ituated by the shores of the vast Lake Victoria’s Winam Gulf, Kisumu is the third largest city in Kenya after Nairobi and Mombasa and  was once known as Port Florence by the British colonizers. Kisumu is also one of the oldest settlements in Kenya. 

But what makes Kisumu stand out from most towns in Kenya?  Kisumu is home to the largest inland port in along the Lake Victoria circuit and is the first ever the United Nations Millennium City in the entire world as declared by the UN Habitat in the year 2006. 

Other notable features that Kisumu prides itself for include: being one of the two urban centers in Kenya that can be accessed by road, water, rail and air, hence being a major transportation hub in the country.  

Kisumu was once the headquarters of the disbanded Nyanza province, and is currently the capital town of Kisumu county, as well as the headquarters of the Lake Region Economic Bloc, which is a conglomeration of fifteen counties situated in western Kenya.

Despite it being at the western most part of the country, Kisumu serves as an important link in the trade route between Lake Victoria and Mombasa because of its water, road and rail connections thus serving the purpose of both a trading and transportation hub for the Great Lakes region in western Kenya.

There also being an airport known as Kisumu International Airport which features regular flights to Nairobi and other neighboring cities such as Mombasa, Kigali in Rwanda and Mwanza in Tanzania gives credence to the averment that Kisumu quite deserves its city status. 

Historical background

Kisumu is formerly known as Port Florence. The later was founded in 1901 to serve as the sole inland terminal of the Uganda Railway which went by the name “Port Florence” hence the acquiring the name. Although trade stagnated in the 1980s and 1990s, it is flourishing once again.

So where did the name Kisumu emanate from?

The name Kisumu is an English corruption of the word “Kisuma” in luo dialect. It means a place of barter trade “sumo”, mainly because when the European first settled in the area, Kisumu became a trading center, thus attracting Luo traders from as far as Siaya. Persons going to Kisumu at that time would say “Adhi Kisuma” which means I am going to trade. 

Being one of the oldest settlements in the country, Kisumu is dominated by a number of ethnic groups such as the Luo, Kisii, Luhya, Kalenjin and Nandi.

Kisumu, sits at an elevation of 3,711 ft and is 24 kilometers south of the Equator, hence its moderate temperatures due to its elevation of 1139 meters above sea level and exhibits a tropical warm climate throughout the year.

Presently, Kisumu is one of the fastest growing cities in Kenya. Due to its indulgence in sugar, rice and fishing industries, whose contribution to the National economy is enormous.

Transport Systems in Kisumu

As earlier stated, Kisumu boasts of a variety of transport systems as compared to most cities in Kenya whose transport systems are limited. This has enhanced its accessibility making it a major transportation hub which has brought about lots of economic development in Kisumu and its environs.  Let’s take a look at some of the transport systems available in Kisumu;


One enabling factor of air transport in Kisumu is the presence of the Kisumu International Airport which prides itself of having international status, as it features daily flights to Mombasa and Nairobi. 

Currently expansion of the airport is ongoing to accommodate cargo facilities. This will go a long way in promoting trade between nations in the East African Community.


Due to the presence of Lake Victoria which is shared among three East African Countries namely; Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, the only transport system that makes sense is water transport. 

This is carried out by ferries found on the lake which operate from the port linking with the railway to Mwanza in Tanzania, Entebbe and Jinja in Uganda.


As earlier mentioned, railway transport was one of the earliest transport systems in Kisumu town. The Uganda railway in particular from the port of Mombasa reached Kisumu in the year 1901 and played a huge role in opening up Kisumu for development, mostly through trade.

Currently, a standard gauge railway is being extended from Nairobi to Kisumu. This will go a long way in promoting trade and economic growth in Kisumu, and even pave way for investors.


Kisumu’s road network has been there for quite some time, though not advanced as present day. In the quest for modernization and improving accessibility of Kisumu in 2009, a major overhaul of Kisumu’s road network was done. As a result, Kisumu is now connected to cities like Mombasa, Nairobi, Nakuru and Eldoret.

List of estates in Kisumu

Presently, Kisumu has an estimated population of one million plus people and is mainly dominated by the Luo ethnic tribe.  

Below is a list of Kisumu’s old estates together with the most recently developed. 

1. Kenya RE

Located close to the Central Business District, this gated estate is one of the safest and most organized estates in Kisumu county. You’ll only spend 20 shillings to board a Matatu to the CBD. Also, business is always abuzz in this estate, thanks to the complete shopping center.

