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Nairobi is the capital of Kenya, and is the country’s largest city. Nairobi city and the surrounding areas lie in the district of Nairobi County, one of 46 districts in Kenya. Nairobi is the most populist city in East Africa, with an estimated population of 3.375 million people, estimated in 2009.

The city lies over an area of 696km2, creating a population density of 4849 people per km2. It is found at an elevation of 1661 metres.

Nairobi came into being in the 1890s, a simple depot on the edge of a small stream on the East Africa railway route between Mombasa and Uganda. Nairobi gets its name from the Maasai people who in its beginnings knew it as uaso nairobi – ‘cold water’. It was the capital of British East Africa until it became a free republic in 1963.

Nairobi has grown into a city of great importance in Eastern Africa, a transport hub with a solid infrastructure, financial and industrial strength, well balanced with culture.

The current mayor of Nairobi is George Aladwa. English is largely spoken, but Swahili is also to a substantial degree. They both take the role of the official language for Kenya. A knowledge of basic Swahili would aid travel and communication, as the two languages are often mixed.

The currency of Kenya is the Kenyan Shilling (KES). There are roughly 145 KES to GBP£1.


Nairobi is the commercial centre of Kenya. The NSE (Nairobi Stock Exchange) is considered one of the largest stock exchanges in Africa and is officially recognised by the London Stock Exchange. Nairobi has attracted many overseas organisations and companies, creating an advanced financial hub in East Africa. Large multinational banks such as Barclays, Citibank, Standard Chartered operate out of Nairobi.

As well as its financial power, Nairobi’s economy is greatly bolstered by industry and manufacturing. It is estimated that as much as 20% of Kenya’s GDP as a whole is generated through industry, on which Nairobi has a large influence, being Kenya’s most industrialised city. Areas of industry include food manufacture, metal works and construction and textiles.

As a nation, Kenya’s economy relies heavily on its agricultural output and trade. It is thought that as much as 30% of Kenya’s GDP is derived from agriculture, and that this sector employs around 75% of the population. The fertile areas around Nairobi are used extensively to produce beans, maize and fruit. Kenya’s coffee is world famous, usually grown by small scale farmers.

Just outside Nairobi lie a number of areas of natural beauty – national parks, forests and nature reserves. Tying into these areas, tourists are increasingly important to and catered for in Nairobi. High end tourist accommodation and facilities can be found across the city.

The International Kenya Conference Centre hosts many international meetings and conferences, situated amongst world class hotels for delegates from around the world.


Nairobi is served by Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA). It is the largest international airport in East Africa, providing important transit between the eastern and central nations. As well as linking the countries of Africa, it also serves the United States and Canada, the UK and mainland European destinations. It is estimated JKIA serves around 5million passengers each year. The airport lies some 20km outside of the main business district in the city.

Driving by road can be chaotic. However, plans to upgrade and improve Nairobi’s road networks are high on the transport ‘Vision 2030’ agenda. Sept 2011 saw a number of organisations - East African Community (EAC), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) – meet in conference to discuss infrastructure projects along the Northern, Central, Lamu and Djibouti corridors. Nairobi also lies on highways that link Mombasa, Kenya’s second largest city, to Uganda’s capital Kampala, and also to Arusha in northern Tanzania.

Trains are operated by Kenyan Railways, the main route running from the east coast at Mombasa through Nairobi to Kampala. The line is instrumental to the transport of freight across the wider area, though passenger services do also run. There is no metro system at present but the infrastructure strategy, Nairobi Metro 2030, aims to tackle this.

Buses, matatus (public bus-taxis) and taxis run extremely often through the city. Whilst matatus offer the cheapest way to travel, they are also noted for the poor safety records. Bus operators offer a more relaxed journey, and taxis offer the most convenient and safe way to get across the city. While expensive compared to public transport, they remain an economical way to travel.


It is thought that 75% of Kenya’s workforce is employed in the agricultural sector. While many individuals in Nairobi are employed in this industry, the status Nairobi enjoys as Kenya’s financial and industrial heart has created a skilled labour force of engineers and tradesmen. The adult literacy rate is currently estimated at 74%.

Children in Kenya receive their first 8 years of primary school tuition-free through the government. Nairobi has a number of universities including the University of Nairobi, the oldest in the country, which has international ties with higher education institutions in London, Rome and Belgium. The Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture also covers engineering and scientific degrees and research.

Religion plays an important part in the day to day life throughout Kenya. It is thought 82.6% of the population is Christian, 11.2% Muslim, with other traditional African religions accounting for 5% of the population.

Business Costs

Corporate tax in Kenya can be considerable. The tax rate of 30% is applied to all incorporated companies, whilst for non resident companies it is 37.5%. Reduced rates of between - 20-27% - are given to newly listed companies for 3-5 years.

Tax relief can be given to those companies within export processing zones that manufacture goods for export only, for a period of ten years. On from this, the rate settles at 25%.

VAT is currently at 16% as the standard rate, and in Kenya replaces Sales Tax. Zero rated supplies include goods for export, and also the import of goods that will help the wider society, such as goods to aid agriculture, health and education.

Personal tax is applied in increments of 5 percent from 10% up to 30% on any amounts exceeding KES 466,704.
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