Kenya’s next city: Eldoret’s rising profile and its importance to business people

Kikao64 building located along Kenyatta Street, Eldoret Town.

Photo credit: Courtesy

Kenya’s urban population grows at a rate of 4.23 per cent each year. By next year, the UN Habitat’s modelling team predicts that half the country will be living in the cities. 

This is a rapid rate of urbanisation, but as almost predictable when it comes to discourse by the West about Africa, it is framed with expressions of doom and gloom. Kenya’s rate of urbanisation is discussed as a reference to what some analysts describe as an overloading of Kenyan cities.

Such analysts are less fond of letting the world know about how these issues are being solved. Thankfully, those of us who live in the places written about get the benefit of court-side seats as we watch urbanisation’s true expression; how a country deals with its difficulties and embraces its potential.  

Of course, Kenya’s urbanisation has come with teething problems. Inevitably, as we build something new, the old must make way. There is also always a stage, or a few stages, of inconvenience as construction diverts or obstructs the normal operations of a city. Nairobi experienced a particularly awkward stage when the Expressway was going up. Mombasa has had a few inconveniences with the new port infrastructure and the many accompanying roadworks. 

Now, however, Kenya’s cities are starting to take shape. There will always be a need for bigger, better and more infrastructure and the observable, and measurable, rising level of investment in the cities is indicative of the fact that something is clearly being done well. 

None of this is more obvious than in the town expected to be Kenya’s next city: Eldoret. 

Kenya’s soon-to-be fifth city and how its courting investors and commuters

One of the key contributors to Kenya’s overall rate of urbanisation is the growth of Eldoret town. Its population has been growing at a rate that matches the national urban population growth rates, expanding by some 25,000 people each year

This has contributed to calls for Eldoret to be given city status. In January of this year, senators endorsed a report by a House team to do just that: Turn the municipality into a city. 

There is a clear reason why this move is being considered. This is a town that has an international airport, a central railway stop and is made accessible by the modern A104 road. It is well-placed as a link with the agriculturally productive Western Kenya and as the first major urban stop for transnational East African trade. Due to all these, investment has been pouring in.

A brainstorm session in the Kikao64 meeting room.

Photo credit: Courtesy

New businesses are cropping up. Eldoret’s historically strong agricultural and manufacturing industries are now being supplemented by many of the professional and service industry businesses that have come to facilitate their operation and bolster the lives of their employees.

Law firms, insurance companies, records management services and business consultancy operations are just a few of the new professional services supplementing Eldoret’s growing pool of businesses.  

Of course, the services are following the money too. In a clear statement of intent, the Singapore-based ride-sharing app, Yego, which dominates the Rwandese market, recently announced plans to on-board 300 drivers in Eldoret. Kenya Airways also announced they’d be adding five more weekly flights to Eldoret. 

Open seating hot desk space at Kikao64.

Photo credit: Courtesy

Fast food chains are also popping up there with remarkable frequency. This is unsurprising when you consider that, according to Glovo – the food delivery app – Eldoret saw Kenya’s highest growth rate in number of burgers ordered. In 2022, Glovo recorded an 83 per cent increase in the amount of burgers bought through its app.  

If ever it was the case that Eldoret was ignored by the big business of Kenya’s cities, that is no longer the situation. 

Kikao64, a state-of-the-art co-working space located in the centre of town, caters for Eldoret’s professional classes. The facility supports the local community of entrepreneurs and remote workers, as well as cultural and social events. 

Kikao64 has great private offices too, and yes, great coffee is served. Freelancers and executives from elsewhere have taken note, as witnessed through an increase in the number of Nairobi-Eldoret commuters who also patronise the place.

As many of us are aware, Kikao means ‘meeting place’ in Kiswahili and, increasingly, Kikao64’s operators have found their conference rooms and shared offices and other facilities filled with professionals, entrepreneurs, and social enthusiasts looking to work and network.  

It is observable that Eldoret is Kenya’s next big urban hub, and people are noticing.

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