What makes Eastleigh tick as Nairobi’s economic hub

Wednesday, February 1st, 2023 05:57 | By
'Mkokoteni' pullers at Juja road entry of Eastleigh on May 7, 2022. PHOTO/GEORGE KEBASO

A booming construction industry in Nairobi’s Eastleigh has changed the area’s skyline, positioning it as a key pillar in the growth of the county. 

Eastleigh, which is said to contribute nearly 30 per cent of the revenues for Nairobi county – making it a key business district, is currently on a major vertical expansion spree.

The development saw Governor Johnson Sakaja ask President William Ruto to overturn a military directive that prohibits high-rise buildings near the military airbase.

“The economy of Eastleigh is larger than the economy of Rwanda, Mr President, you are the commander in chief, just help us create space for the expansion of Eastleigh,” Sakaja said in Kamukunji during an affordable housing event attended by Ruto.

The height of the flats was being controlled due to the flight path considerations and security installations related to Moi Airbase. Africa’s largest mall was recently completed in Eastleigh positioning it as a desirable residential and business hub. Business Bay Square (BBS) is expected to host two hospitals, a five-star hotel, and several shopping stores raising Kenya’s profile as a shopping destination.

“The mall will attract a lot of people within and outside the country, the mall will add a lot of value to Eastleigh and the general economy, it will be a city within a city,” said Omar Ibrahim, secretary general of Eastleigh Business Association.

Low-storey buildings

This comes even as developers continue to demolish low-storey buildings to build up where possible amidst restrictions from the nearby military base.

Eastleigh, which already enjoys heavy business activities in merchandise trade, continues to attract investments driven largely by the Somali and Islamic communities helped by their low to zero-interest credit facilities that defy the high interest rates environment.

“What makes Eastleigh grow very fast is that people of Eastleigh from all over the world pull money together. For instance, 10 people put Sh10 million together each to buy Sh100 million land and sell off plane properties to people who pay a deposit,” said Ibrahim.

“It is a trust issue that is driving the business in Eastleigh area, the people who pay deposits can pay slowly without interest at a period of time without pressure, that convenience is making Eastleigh to grow very fast,” said Ibrahim.

The sub-county has the fourth highest building permit approvals in Nairobi with an average of 40 permits every year according to County officials.

“Out of the 17 sub-counties in Nairobi, it is falling at number four in terms of development approvals. Eastleigh for the last five years has submitted over 240 projects,” said Maurice Aketch, National Construction Authority director.

“You may go to some quarries around Nairobi and if you follow those trucks carrying stones, a good number of them will likely end up in Eastleigh,” he said, pointing to the booming state of construction in the area. Ibrahim says finding a house in Eastleigh is hard due to the high demand with developers getting customers before their projects are complete. 

A Hass Consult index released two years ago shows that housing prices in the area had risen three times compared to 2017.

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