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​Unlocking the Potential of Nairobi

A Transformation towards a Smart, Sustainable, Inclusive, Resilient and Prosperous City

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​The city of Nairobi is among the four the African cities covered in this book. A smart city is viewed as a sustainable, inclusive and prosperous city that promotes a people-centric approach based on three core components - Smart City Foundation, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Smart Institutions and Laws. These three core components are the pillars of the seven dimensions of a smart city: Infrastructure Development, Environmental Sustainability, Social Development, Social Inclusion, Disasters Exposure, Resilience, and Peace and Security. The collective of these components and dimensions determine a Smart City Economy.Read more


The Nairobi's case study is based on four chapters:

  • Smart City Foundation, the Core Pillar for Smart Economic Development in Nairobi

  • Infrastructure Development in Nairobi: Widening the Path Towards a Smart City and Smart Economic Development

  • Social Development and Security for Smart Economic Development

  • ​Towards Smart Economic Development in Nairobi: Evaluating Smart City Economy Impacts and Opportunities and Challenges for Smart Growth

Smart City Foundation, the Core Pillar for Smart Economic Development in Nairobi

The distribution of the services is also unequal, with better access and reliability being evidenced in the wealthier neighbourhoods and limited access coupled with unreliable supply witnessed in the poor settlements. ​These distribution patterns mean that the poor spend more time and resources accessing the services, thus limiting their productive hours and also reducing their disposable income that can be invested in income generating and wealth creating opportunities. The chapter also identifies that as a fast technology consumer, Nairobi can leverage on various emerging approaches to basic service provision, which have already been tried and proven to work in the poorest parts of the city, the slums. The integration of some of the emerging smart technologies, in addition to more core investments in the development of various city foundation components will promotes equitable growth for all residents, creating the required framework for smart economic growth. Read more.

This chapter discusses the evolution of the various components of Nairobi’s city foundation and highlights how the existing and future patterns are defining the city’s prospects for smart growth. The key finding is that Nairobi’s rapid population and spatial growth has happened without adequate planning, which has greatly affected the basic services provision. 

Infrastructure Development in Nairobi: Widening the Path Towards a Smart City and Smart Economic Development

Infrastructure development in Kenya, particularly investments in Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), electricity, and transport infrastructure have been in rapid positive transition. These developments, which have been promoted by a friendly policy framework and hugely benefited from foreign assistance, have largely been beneficial for Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. In just under two decades, Nairobi has grown to near universal mobile phone penetration and internet connectivity is above 60%. The city is now one of the most important ICT innovation cities in Africa, with several incubation centres, a growing number of ICT professionals and a youthful population that is technology savvy. These developments have opened Nairobi to many economic growth opportunities. 

This chapter discusses the level of infrastructure development in Nairobi and Kenya in general, particularly developments in ICT, energy and transport and how these are giving the city a comparative advantage against other African cities for smart growth. The key findings are that, with the exception of ICT, growth in other infrastructure sectors has been slow and largely unequal. The chapter also identifies that adoption of ICTs has been working towards improving efficiency in the existing and although the progress is slow, the future prospects for high efficient ICT integrated systems are high. Read more.

Social Development and Security for Smart Economic Development
A city’s future sustainable growth and prosperity depends upon its investment in education, health, peace, security and other social capital stocks. Successful cities create a peaceful and secure environment for investment; encourage high human capital development through well-educated and healthy citizens; and such cities report lower levels of inequalities and poverty. Advances in information and communication technologies in the past few decades have enabled globalization, which is itself associated with urban growth and development. Recent studies have however also noted that globalization is making cities vulnerable in new ways, especially by opening them up to destructive networks that undermine security and development. Therefore, smart cities must continuously make efforts to raise the competencies and quality of its citizens and thereby improve its competitiveness, increase innovations and overcome other challenges such as unemployment, insecurity and lawlessness. Read more.

This chapter highlights the enormous efforts that Nairobi city has made in addressing and improving its safety and the social capital of its citizens through investments in technological advancements in health, education and security services as part of its developmental pathway to achieving a smart city status. The chapter discusses insights, challenges and opportunities presented by Nairobi’s demographic dividend, its growing human capital and improving security status alongside its emerging economic opportunities, which together are expected to turn the city into a globally competitive and smart city.

Towards Smart Economic Development in Nairobi: Evaluating Smart City Economy Impacts and Opportunities and Challenges for Smart Growth

​​In a country where the productive sectors of the economy (manufacturing) are overshadowed by both agriculture and low technology small scale enterprises and informal activities, this goal seems far-fetched. Recent investments in infrastructure development, and particularly on information communication technologies (ICTs) have however opened a new growth trend, which when properly explored could trigger rapid economic growth, and help the country achieve the 2030 goal. Rapid adoption of ICTs in various economic sectors, particularly the growth of e-commerce, e-finance and e-governance, coupled with friendly policies and a rapidly emerging middle class  are already causing an economic revolution, particularly in Nairobi - the country’s capital city and commercial hub. Read more.

This chapter explores Nairobi’s economic growth trajectory within the framework of Kenya’s long and short term economic goals. It identifies that an ICT driven smart economic growth revolution has started in the city, in both the formal and informal sectors, and establishes that there are massive opportunities for sustained growth. These opportunities, which emanate from increasing investment in ICT infrastructure development, ICT education, an innovative population and suitable government policies, will greatly help shape the country’s economic growth in the next decade. The chapter also identifies that challenges such as cyber-security, a thin manufacturing sector, slow adoption of e-commerce, a hugely informal economy, and little research on innovative technologies and their adoption are limiting the city’s smart transition.

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