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CHANGING THE NARRATIVE OF URBAN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Updated: Jul 9


The Sustainable Urban Economic Development (SUED) programme has been working to strengthen urban economic development in municipalities around Kenya since 2018. Crucial to that work has been building the support and buy-in from leaders and officials in those municipalities – bringing them on board with the new narrative for their town or city’s economic future. In this blog, the SUED team highlight their recommendations for how to make this essential engagement work.


SUED’s premise is that the sustainable growth of Kenya’s municipalities is inherently linked to their ability to attract investment to drive economic development. As a programme its interventions are aimed at being catalytic in nature, spurring growth in urban centres that have previously been economically marginalised. The municipalities that the programme is working in, however, currently have poor infrastructure, which deters significant private investment


To start addressing this, SUED has worked with each municipality to help them determine the most viable economic sectors – including infrastructure projects – that will help unlock the economic potential of the municipalities. To prioritise certain sectors of the economy and determine what level of infrastructure investment the local government needs to put in place to attract investors.


SUED has worked closely with the technical staff at the municipality level, to change the narrative and develop a robust investment attraction strategy. To do this, the SUED team has employed a number of approaches and learnt key lessons:


  1. First, the local government teams must want to play an active and effective role in the economic transformation of their urban centres. To encourage this, the SUED team has helped develop opportunities for teams to take active roles in local stakeholder engagement. SUED has provided them with critical data and information that helps the municipalities take ownership of identifying the most viable economic opportunities. They have also been able to actively participate in discourse on future economic interventions using the logistical and technical support that SUED has been able to provide.

  2. Second, the municipalities must be willing to learn and adapt to new approaches in carrying out their roles. New learning platforms offer opportunities for collaboration and help them identify best practices that they can replicate. This also helps perpetuate a culture of internal sharing to ensure alignment on implementation of their economic development strategy. SUED has utilised consultative forums between municipalities for this, and has created a convening group for internal municipal lesson sharing that advocates for the early adoption of new processes in urban economic development.

  3. And third they must be bold enough to aggressively implement strategies that will draw in investments into their localities. SUED has worked with civic officials to develop economic strategies and plans – and it is up to them to make sure they are used. These plans will help ensure that they brand the municipalities by the viable economic sectors to woo investors into their localities.


SUED has worked with the municipal and county leadership to determine which staff should champion which projects. After identifying these staff, we helped with tasking them to proactively implement investment promotion strategies on selected projects.


We facilitated training for more than 40 staff members on how to determine which infrastructure and value chain projects were ready for investment. There were webinars, workshops, case studies and a session to help familiarise them with the process of coaching. Speaking after the training Isiolo’s Municipal Manager- Halake Osman said, “I’ve learned how detailed the pre-feasibility process is, I can now apply that knowledge when determining which projects, I should pitch to investors ensuring that I share those that are most investor ready. By doing so we will be able to gain investor confidence in our municipality.”


With the training, the municipalities are better equipped to package their projects while demonstrating the critical linkage between essential infrastructure and viable economic opportunities. SUED’s support has gone beyond helping the municipalities to develop a viable urban economic strategy: it is ensuring that the municipalities and counties are able to actualise it. In doing so, the leadership at county and municipal levels are able to drive inclusive economic growth that is geared towards local financial reliance and a commitment to providing responsive urban services. And these economically stronger municipalities lead to financially resilient counties, which are the founding blocs of an economically vibrant and diverse country.