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Development of towns.

Process in which a population is transformed from a rural based agricultural lifestyle to an urban based non-agricultural lifestyle

Distribution of Major Urban Centres in E. Africa

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Main categories of Urban Centres

  1. Capital
    towns-towns which are the main seat of the government or administrative centres of each country. These are Nairobi, Dodoma and Kampala.
  2. Cities-largest towns in E. Africa with city council status i.e. Nairobi, Dar and Kampala.
  3. Sea ports– are located in the Indian Ocean Coast and are Mombasa, Malindi, Dar, Tanga, Mtwara and Lindi.
  4. Lake Ports– are located on lake shores e.g. Kisumu, Mwanza, Kigoma, Bukoba, Jinja, etc.
  5. Mining towns-evolved due to mining activities e.g. Magadi, Kakamega, Shinyanga, Kilembe, etc.
  6. Industrial towns-whose main functions are industrial activities e.g. Thika, Athi River, Jinja, Tanga, etc.
  7. Collecting towns– whose functions are to collect agricultural produce for being located in rich agricultural areas e.g. Karatina, Nakuru, Eldoret, Mbalala and Kabale in Uganda and Mbeya and Songea in Tanzania.
  8. Gap towns- (Makutano towns) located at points of convergence of transport routes e.g. Voi, Moshi and Tabora in Tanzania and Hoima in Uganda.
  9. Administrative towns-whose main function is administration e.g. all provincial and district headquarters in Kenya, Dodoma and Morogoro in Tanzania and Gulu and Fort Portal in Uganda.

Factors influencing the Growth of Major urban Centres in E. Africa

  1. Rural to urban migration when young people complete formal schooling and migrate to major towns to look foe employment causing population to expand in those towns.
  2. Natural growth of urban population through births because most of migrants are young couples who are at their height of their reproductive years.
  3. advantages of well develop[ed transport and communication network since most of them are accessible by good roads, railway, air and some by waterways enabling goods to be imported easily and accelerates migration.
  4. Industrialisation which attracts people because industries attracts people because they offer employment opportunities.
  5. Some have emerged due to mining as it attracts workers who move and settle in the mining area.
  6. Tourism whereby influx of tourists to a town can cause demand for high class hotels, curio shops, entertainment etc which make the town to grow e.g. Malindi and Mombasa.
  7. Agriculture can make a town to grow by providing market for industrial products from urban centres and by providing raw materials foe industries established in urban areas.
  8. administration when there is set district or provincial headquarters and government employees are posted there to provide services to the people and houses, shops and service industries such as banking are established there to serve people.

Growth and Functions of Selected Towns in Kenya

Thika (An Industrial Town)

  • its one of the most industrialised towns in Kenya with industries such as flour milling, bread baking, vehicle assembly, fruit canning, etc.
  • Located at the edge of Kenyan Highlands.
  • Started as a small African village where the Akamba and Agikuyu traders met and exchanged goods.
  • A market developed and Asian traders set up shops to cater for the small African and European farmers from the surrounding areas.

Factors Which Have Contributed To Its Development as an Industrial Town

  • It’s surrounded by districts which are agriculturally productive e.g. Kiambu, Thika, Maragua and Muranga.
  • It’s situated near rivers Chania and Thika which supply water for domestic and industrial use.
  • It’s located on Nairobi-Nanyuki railway and tarmac road which makes transport of raw materials to the town and that of finished products to the market easy.
  • It’s near Nairobi which is a source of raw materials making many investors to prefer to establish industries there.
  • High population from the surrounding districts which supply labour to the industries as well as market for some manufactured goods.
  • Availability of expansive flat land for industrial growth.
  • Congestion of Nairobi’s industrial area which made many investors to prefer Thika as it’s outside and at the same time near Nairobi.
  • Availability of power from 7 Forks Power Project on R. Tana which provides electricity for industrial and domestic use.

Kisumu (A Lake Port)

  • It’s the largest port of E. Africa.
  • Located on the E. shores of L. Victoria on the Winam Gulf.
  • Third largest city after Nairobi and Mombasa.
  • Started as a small fishing settlement called Ugowe Bay.
  • Later, the settlement developed into a port called Port Florence after the completion of the railway from Kilindini to Mombasa.
  • Port Florence later came to be known as Kisumu

Factors Which Contributed To Its Development into a Leading Lake Port

  • Settlement of Asians after the railway reached there who later built shops to cater for Africans needs (Bombay of Kenya).
  • Location on the shores of L. Victoria which ensures adequate supply of water for domestic and industrial use.
  • Availability of H.E.P. from Uganda which has enabled industries to grow and expand.
  • Being a lake port which handles regional trade across the lake.
  • Development of industries and trade which has attracted many job seekers thus increasing the population.
  • Surrounding areas are highly populated thus acting as a pool of labour for industries and market for products.
  • Fishing activities and processing of fish has contributed to its growth.
  • Being surrounded by areas which are agriculturally productive e.g. Western Kenya which provide a base for potential development in industries in sugar and cotton in Kisumu.

