Positioning Kisii Municipality as a Preferred Investment Destination

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Positioning Kisii Municipality as a Preferred Investment Destination by Ensuring Urban Planning Instruments Work


Urbanisation is an accelerator of economic development and brings with it transformational changes in the spatial distribution of people and resources impacting physical land use. The level of urbanisation has significantly increased in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) especially in countries such as Kenya where the demand by the peri-urban population is driving the expansion of existing urban areas. Urbanisation in Kenya has been driven by three main interrelated factors: a) the emergence of new urban centers (intermediary cities/municipalities), b) expansion of existing urban areas due to increased demand for urban services and c) rural-urban migration. This increase in urbanisation if not well-managed may not lead to the intended accelerated economic growth that is envisioned. As such there is need to prioritise the responsive use of urban spaces (including Kisii) in order to guide inward investments and encourage prudent land use and natural resources to ensure sustainability.


To mitigate against this, partnering with the Kenyan Government, the UK Government through its Sustainable Urban Economic Development Programme (SUED), has supported 121 municipalities/intermediary cities to develop Urban Economic Plans (UEPs)2 The UEP amalgamises the intermediary cities development and economic plans and captures how its utilisation in future development will shape the expansion of the urban center. The UEPs are effective in guiding these newly formed municipalities to:

a) Allocate Resources: The UEPs have helped the intermediary cities focus on their available resources (both natural and man-made) to address their unique economic growth deterrents

b) Increase Delivery: The UEPs capture within them the projects that need to be prioritised to improve the economic conditions in the municipality to attract investors. The projects are realistically assessed and help the municipality determine where to prioritise spending

c) Attract Investors: Government and private investors now have access to a clear urban development plan that informs their priorities and enables them to determine which projects they would like to partner with the County/Municipality leadership to bring to fruition

d) Improve rural-urban linkages: Integration of both rural and peri-urban priorities and resources to the urban centers as a way for economic diversification

e) Promote co-ordination between local, regional, and national government: by having in place a plan that integrates national priorities to strengthen regional growth, the national government will work with the intermediary cities to create an environment that promotes a viable long-term economic development by integrating the urban centers into economic growth hubs in the country

The development of the UEPs entailed a participatory process that incorporated community priorities within the broader development framework that would guide the future municipal economic development. While the UEP provides an economic growth template there remains a need within these municipalities to develop an Integrated Strategic Urban Development Plan (ISUDP) that will enable them to bring to life their development vision. Land use zones and regulations remain much needed in intermediary cities to ensure that as the trend of land use changes due to growing urbanisation that places a demand on land for nonagricultural use, there is in place legislation based on a plan that clearly outlines the municipal boundaries and informs land use to deter unregulated urban development.

1 Lake Region Economic Bloc- Bungoma and Kisii, North Rift Economic Bloc – Eldoret and Iten, Frontier Counties Development Council- Isiolo and Mandera, Mt. Kenya and Aberdares Region Economic Bloc- Kathwana and Kerugoya/Kutus, South Eastern Economic Bloc- Kitui and Wote, Jumuiya Ya Kaunti Za Pwani- Malindi and Lamu.

In Kisii Municipality, one of SUED supported municipalities, there has been rapid growth that has been unplanned and haphazard due to the lack of an Integrated Strategic Urban Development Plan (ISUDP). In its UEP, SUED helped the Municipality to prioritise the development of the ISUDP as previous attempts to develop one had not been successful and as a result the Municipality growth was unplanned and in haphazard patterns. Its most recent plan had expired in 1972 which showed the critical need to develop one that could factor in the expansion of the municipal boundaries from 25 square kilometres into 77square kilometres.

With the programme’s support and in partnership with the Kisii County, the Municipality was able to engage a private firm that helped them develop the ISUDP.

“The UEP helped put things in perspective for us. We could see that while we had a great economic vision, we need to plan our town better to accommodate future growth and decongest it in order to open it up for investors.” – Shares Jamil Shamji – Kisii’s Municipal Board Chair.

With Kisii being among the fastest growing towns in Kenya demographically and economically, the lack of a spatial plan to guide its growth has resulted in a) uncontrolled urban development, b) undefined municipal boundary hence jurisdiction challenges, c) road encroachment by the locals, d) disregard for the environment sensitive areas such as riverbeds and indigenous forests among other. There was need to ensure that a physical planning document was availed to guide the Municipality’s future development.

The development of the ISUDP entailed the reviewing of various planning documents that had been developed by the Municipality such as the UEP to determine the projected growth of the Municipality. It needed to bring to life what the economic visionary documents had captured. As such, its development needed context setting. There was need to ensure that the ISUDP would be anchored within the various statutory requirements and policy guidelines such as the Kenyan Constitution, the National Urban Development Policy, National Spatial Plan, the Physical and Land Use Planning Act, the County Government Act as well as the Urban Areas and Cities Act of 2011.

“I wasn’t aware that the most recent ISUDP for the Municipality is over 40 years overdue. The development of this ISUDP is positioning us to better engage with investors, see how to strengthen our environmental plans, determine how to deliver quality urban services, and prepare a framework for land management which will ensure that Kisii maintains its strong focus of integrating economic, social, cultural, and environmental aspects of development.” Stated Kisii County Deputy Governor H.E. Dr Robert Monda.

Prior to commencing the development of the ISUDP, there was need to ensure that its objectives were internally aligned within the Municipality’s key stakeholders. As a result, the objectives identified for the ISUDP were:

1. Define and delineate clear boundary of the Municipality to guide planning and resource allocation

2. Define a vision for future growth and the development of the are over 20 years

3. Provide an overall integrated strategic urban development planning framework for urban growth of Kisii Municipality

4. Develop a realistic implementation plan for all identified projects along with capital investment plan.


To achieve the objectives, the Technical Team categorised the ISUDP scope into two - one that was geared towards surveying while the other on planning. The surveying helped in identifying the topography of the Municipality while the planning involved assessing the socio-economic, physical, environmental, and cultural dynamics of the urban area to better understand the land use of the Municipality. The development of the ISUDP was phased into six. The first phase was the inception phase where the team had a stakeholder engagement session to form project implementation committees and to validate the methodology and workplan that will be used. The second phase was key as it helped the Technical Team

together with the Municipality determine the boundary of the Municipality to enable the correct georeferencing to be made. It entailed aerial and digital topography mapping. The third phase was geared towards literature review to better understand the sectoral needs and analyse them for future proofing and planning. The fourth phase was aimed at developing a digital topographical map that would be used. While the fifth phase was aimed at developing a feasible land use plan and stating zoning regulations that should be followed which culminated into the sixth phase which was the completion of the implementation framework, the capital investment plan, the ISUDP and the final survey plan.

Kisii Municipality now has a forward-thinking spatial planning document that will ensure that its urban centers growth incrementally with direction.

“The past years have seen us faced with numerous challenges due to not having an ISUDP, now that we have it, we will be able to address congestion, uncontrolled development and flooding making our Municipality a sustainable urban centre” Shared Jamil Shamji- Kisii Municipality Board Chair.

Nahashon Ongeri, Kisii Municipal Manager said “I’m glad that the plan covers the entire Municipality and has factored within it the development constraints it has as well as the potential for growth. This ISUDP really is a spatial framework for economic growth.

With SUED’s support, Kisii Municipality has gone from not having a spatial plan for the past 40 years to having one that guides it for the next 20 years.

“It’s a milestone for the Municipality. We now have a transport strategy zoning guidelines, urban drainage and road network framework that informs our future growth” stated Nahshon Ongeri, Municipal Manager Kisii Municipality.

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