By Christine Mungai
If you are a teacher, nurse, doctor, hotelier or contractor looking for a job, don’t go to Nairobi, there are no longer opportunities there.
The job creating machinery that was Nairobi years ago is increasingly slowing down and other major towns are emerging the biggest employment zones in the country, fresh government statistics show.
This is according to data contained in the Kenya’s Economic Survey 2012 launched last week which showed that the bulk of the 520,000 new jobs created in 2011, were in other smaller towns such as
Mombasa, Eldoret and Nakuru. Contrary to expectations that Kenya’s capital was the stop point for anyone looking for a job — a school of thought economists said was to blame for the high number of dependents and jobless people in Nairobi — Kenya’s satellite towns are increasingly milling jobs for households and individuals.
Although Nairobi accounts for the greatest number of jobs in absolute terms with 525,000 jobs in the formal sector, the city has actually grown the least in terms of creating new jobs—in the past five years, recording a 17.4 per cent increase in the number of formal jobs created, compared to Mombasa, which saw a 36.2 per cent increase or Eldoret, which recorded a 29 per cent increase.
Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria is growing the fastest in creating jobs in the construction sector, having increased by a staggering 76 per cent from 2,500 jobs in 2006 to 4,400 jobs last year, while Thika town, 40 kilometers north of Nairobi, leads in the manufacturing sector, having grown 16.4 per cent from 18,800 jobs to 21,900 jobs.
Nakuru in the central Rift is the best place in Kenya to find a job in transport or communications, with the number of jobs in the sector having risen 72.7 per cent since 2006, from 2,200 jobs to 3,800 jobs last year.
The shift in job creating spots, economists said, was driven by businesses seeking expansion across the country, a trend that has, for example, seen real estate investors look out to major towns for major housing projects. Economists reckon the trend should prompt the government to fix infrastructure and social facilities in key job creation. This should also help guide allocation of funds for devolved governments, some analysts said.
“Nairobi is reaching a saturation point in growth,” says John Mutua, an economist at the Institute of Economic Affairs.
“Being the capital city, it’s grown so much until now, the point where traffic jams, high rents and high costs of production means that investors would want to set up shop in other towns.”
Of all the major urban centres, Nairobi’s growth in job creation was the slowest in almost all sectors, recording the lowest percentage growth in the number of formal jobs created in manufacturing (5.4 per cent), construction (37.6 per cent), wholesale and retail trade, hotels and restaurants (24.9 per cent) and transport and communications (18.9 per cent).
“Nairobi is the hub of manufacturing but this is a sector which has been performing poorly over the last few years; its share of GDP has been contracting,” said World Bank economist Jane Kiringai. “Infrastructure investment is also opening up other towns — if you look at the areas for real estate development now, they are Thika, Ruiru and Athi River, beyond Nairobi’s metropolitan boundaries.”
However, Nairobi is the destination of choice if you are looking for a job in the informal sector. The city recorded a 26 per cent growth in the number of informal sector jobs created over the past five years, from 1.8 million jobs to 2.3 million last year.