Eldoret (An Agricultural Collecting Centre)

  • Located in the highlands on the western part of the R. Valley.
  • It started as a small post office from which the town grew.
  • It was started as an agricultural collecting and marketing centre for White farmers who were commercial wheat farmers and practised dairy farming.
  • It has acted as a collecting centre for agricultural produce from Uasin Gishu District.

Factors Which Made It to Be a Leading Agricultural Collecting Centre

  1. It’s easily accessible by the railway line from Mombasa to Kampala and the highway from Mombasa to Kampala.
  2. Location at the heart of one of the richest agricultural hinterlands for which it has acted as a collecting, processing and marketing centre.
  3. Availability of social amenities which has led to rapid increase from the surrounding areas.
  4. Availability of H.E.P. which has led to establishment of industries such as plywood making, manufacture of soft drinks, textile, milk processing, etc.
  5. High population in the surrounding regions which provides labour for industries and a ready market for manufactured products.
  6. Plenty of land for expansion of the town and industries.
  7. Establishment of service industries such as banking and insurance which has contributed significantly to its growth.

Related Studies on Selected Cities in the World

Nairobi and New York


  • Came into existence when Uganda Railway reached it in 1899.
  • It started as a railway camp before embarking on the rugged highlands and the steep descent into the R. Valley.
  • It’s located on Athi-Kapiti Plains.
  • The plains were unoccupied due to the tribal clashes between Kikuyu and Maasai.
  • The camp was temporarily relocated to Kiambu due to mosquitoes and wild animals which posed a danger.
  • Settlers later moved back to the present city centre.
  • Nairobi became the provincial headquarters of Ukamba Province.
  • It was in 1907 elevated to the administrative capital of British East Africa Protectorate.

New York

  • Located on the E. coast of U.S.A. at the mouth of R. Hudson.
  • A section of the city is situated on the mainland while part of it is made up of a group of islands-Long Island, Staten Island, Manhattan and Jersey.
  • Established after the Dutch bought the Manhattan Island from the Red Indians and renamed it New York.
  • Its growth is associated with the construction of New York State Barge Canal which links Hudson to L. Erie one of the great lakes of N. America which passes through regions which are highly industrialised and agriculturally productive.

Functions of Nairobi and New York/Similarities

  • Both are industrial centres with Nairobi being the leading industrial town in E. Africa with industries such as brewing, steel rolling, motor vehicle assembly, etc. and New York has ship building, chemical industries, pharmaceutical industries and the largest industry being clothing followed by printing.
  • Both are international centres with Nairobi having KICC and high class hotels where international meetings are held and New York is the Headquarters of U.N. World Bank, I.M.F. and other international organisations.
  • Both are residential centres with Nairobi providing shelter to over 2m people in estates and slum areas and New York is also a residential centre for people of various races of European origin, West Indians, Jews, Chinese, Indians and Jews and the famous ghetto for blacks known as Harlem.
  • Both are educational centres with Nairobi having educational institutions such as Kenyatta and Nairobi Universities and Kenya Polytechnic and various other colleges and New York has several junior schools, high schools, colleges and universities for people of all races.
  • Both are transport and communication centres with Nairobi having JKIA and Wilson Airports and several highways leading to other major urban centres and Telcom Kenya and Mobile phone services which have headquarters there and New York is the largest sea port in the world, has J.F. Kennedy, New York and La Guardia airports and The New York State Barge Canal.
  • Both are religious centres with religious centres including cathedrals, temples, mosques and Jewish synagogues.
  • Both are financial and trade centres with C.B.K., commercial banks and N.S.E. and shops and New York is the world’s financial centre and the headquarters for I.M.F. and also has shops.
  • Both are recreational and cultural centres with Nairobi having Kasarani and Nyayo stadiums, Gong Race Course etc. and N. York has Night clubs, cinema halls, Central Park, Madison Square Garden and it’s also the fashion and art centre.


  1. New York developed as a sea port while Nairobi developed as a town following construction of Uganda Railway.
  2. New York is a coastal city while Nairobi is an inland city.
  3. New York comprises of mainland and several islands while Nairobi is in the mainland.
  4. New York has an approximately 12 times larger population than Nairobi.
  5. New York is located in a developed country while Nairobi is located in a developing country.
  6. New York is an international city while Nairobi is a national city.
  7. New York is a sea port while Nairobi has an inland dry port at Embakasi.
  8. New York is the capital of the state of New York while Nairobi is a national capital.
  9. New York experiences the problem of racism while Nairobi experiences the problem of tribalism.

Mombasa and Rotterdam


  • It’s located at the coast of east Africa in a Ria at the mouth of R. Mwachi.
  • Started as a resting and calling port during the era of slave trade.
  • It was once a Portuguese town who built Fort Jesus in 1593.
  • Originally the town was located on the island surrounded by the creeks namely Tudor and Port Reitz.
  • Later the town expanded farther north, south and west to the mainland.

