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Rift Valley Institute

Making local knowledge work

Eldoret, a city on the move

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The Rift Valley Institute’s Rural to urban mobility project aims to better understand the dynamics of rural to urban migration and the ways in which this phenomenon impacts the social and infrastructural fabric of cities in East Africa. It is conducted within the framework of the Research and Evidence Facility on Migration in the Horn of Africa, supported by the EU Trust Fund. It is carried out in three secondary cities in East Africa: Dire Dawa, EthiopiaGulu, Uganda; and Eldoret, Kenya. Although secondary cities have witnessed tremendous growth in the past few decades, playing an important role between rural and urban areas, most research on rural to urban migration is conducted in capital cities. Hence, a study of migration to secondary cities is particularly relevant and timely.

This study looks at rural–urban mobility in Eldoret, a fast-growing secondary city of about 300,000 people located in Kenya’s Rift Valley. The city is perceived as a dynamic urban centre attracting many newcomers due to its business opportunities, strategic location and renowned health and educational institutions. On the one hand, this influx is considered positive because it has given Eldoret more significance at the national level and has contributed to its image as a dynamic and cosmopolitan city. On the other hand, such dramatic growth has led to challenges in terms of urban development.

The continuous influx of people has resulted in the mushrooming of informal settlements and has put a strain on public amenities and housing. At the socio-cultural level, the influx of migrants has contributed to more mingling and exchange of ideas across communities. This influx has, however, also led to heightened tribalism that can fuel political violence around election periods.

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