2. Milimani Estate

This fine estate has Bungalows and Massionetes mounted all over its ample-sized compounds. Despite its relatively small population, it’s commonly associated with the rich and mighty 

3. Lolwe Estate

Its location is just a kilometer away from the CBD, adjacent to Migosi estate and Kenya Re. Historically, it was a deserted, remote area before property developers came in and gave it a new look. 

4. Riat Hills Estate

Surrounded by magnificent bungalows and mansions, this is one of the posh estates in Kisumu county. Its eye-catching gardens say a lot about its beauty. This estate is mostly associated with established politicians and business people in Kisumu.

5. Migosi Estate

Due to its closeness to town, it’s an upper-class estate in Kisumu county. Its location is past Kondele junction all the way to the immediate Kenya Re, Lolwe estates and car wash.

6. Polyview Estate

Seeking out a decent housing facility? Polyview the go-to estate. Shockingly, this large area which was once a cemetery back in the 1980s is now a middle-class estate with modern storey buildings.

7. Manyatta Estate 

Located along Kibos road, this estate is dominated by mud houses, which is reason enough why rent is cheaper. However, insecurity is a huge problem in the area because of the informal settlements.

8. Nyalenda

Characterized by many informal settlements, Nyalenda is an established slum suburb in Kisumu. Mostly, this area is dominated by low-income earners. Poor roads and insecurity are the major problems the area residents face.

9. Obunga Estate

With an estimated population of about 20,000 people, its undoubtedly one of the largest estates in Kisumu county. It’s situated in the northwest part of the city. Dominated by shanties and mud houses, the slum is plagued by sanitation and security issues.

10. Myamasaria Estate

It’s situated on the outskirts of Kisumu towards Ahero. With a compilation of both the rich and low-income earners and is dominated by permanent households and mud houses.

11. Tom Mboya Estate

Reminiscent of the late, well-acclaimed politician, Tom Mboya, this is a posh estate characterized by lovely compounds and well-designed fences. Its location is adjacent to the Kisumu Kakamega Highway, and approximately 200 meters from Kibuye Market. 

12. Mamboleo Estate

Located along the Kisumu Kakamega Road, this is a middle-class estate. It borders Riat, Kibos and Migosi estates. Mamboleo estate prides itself of having one of the largest malls, the Lake Basin Mall in western Kenya that secures ground for an array of businesses and services.

13. Bandani Estate

It’s a middle-class estate located around Kisumu International Airport. While rent is pocket-friendly, it’s quite far from the Central Business District.

14. Kondele Estate

It’s situated at the Kisumu Kakamega Highway junction and Kibos road. The estate is close to other estates such as Migosi, Kenya Re, Manyatta, Mambo Leo, car wash and Manyatta. Past violence over election disputes slowed down the estate’s growth into a potential business hub.

Challenges facing Kisumu

Kisumu just like any other city faces a fair share of challenges which hinder its quest to progress, especially because it still is a developing metropolitan. For instance, there are glaring wealth distribution disparities between the affluent and the poor which widen by the day. Among Kisumu’s challenges, we have the following:


Kisumu, in comparison to other parts of the country, features very high levels of poverty. These in turn have hindered the sustenance of meaningful business ventures by the locals. 

There has also been an upsurge of informal settlements as most people cannot afford decent housing due to the high cost of living.


Another challenge facing Kisumu is high unemployment rate. The youth being the most affected. As a result, most of them flee to urban centers in search for greener pastures. 

Those not fortunate enough to acquire employment, end up engaging in vices such as robbery and theft to earn a living.


For some time now Kisumu has been rocked with political violence especially during the electioneering period. To date, Kisumu is still dealing with the aftermath of the postelection violence since many houses and business premises were burnt down, looted or destroyed.

This was a major setback to Kisumu owing to its young economy which was still growing. To add salt to the injury, most investors pulled out of the region to avoid a repeat of the same.

Poor planning 

Poor planning is another challenge that has continued to hamper economic development in Kisumu. Due to poor planning, drainage and sewerage systems are strained or poorly fixed which causes disease outbreaks such as cholera and typhoid. Poor planning is also the reason why plenty of informal settlements keep sprouting in Kisumu at an alarming rate.  


Irrespective of its comparative advantages, Kisumu still faces competition for investors with other towns and cities. That is why it is advisable for its leadership to clean up its act in bid to make it more attractive for potential investors.


Kisumu is well served with an international airport, which is a quarter-hour drive away from the main Central Business District. The mode of transport includes both motorized and non-motorized options. One can move within the city using bicycles and motorbikes popularly known as “boda boda”. There is also the option of using taxis and Matatus.

