Nairobi is the capital and the largest city of Kenya. The name comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi, which translates to "cool water", a reference to the Nairobi River which flows through the city. It is situated in the south-central part of the country, in the highlands at an elevation of about 5,500 feet (1,680 metres). The city lies 300 miles (480 km) northwest of Mombasa, Kenya’s major port on the Indian Ocean. The city originated in the late 1890s as a colonial railway settlement.
When the railhead arrived there in 1899, the British colonial capital of Ukamba province was transferred from Machakos (now Masaku) to the site, and in 1905 Nairobi became the capital of the British East Africa Protectorate. From about 1900 onward, when a small Indian bazaar was established at Nairobi, the city was also a trading centre. The city is well served by roads and railways. The main routes are southeast and south to Mombasa and Tanzania and northwest via the highlands to Lake Victoria and Uganda. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, 9 miles (15 km) to the southwest, is one of the chief international airports in Africa.
Data and facts
- Nairobi is the most populous county with a population of 4,397,073 people. The capital city's population has grown 40 per cent in the last 10 years from 3,138,369 in 2009, the 2019 census data reveals. This now means Nairobi accounts for 9.2 per cent of the country's total population.
- The capital, located 5,889 feet (1,795 meters) above sea level, occupies an area measuring 269 square miles (697 square kilometers).
- The Uhuru Park, rescued from destruction by the enormous efforts of the Nobel Prize Laureate, Wangari Maathai, is popular for holding rallies, public speech and services. Central Park close to Uhuru Park is recognized for having a memorial of the first Kenyan President, Jomo Kenyatta. Jeevanjee Gardens, 7 August Memorial Park and Nairobi Arboretum are the other spectacular open places in Nairobi.
- Nairobi’s rapid growth has seen an increase in the number of modern shopping complexes.
- Nairobi, being the capital of Kenya, is a central attraction for Kenyan tourism and local and international activities and events.
- As the largest center of business and trade in East Africa, Nairobi is also the regional location of and headquarters for various international companies and organizations. The central business district also houses many of Kenya's big businesses and banks, including the Nairobi Stock Exchange. Being the center of government and its organizations, Nairobi is the city where most business is transacted.
- Although Nairobi is situated a few degrees south of the equator, its high altitude – between 1660m and 1800m above sea level—means that the city’s climate is mild year-round.
- London has red buses, New York has it’s taxi cabs, the Philippines has the Jeepneys, New Delhi auto rickshaws, Nairobi has its matatus. Matatu is slang for mini buses that are used as public transportation in Kenya. In Nairobi, public transportation is the norm for majority of the population. Matatus play a critical role in providing city dwellers with transport. Graffiti from pop culture, music icons and contemporary topics adorn the sides of the matatus in a show of artistic prowess. The more colorful the van, the more famous it is and the more likely it is to attract passengers.
The City of Nairobi enjoys the status of a full administrative County. The Nairobi province differs in several ways from other Kenyan regions. The county is entirely urban. It has only one local council, Nairobi City Council. Nairobi Province was not divided into "districts" until 2007, when three districts were created. In 2010, along with the new constitution, Nairobi was renamed a county. Nairobi County has 17 constituencies. Constituency name may differ from division name, such that Starehe Constituency is equal to Central Division, Lang'ata Constituency to Kibera division, and Kamukunji Constituency to Pumwani Division in terms of boundaries.
Kenya has the most vibrant economy in East Africa, and Nairobi is the main commercial center of the country. Nairobi has a well-developed infrastructure, including modern financial and communications systems. Leading domestic (Kenya Commercial Bank) and international banks (Barclays, Citibank, Standard Chartered) operate out of Nairobi. Kenya also has a relatively well-developed industrial base, which accounts for some 20 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Nairobi is also the largest industrial center. The principal products include processed food, beer, vehicles, soaps, construction material, engineering, textiles, and chemicals. There is also a thriving sector that provides employment to carpenters, metal workers, furniture makers, vehicle repairmen, and retailers. The cornerstone of Kenya's economy is agriculture, which employs around 80 percent of the population, contributes 29 percent of the GDP, and accounts for over 50 percent of the country's export earnings. The areas around Nairobi are prime agricultural lands. The principal food crops are maize, sorghum, cassava, beans, and fruit. Cash crops, such as coffee, are grown by small-scale farmers. Horticulture is a new agricultural growth sector. Flower exports are an important source of foreign exchange.
In 2018 the county released its first Nairobi Metropolitan Area Infrastructure Report which sought to identify the distribution, supply, stock, deficit, needs, and investment opportunities in the Kenyan infrastructural sector with a bias to the Nairobi Metropolitan Area. According to the report, the Government of Kenya will have invested at least Kshs 3.9 tn in the infrastructure sector between 2012 and 2022. Electricity will have received the highest investment of approximately Kshs 1.7 tn, accounting for 41.9% of total funds invested driven by increased geothermal power generation and large scale projects such as The Last Mile Connectivity Program and the Rural Electrification Program. However, roads sector continues to have the highest number of projects, completed and upcoming, accounting for 67.3% of the total infrastructure projects.
Nairobi is home to the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE), one of Africa's largest stock exchanges. The NSE was officially recognised as an overseas stock exchange by the London Stock Exchange in 1953. The exchange is Africa's 4th largest in terms of trading volumes, and 5th largest in terms of Market Capitalization as a percentage of GDP. Nairobi is the regional headquarters of several international companies and organizations. In 2007, General Electric, Young & Rubicam, Google, Coca-Cola, IBM Services, and Cisco Systems relocated their African headquarters to the city.The United Nations Office at Nairobi hosts UN Environment and UN-Habitat headquarters. Several of Africa's largest companies are headquartered in Nairobi. Safaricom, the largest company in Kenya by assets and profitability is headquartered in Nairobi, KenGen, which is the largest African stock outside South Africa. is based in the city. Kenya Airways, Africa's fourth largest airline, uses Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as a hub. Nairobi has not been left behind by the FinTech phenomenon that has taken over worldwide. It has produced a couple of tech firms like Craft Silicon, Kangai Technologies, and Jambo Pay which have been in the forefront of technology, innovation and cloud based computing services. Their products are widely used and have considerable market share presence within Kenya and outside its borders.