Nairobi: A Policy Narrative

This paper examines the urban development of Nairobi from its precolonial past to the present day


Nairobi is urbanizing fast. Between 1990 and 2010, its population more than doubled in size, growing from 1.4 million to 3.2 million inhabitants (UN Population Division, 2015). As its population has increased, so has its spatial footprint. During the past 2 decades, the city has extended its built cover, particularly along its eastern rim.

In this policy narrative, the authors examine the urban development of Nairobi from its precolonial past to the present day. Their analysis covers both the spatial development of the city as well as its economic development. Special emphasis is given to the historical development of the city’s structure of governance, land and housing markets, and transportation networks. To carry out this analysis, they use a wide range of sources including satellite data, historical maps, and geo-referenced economic data

This paper is a part of a Global Research Program on Spatial Development of Cities, funded by the Multi Donor Trust Fund on Sustainable Urbanization of the World Bank and supported by the UK Department for International Development.


Patricia Jones, Louise Bernard, Lino Ferreira, Tekla Muhoro (2016) Nairobi: A Policy Narrative. World Bank, Washington, DC

Nairobi: A Policy Narrative

Published 1 March 2016