Factors Which Influenced Its Location

  • Was a strategic calling port for early traders to and from the Far East.
  • Provided a good defensive site against external aggression (Fort Jesus).
  • Has flat land which is ideal for construction of buildings (coastal plains).
  • Coral limestone rocks found in the sea were used as building stones for houses.
  • River Mwachi and Kimbeni provided early settlers with fresh water for domestic use later Mzima Springs in Tsavo W. N. Park became the main source of water.
  • The deep waters of Kilindini creek provide a good well sheltered natural harbour.
  • Has a large and rich agricultural hinterland i.e. the whole of Kenya, N. Tanzania, Uganda, S. Sudan, Rwanda and DRC.


  • Located in the province of s. Holland in Netherlands.
  • Located at the mouths of rivers Rhine and Meuse on the N. Sea.
  • Originated as a small port sandwiched between 2 other ports Antwerp in Belgium and Amsterdam.
  • Silting of the N. Sea led to the dwindling of the development of Rotterdam.
  • After the harbour was deepened it witnessed rapid growth at the 1st half of 19th Century.
  • The growth was halted by the devastations during the 2nd World War.
  • It has since grown into the leading world port in terms of tonnage.
  • It’s the enterport to Europe.

Factors Which Have Led To Its Development as an Enterport

  • Deepening of the harbour creating a new port known as Europoort which is deep enough to handle large vessels.
  • Has an extensive hinterland for which it handles transit goods through the navigable R. Rhine comprising of Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, etc.
  • Located at a strategic central point in Europe where sea routes converge from America, Africa and other parts of Europe giving it an advantage over the other ports of Europe.
  • The port doesn’t freeze due to the warm Atlantic Drift Current which raises the temperature enabling it to operate throughout the year.
  • Provision of modern port facilities.
  • Its industrial function of its being the major industrial area in the Netherlands with industries such as engineering, food processing, oil refining etc.

Functions of Mombasa and Rotterdam/Similarities

  1. Both are sea ports with Mombasa being the gateway to E and C Africa and Rotterdam being the enterport to Europe.
  2. Both are transport and communication centres with Mombasa being well served by transportation routes such as Nairobi-Mombasa Highway, has Moi International Airport etc and Rotterdam is linked to other urban centres by modern roads, railway lines and waterways.
  3. Both are industrial centres with Mombasa having Changamwe oil refinery, Bamburi cement Factory, motor vehicle assembly, etc. and Rotterdam having being the major industrial centre in Netherlands having industries such as ship building, engineering, petrol chemical ,etc.
  4. Both are commercial centres with both having shops and businesses selling goods to citizens.
  5. Both are located at the mouths of rivers, Mombasa on the mouth of R. Mwachi and Rotterdam on the mouths of rivers Rhine and Meuse on the N. Sea.
  6. Both are in the coastal region.
  7. Both are open for use throughout the year due to favourable weather conditions.
  8. Both are the second largest towns in their respective countries.


  1. Mombasa handles much less volume of trade.
  2. Mombasa is frost free throughout the year while Rotterdam is sometimes affected by frost.
  3. Netherlands has more sophisticated port facilities than those of Mombasa.
  4. Mombasa is in a developing country while Rotterdam is in a developed country.
  5. Mombasa depends on roads, railways, air and pipeline transport while Netherlands has canal transport in addition to those means of transport.
  6. Mombasa mainly exports agricultural raw materials while Rotterdam exports manufactured goods.

Effects of Urbanisation

Positive effects

  1. Urbanisation encourages national unity as people of different ethnic backgrounds come together and interact.
  2. It creates employment opportunities through establishment of commercial and industrial activities through which peoples living standards are raised.
  3. Leads to development of infrastructure within urban centres and the surrounding areas.
  4. Provides a market for agricultural goods produced in the country.
  5. Encourages development of industrial and agricultural sector by providing market for manufactured goods and produce.

Negative Effects (Problems)

  1. Environmental degradation e.g. air pollution when the industries and motor vehicles emit smoke and other gases to the atmosphere which accelerates global warming, pollution of rivers through discharge of harmful effluents from industries into them and people throwing all types of wastes there and noise pollution from industrial machines, aircrafts and motor vehicles which causes loss of sleep and permanent loss of hearing.
  2. Unemployment because of the population growing at a higher rate than the employment sector.
  3. Crime and other social evils like prostitution which people engage into to earn a living due to high levels of unemployment.
  4. Strain on social amenities i.e. there is shortage of housing, health centres, sanitation, schools, transport etc due to increase in population.
  5. Traffic congestion especially in developing countries due to poorly planned roads which are unable to accommodate the ever increasing motor vehicles which causes wastage of time and fuel.
  6. Breakdown of family units as many men leave members of the extended family, their wives, children and get concubines leading to marriage breakages.
  7. Causes mental disorder to people due to stress and depression resulting from the high cost of living causing some people to abuse drugs in the process of stress management causing them to end up getting mad.
  8. Juvenile delinquency or tendency by the youth to break the law due to idleness resulting from lack of activities to keep them busy.
  9. Urban sprawl or expansion of towns into the surrounding agricultural land which lowers agricultural production.



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EcoleBooks | Geography Form 4 Notes : URBANISATION


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