Urban economic growth in Africa: A case study of Nairobi City County, Kenya


For most countries, urbanization has resulted in substantial productivity gains created by the agglomeration economies that cities generate. However, while Africa has the highest rate of urbanization in the world, the region’s cities are not realizing the full potential and benefits of agglomeration. Sub-Saharan Africa is failing to reap the economic benefits of urbanization observed in other regions.

To unlock the potential for Africa’s cities to act as an engine of productivity growth and structural change, the Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings formulated a framework to help identify key constraints to productive urbanization.

In this report, the framework is applied to the city of Nairobi in Kenya. The study focuses on four major objectives: generating productive jobs, linking workers to firms, connecting firms to markets, strengthening public governance, and a review of policy initiatives for Nairobi to enhance the city’s economic growth.

Key findings suggest that jobs are not accessible within one hour of public transport commute and that Nairobi city county also has a mismatch in zoning and land use. In addition, urban firms face complex compliance processes and regulations. Moreover, the city’s administration faces financing shortfalls resulting from delays in the receipt of fiscal transfers and low levels of source revenue.

The report concludes with a summary of recommendations to enhance the productivity as well economic growth of Nairobi City County with the overarching goal of creating jobs.

Download the full report here.