 sq kms of land.
Kisumu’s residential land use can be divided into five groups:
1. High-class residential areas of Milimani (former European residential area)
2. High-income residential areas of Tom Mboya-Kibuye (former Indian residential area)
3. Low and middle income public housing (Municipal, Railways, Kenya Post, Kenya Power, other)
4. Kanyakwar residential area
5. Peri-urban unplanned and slum settlements
6. Rural extended boundary areas
Kisumu due to its strategic location and infrastructure (airport, lake marine port and railway terminus) dominates as a regional centre.
Early town planning
The new town was planned as a garden city with low densities in the European areas, extensive intra-urban distances, large housing plots and lavish recreational space were developed in the colonial town. But in present day Kisumu, this has meant exorbitant expenses on road, sewer, electricity and water to the effect that there is very little capital left over for investment in new land development.
Beyond the slum belt is rural land incorporated into the municipality as a result of boundary extension. Part of this land in Kanyakwar has been subdivided and allocated to individuals for development. The rest of the land is on freehold tenure used for residential with agricultural purposes. This is supposedly a land bank for future development of the town. Parts of this land adjoin the slum areas and have provided avenues for further expansion of such housing structures. This is so because the landowners have changed the use to the more lucrative one of providing cheap slum housing. Unfortunately these areas also have developed with poor accessibility.
Central Business District
The rise of the automobile gives users greater flexibility of location and the Central Business District (CBD) has subsequently lost its prominence with new residential areas being developed in areas as far as Kibos where public transport enables residents to commute to places of work. There have also been changes in location of industries especially with the development of tertiary industries and the changing fluidity of residential location. Otonglo area in Korando sub-location is one such area. We thus see development ‘jumping’ the ‘slum-belt’ to areas further away from the CBD creating a new belt of better housing in Nyamasaria and Kanyakwar.