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This publication is part of the series The Socio-Economic Development in Turkana West, Kenya. Volume II: A Report on Businesses and the Local Economic Development.
This report focuses on the North Rift region and Turkana County in the wider northern region of Kenya, the country’s least urbanized, particularly in areas considered to be Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs). The publication examines urbanization specifically in the North Rift Economic Bloc (NOREB) in relation to its local and regional contexts.
NOREB consists of eight counties: Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nandi, Samburu, Trans Nzoia, Turkana, Uasin Gishu, and West Pokot. The analysis primarily relies on secondary data but was limited by scant information, which was often aggregated at the county level, and therefore lacked focus on individual urban centres in the region.
The analysis shows that urbanization patterns are different in ASAL regions, less urbanized, compared to areas where crop farming is the dominant economic activity and tend to feature concentrated populations and more urban centres.
However, geographical factors are superseded by migration as the main driving force of urbanization in the NOREB region. These are rural-urban migrations, triggered by various factors such as drought and famine in the ASALs, and youth seeking alternative livelihoods to livestock and farming.
Forced displacement from neighbouring countries, such as South Sudan and Somalia, has seen Turkana County record a unique form of urbanization that is associated with refugee influxes to camps at Kakuma and Kalobeyei. These refugee camps co-exist with small towns and host communities.
The research reveals that urbanization trends and challenges across NOREB are not uniform and therefore mixed approaches are needed to address them. This report and its research brief, propose recommendations and strategic interventions to promote sustainable urbanization in the region.