In terms of social amenities, Kisumu has several hospitals of international standards within reach, among them being Aga Khan, Avenue, Kisumu Specialists, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referal hospital. There also several shopping malls within the Central Business District and they include Westend, United, Megacity.

When it comes to recreation, one can be spoilt for choice from Dunga Hill camp at the shores of lake Victoria, Impala Sanctuary within the city, Kisumu Museum, Kit Mikayi rocks (30 minutes’ drive from Central Business District), Dunga beach, Hippo point and Kiboko Bay, just to mention a few.

Kisumu also has a good number of learning institutions which range from primary, secondary up to university level. When it comes to amenities, it is right to say that Kisumu is well endowed!

Generally security in Kisumu is good. However, one has to take precautions, especially at night. 

Key Attractions in Kisumu 

Attractions in the city include Kibuye Market, Oile Market, the Kisumu Museum, an impala sanctuary, a bird sanctuary, Hippo Point,Shopping malls and the nearby Kit Mikaye and Ndere Island National Park. Although Kisumu has modernized over the years, it still maintains that old town feel especially on the outskirts and the culture is still very ingrained. There are plenty of amazing and affordable places where you and your family can visit in Kisumu. 

Town Clock

On the main street of Kisumu city, Oginga Odinga Road, a tall Town Clock stands in the middle of the road. The clock was unveiled on 19 August 1938 by the then Governor of Kenya Sir Robert Brooke Popham. The Town Clock was built in memory of Kassim Lakha who arrived in East Africa in 1871 and died in Kampala in 1910. It was erected by his sons Mohamed, Alibhai, Hassan and Rahimtulla Kassim, as the inscription on the Town Clock reads. 

Kisumu Museum

Kisumu Museum was established in 1980 and features a series of outdoor pavilions laid out in a formation similar to that of a simple dholuo homestead. Some of the pavilions are home to live animals. For example, one pavilion contains numerous aquaria with a wide variety of fish from Lake Victoria along with explanatory posters. 

Another pavilion contains terrarium containing mambas, puff adders, spitting cobras and other venomous snakes found mostly in Kenya. In the outdoors, the museum has a few additional exhibits, including a snake pit and a crocodile container. 

Other pavilions have a display of weaponry, jewelry, farm tools and other artefacts made by the various peoples of the Nyanza Province. There are also exhibits of stuffed animals, birds and fish. One of the pavilions also houses the prehistoric TARA rock art, which was removed for its own protection to the museum after it was defaced by graffiti in its original location. 

The museum’s most important and largest exhibition is the UNESCO  sponsored Ber-gi-dala. This is a full-scale recreation of a traditional Luo homestead. Ber-gi-dala consists of the home, granaries and livestock corrals of an imaginary Luo man as well as the homes of each of his three wives, and his eldest son. Through signs and taped programs in both Luo and English, the exhibition also explains the origins of the Luo people, their migration to western Kenya, traditional healing plants, and the process of establishing a new home.

Dunga Beach and Wetlands

Dunga Beach and Wetland is known for its unique eco-cultural attractions due to its biodiversity and cultural rich and diverse papyrus wetland ecosystem and local community respectively. Ecofinder Kenya has established Dunga Wetland Pedagogical Centre at Dunga Beach is a grass-root led intervention whose overarching cardinal goal is empowerment of Dunga Wetland Community and improvement of livelihood security of its people. Therefore, some of the main focuses in the centre are promoting Eco-Cultural Tourism and facilitate the conservation of the Dunga Papyrus Wetland Ecosystem.

Kisumu Impala Sanctuary

Kisumu is also home to the Kisumu Impala Sanctuary. During the British rule, Impala Park now sanctuary was called Connaught Parade. Measuring 1 square kilometer, the sanctuary is one of Kenya’s smallest wildlife preserves. As its name suggests, it is home to a herd of impala. Some hippos, as well as many reptiles and birds are also present. Additionally, several caged baboons and leopards who faced difficulties of one sort or the other in the wild are held in cages there. Over 115 different species of birds live there. 

Hippo Point

Hippo Point is a 240 ha (590 acres) viewing area on Lake Victoria. Despite its name, it is better known as a viewing point for its unobstructed sunsets over the lake than for its occasional hippos. Hippo point is located near the village of Dunga, a few kilometers South West of the city. The village also has a fishing port and a camping site.

Kit Mikayi

Kit Mikayi is a large rock with an additional three rocks on its top. It is situated off Kisumu Bondo Road towards Bondo. Kit-mikayi means “Stones of the first wife” or “First Wife Rocks” in the Luo language. It is a weeping rock; it is believed that Mikayi (“the first wife”) went up the hill to the stones when her husband took a second wife, and has been weeping ever since.

