12 Factors that have led to the growth of urban centres in East Africa

12 Factors that have led to the growth of urban centres in East Africa

  • Population increase: Rapid population increase usually leads to increased pressure on land in rural areas.. Thus, people are forced to go and look for a way to earn a living elsewhere. They often migrate to urban centres resulting into high population growth rates and urban growth.

  • Industrialization: Industrialization leads to increased income opportunities which attract people to reside close to them. Thika and Athi River are examples of towns whose population concentrations may be explained in terms of high concentration of manufacturing units in their vicinity.
  • Administration: The concentration of administrative functions at a specific location often attracts public attention. People tend to prefer living close to leaders because they feel more secure and can easily receive the leaders’ attention. This explains why most of the county headquarters in Kenya are also the biggest towns in their respective counties
  • Mining: Substantial deposits of a mineral ore can attract economic activity and subsequent population concentration. Population concentration leads to urbanization, as the mining community has to be provided with basic facilities such as shopping, houses, sanitation, medical and academic institutions. Examples of such towns include Magadi (Kenya), Shinyanga (Tanzania) and Kasese (Uganda).
  • Transportation: Improved transportation enables urban residents to participate in more urban-based activities at greater distances from their residence. Urban centres can also develop from major junctions and points of inter-modal transfer (break-of-bulk). Coastal towns such as Lamu, Mombasa, Tanga and Dar-es-Salaam owe their origin to transport related advantages.
  • Agriculture: Rich agricultural areas often witness the emergence of urban centres. Such areas require nearby local markets for their agricultural produce, and distribution outlets of agricultural inputs, such as fertilizers and farm implements. Examples include Mumias, Eldoret, Nakuru, Nyahururu, and Nanyuki.

  • Tourism: Tourism may lead to urban growth and development. It is an economic activity and attracts infrastructure, investment and people. Examples include Ukunda and Malindi (Kenya).
  • Education. Establishment of educational institutions such as universities and colleges can contribute to urban growth. The growth of Eldoret town is partly attributed to the presence of Moi University, University of Eldoret and Eldoret Polytechnic.


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