Nairobi, Kenya Overview

By | September 5, 2021

According to abbreviationfinder, Nairobi is the capital of Kenya, on the Athi plain in the highlands east of the East African Rift, 1,670 m above sea level, with (2019) 4.39 million residents in the agglomeration, the largest city in the country.

Nairobi is the seat of an Anglican, a Catholic and a Greek Orthodox Archbishop, several international organizations (e.g. UN, development aid organizations) and the venue for international congresses; University (founded in 1956 as Royal Technical College of East Africa, 1963–70 part of the University of East Africa), Kenyatta University (founded 1965), Technical University, Conservatory, technical schools, research institutes, national archive (with a collection of contemporary Kenyan art), library, museum (with prehistoric section for East African rock art), Karen Blixen Museum; SOS Children’s Villages. Nairobi is the country’s most important economic center and an important financial center in Africa; Trade fairs, coffee auctions; Food, textile, ceramic (especially tableware), cigarette, Shoe, soap, car tire, pharmaceutical and chemical industries, car production (General Motors, Toyota); Transport hub, railway connection with the port city Mombasa, two airports: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson International.


In the town center there are examples of colonial architecture from the British era; The Jamia Mosque (1902-06), the largest mosque in Kenya, is also located here. Examples of modern architecture are the Kenyatta Conference Center (completed in 1983) and the numerous branches of international companies. Extensive slum areas stretch out on the outskirts. – Immediately south of the city is the Nairobi National Park (120 km 2; East African large game; breeding station for orphans).


Founded in 1899 as a depot on the railway line from the coast to Uganda, Nairobi became the capital of the British Protectorate of East Africa in 1905.

Early settlement

Man’s first ancestors lived in East Africa 2 to 4 million years ago; Stone Age cultures are documented from 200,000 years ago. Between 2000 and 1000 BC South Cushites immigrated from Ethiopia and Somalia into what is now Kenya; around 1000 BC Nilots emigrated from the Nile Valley and from 500 BC. BC to AD 500, Bantus came from West Africa. Between 650 and 800 Arab and Persian trading establishments arose on the coast. Mixing with the local population, Islam spread between 1000 and 1500. At the same time, Swahili culture developed, with Swahili as the language, and the city-states of Mombasa and Malindi emerged on the coast. In the 16th century the Portuguese and in the 18th century Arabs from Oman conquered this stretch of coast.

Colonial times

From 1848/49 the exploration of the interior by Europeans began. In 1890 Germany and Great Britain agreed on their spheres of interest in East Africa: Germany limited itself to Tanganyika with Rwanda and Urundi, Great Britain received Kenya and Uganda (“Heligoland-Sansibar Treaty”). The Imperial British East Africa Company, founded in 1887, occupied all of Kenya to secure access to Uganda. In 1895, the British government proclaimed the Protectorate of East Africa in Mombasa, which was converted into the Crown Colony of Kenya in 1920 and part of British East Africa in 1922. The coastal strip, still formally under the Sultan of Zanzibar, remained a protectorate and only became a province of Kenya with independence in 1963.

European colonization of the highlands began before 1914. After the First World War, the white settlers (then around 12,500) received half of the votes in the Legislative Council, but did not gain control over the executive branch. The Kikuyu in particular felt their existence threatened by the colonial conquest of the whites. They responded as early as 1920 by forming a protest movement, the Kikuyu Central Association. From it emerged in 1946 the Kenya African Union (KAU), whose leadership in 1947 was Kikuyu J. Kenyatta took over. Since 1950, many Kikuyu have also protested in oaths against the supremacy of the 66,000 or so whites (who made up 1% of the population, but had appropriated 25% of the fertile land). The oaths also began to oppose Africans who served or collaborated with the colonists. The British colonial government gave the insurgents the name “Mau-Mau”, they called themselves “Freedom Fighters” and later “Kenya Land and Freedom Army” (banned in 1951). In October 1952, a state of emergency was declared, banning KAU, Kenyatta and 100 other opposition leaders arrested and sentenced. By the time the uprising was put down at the end of 1956, 95 Europeans and around 14,000 to an estimated 20,000 Africans died (1,800 of them “collaborators”); 100,000 were arrested. Up to 1 million Kikuyu, the majority of the people, have been forcibly relocated. After a number of constitutional reforms introduced in 1957, the Kenya African National Union (KANU) was founded in 1960 under Luo Oginga Odinga (* 1912, † 1994) and Tom Mboya (* 1930, † 1969), who led the trade union movement. Kenyatta, still in exile, became president. On December 12, 1963, Kenya became a monarchy under the leadership of the African majority, and on December 12, 1964 as a republic in the Commonwealth Kenyatta gained independence as President, after an independent African government had existed since 1960 with the approval of the British authorities.

Nairobi, Kenya Overview