Ndere Island

Ndere Island is a small island measuring 4.2 square kilometers in the Winam Gulf of Lake Victoria in Kenya. It was gazetted as the Ndere Island National Reserve in November 1986 and has since that time been uninhabited. It offers picturesque sweeping views into the Lake, with further serene and tranquil environment compared to the mainland.

Sports and leisure

Moi stadium is the main stadium in Kisumu city. In 1979, Kisumu Municipal Stadium was renamed to Moi Stadium after the then head of state, H.E Daniel Toritich Arap Moi, visited the Multiuse Venue. The Home Stadium of Kisumu Telkom (and sometimes Real Kisumu as well as other local teams from the lower tier leagues) has a well-known capacity of up to 5,000 Pax and is mostly used for soccer matches and other sports events. 

Moi stadium plays home to various teams such as Kisumu All Stars and Kisumu Telkom FC. 

Kisumu is represented in the nationwide rugby league by Kisumu RFC. The city is also host to a leg of the national rugby sevens circuit, being one of only six city hosts. The Kisumu leg is referred to as the Dala sevens and the annual tournament is extremely popular attracting thousands of fans from across the country. 

 Restaurants in Kisumu

1. Haandi Restaurant – A brand well known for its Indian food, Haandi Restaurant is by far the best in Kisumu. You definitely will get delicious Indian cuisine in a beautiful setting.

2. Laughing Buddha Lounge and Cafe – The Laughing Buddha is a great restaurant and anyone visiting Kisumu should not leave without trying it out. It’s the excellent choice when it comes to fast food.  You won’t get disappointed at all.

3. Duke of Breeze Rooftop Restaurant -This is one of the best restaurants in Kisumu city owing to its sports bar and Rooftop Restaurant & Bar that gives opportunity to enjoy not only local but also international cuisine. 

4. Tilapia Beach -The name does it better as a visit to this restaurant is never complete without an amazingly prepared tilapia dish in addition to other delicacies. 

5. Alnoor Cafeteria -Located off Oginga Odinga street in Kisumu, Alnoor Cafeteria is the best restaurant for fast food especially if you want some good finger licking barbecued chicken. 

6. Green Garden Restaurant- Situated near Good Year, Odera street, Kisumu. The Green Garden offers a wide variety of dishes and one cannot forget its cozy atmosphere. It’s the perfect restaurant for a date night. 

7. New Victoria Hotel- Located within the Central Business District of Kisumu City along Gor Mahia Road behind Aga Khan Hall. It prides itself for its yummy delicacies which will always have you going back for more. 

8. Nairobi Java House- This is a really special one as it is the home to the finest freshly-roasted coffee. You don’t want to miss out on this, do you? 

9. Kisumu Simba Club Restaurant- Located next to United Mall, Simba Club Restaurant is splendid. It’s special in that there is a membership program whereby there are temporary members who pay the membership fee and you are good to go. For those just visiting Kisumu, I would recommend that you try out the special ‘Friday Buffet’ – the best part of it on every Friday evening.

10. Mon Ami Restaurant- A bestie list cannot be complete without including Mon Ami. With its ideal setting, you don’t feel confined to an indoor setting as you always have the option to dine by the beautiful pool in the restaurant.

 Housing Market in Kisumu 

Kisumu is experiencing a renaissance in construction, with a boom in real estate developments. The third largest city in Kenya currently boasts a rejuvenated real estate sector, with developments sprouting recently, especially in the outskirts of the Central Business District (CBD).

As a result, more investors have moved in to reap from the lucrative growth taking shape on the town’s outskirts. The upgrading of Kisumu Airport to an international hub has further given the city a lifeline in building and construction sector. 

Elevation of the facility and increasing business has enticed property investors to the lakeside city, thus boosting its real estate growth. Another factor that has enhanced infrastructural developments in Kisumu is the construction of the Kisumu-Busia highway which has made the area viable for growth.

As a result, areas surrounding the airport have become prime targets for property developers and speculators are trooping in to purchase the most favoured spots. As a result, areas neighboring the airport that were some years ago covered by shrubs and isolated shanty homesteads are now being transformed into gated communities with modern residential houses. 

Kogony area approximately four kilometres from Kisumu CBD is the most popular, primed to turn around the housing deficit, particularly for middle-class dwellers. The middle-income housing development lies adjacent to Riat hillside, one of the expensive suburbs in Kisumu town. 

