Before you vote: The truth about Nairobi’s global rankings

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Was Nairobi highly ranked three times in global surveys?

“…In March, from the World Bank index we were voted number 10 in the City Momentum Index. In December we were voted number three as the most desirable city to visit in the world.
Last year in September we’ve moved from number 136-137 to number 94 in terms of ease of doing business in Nairobi, and this is attracting investors and bringing in people who gone make a difference to our economy … ”

Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero at the Nairobi Governor candidate’s debate, on July 3, 2017.

Was Nairobi highly ranked three times in global surveys?

Dr Kidero was speaking during the second debate for candidates for Governor of Nairobi County at Daystar University. Other candidates for the governor’s seat who participated were Mike Sonko, Peter Kenneth and Miguna Miguna.

Nairobi was indeed ranked as the third best city to visit in the City Momentum Index. However, the ranking, which “tracks the speed of change of a city’s economy and commercial real estate market”, was not published by the World Bank, but by the global real estate firm JLL, formerly known as Jones Lang Lasalle, headquartered in Chicago, USA.

Out of 134 cities, Nairobi ranked sixth for socio-economic momentum, sixth for commercial real estate momentum (construction, absorption, price, investment and transparency), and 119 for long-term momentum (higher education infrastructure, innovation capability, international patent applications, technology firms and environmental quality).

The governor is also correct to say that Nairobi was ranked third in the list of most desirable cities to live in the world. That ranking was carried by the British tourism publication Rough Guides. Its 2017 ranking ranked Kenya the third- most desirable city to visit after Paris, France and Isfahan, Iran.

Nairobi’s Rough Guides citation encourages the visitor to do more than the well known attractions of traditional arts markets, coffee stores and museums. “Make time to explore further and you’ll find a dynamic urban landscape with cool restaurants, groundbreaking art projects and a burgeoning fashion scene (be sure to dig around the cluttered thrift markets as well as the latest boutiques).”

Nairobi’s thriving fashion blog scene also earned a mention. “Style blogs, artist collectives and innovative young designers are challenging the often narrow expectations of what African art and culture are supposed to look like. Skip Nairobi now and you’re missing out, big time.”

The last ranking Governor Kidero cites is indeed from the Ease of Doing Business, published by the World Bank. However, the numbers he cites are not for Nairobi but Kenya.

The Ease of Doing business only compares subnational economies within their common national economy. The 2017 ease of doing business report surveyed 11 counties in Kenya: Nairobi, Mombasa, Uasin Gishu (Eldoret), Busia (Malaba), Nyeri, Kisumu, Narok, Kiambu (Thika), Machakos, Kakamega and Isiolo.

Nairobi was only ranked the top county in ease of registering property. Uasin Gishu was ranked first in ease of starting a business. Kisumu was ranked first for dealing in construction permits while Busia (Malaba) topped the 11 counties surveyed in enforcing contracts.

Kenya’s 2017 Ease of Doing Business ranking was 92 (not 94), up from 112 in the 2016 ranking and 136 in the 2015 ranking.

Mr Kidero’s claim leaves out an important detail; that the 44-place rise from 136 to 92 takes place over two years, not one. The governor cited largely accurate figures in all the rankings, even he was not entirely accurate about the Ease of Doing Business.

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