The maisonettes are also expected to add to the growing developments taking shape in the lakeside city recently, mostly on the outskirts, which has become a potential zone for further growth.  Furthermore, the new developments around the airport encompass few commercial buildings.

Opening up of the area has created investment opportunity for potential developers who are gradually coming up with new projects. 

Infrastructure developments 

Overall improvement in infrastructure over the last few years has meant increased confidence among individual and institutional investors who are increasingly being attracted to the place.

These include connections to murram roads and main water connection from Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company (Kiwasco). 

Most buyers consider the proximity of the property they want to buy to accessibility to roads and other transport channels. The new developments in the town’s peripheries, he says, is good news as it will meet some of the increased demand for affordable housing to accommodate the growing workforce. 

The housing sector in Kisumu is still nascent. Most large residential developments for rent are located in suburbs such as Milimani, Lolwe, Migosi and Mamboleo which are not quite affordable to most of the population. We therefore recommend that developers shift their focus to affordable housing in order to fill the market gap. 

Shopping malls

Despite increased development in the area following devolution and opening up of Kisumu for development, some sectors such as residential and offices remain undersupplied. 

The area presents investors with a mixed-used development opportunity, both in form of residential and commercial apartments. The vicinity also provides a welcome alternative to the high-end houses of neighboring Riat hills, especially for the middle class dwellers.

It is therefore recommended that property developers targeting the site to prioritize single and double bedroomed apartments and bed-sitters, which are now a preference for most inhabitants. 

The area offers a mixed fortune for developers in terms of residential apartments, especially for the middle income earners due to its proximity to the CBD. There is also an opportunity for light industrial development with focus on warehouses.

 Furnished apartment is another viable investment in the area investors can tap into, adding that such facilities could be used for hospitality purposes by guests journeying through the airport.

Developers keen on investing in Kisumu should capitalise on the diverse opportunities around the airport to come up with real-time projects that will spur the sector’s growth.

Moreover, developers should also think of putting up malls, an area whose potentiality remains untapped in the locality. Such new developments will have far reaching contributions for Kisumu town, especially for the affordable housing situation.

Old estates

According to Cytonn’s 2018 survey report on the Kisumu Investment Opportunity, the real estate sector recorded average yields of 7.2 per cent, with the residential, commercial and retail sector recording 5.1 per cent, seven per cent and 9.4 per cent respectively in terms of comparative analysis with other major towns in the country.

On the residential sector, the report indicated that investment opportunities lie in apartments for rent in suburbs such as Milimani, Lolwe, Migosi and Mamboleo suburbs, which record an average rental yield of 5.5 per cent.

Kisumu’s opportunity in the land sector lies in emerging residential zones like Riat hills driven by speculation and the market exodus from the congested town CBD.

Old town estates such as Milimani, Migosi, Lolwe, Mamboleo, Tom Mboya and Riat Hills are mainly overcrowded with middle and high-class residential apartments.

For the last five years getting a commercial or residential house to let in Kisumu has not been easy. Hundreds of business executives and professionals deployed to work in and around the city, prompted the scramble for the few vacant houses.

This in turn led to a hike in rental prices while briefcase real estate agents, brokers, came up in droves. Home & Away established that some brokers charge between Sh500 and Sh2,000 for viewing vacant houses.

Others rent the houses for even three months and then later re-advertise  them asking for what they call ‘’goodwill’’ from prospective tenants.

It is in the goodwill package, where they mint money, especially for commercial houses, where they ask for a tenancy fee ranging from Sh300,000 to Sh800,000 before one can rent a premise. On the residential front, landlords charge as high as Sh10,000 for a bedsitter. One bedroom units attract anything between Sh15,000 and Sh20,000 depending on the neighborhood. 

Analysts are, however, saying the situation could be coming to an end as a construction boom is seeing more houses being poured into the market for sale and rental. This could see the cost of buying a house or renting decline. This is because the demand for housing is on the rise and could trigger better pricing and revenue returns.

What we are not certain about is whether the increase in property boom will cause an increase or decline in rent prices.

People are also now moving to the suburbs because the towns are crowded, hence there is still need for more houses because Kisumu is growing.

The style of construction is also changing with more people embracing storied structures. And unlike in the past, these people investors are now putting up storey buildings to make maximum use of space. This is primarily to cover the cost of exorbitant charges levied on the plots.

Due to the boom in the housing market in Kisumu, the authorities are also paying attention to the increase in construction. Last year, the Kisumu County government launched an e-construction permit. Now, real estate developers have to apply for construction permits online, an initiative which earned Kisumu praise in World Bank’s 2016 survey.