Mass Exodus: Nairobians Leave City Permanently in Emerging Trend

Vehicles in traffic along Uhuru Highway in Nairobi, Kenya.
Vehicles in traffic along Uhuru Highway in Nairobi, Kenya.
Simon Kiragu

In what has become an emerging trend, many long-time residents of the capital city, Nairobi, are moving out of the county.

The situation has been amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has made remote work the reality for many organisations even as some individuals move to escape the harsh economic realities of the city worsened by the virus outbreak.

Counties that have proved popular with those leaving Nairobi include Machakos, Kiambu, Nakuru, Nanyuki and Embu as well as Coastal counties such as Kilifi and Mombasa.

An aerial view of Nairobi City
An aerial view of Nairobi City

On Saturday, July 25, popular influencer couple Ramzzy and Shiko Nguru announced that they had permanently moved to Kilifi from Nairobi.

"It has always been our dream to live at the Coast and if there is one thing the pandemic has shown us is that now is the time to live a life that we love.

"And so we sold what we could, packed up the rest and made our way to the county we fell in love with 5 years ago," Nguru explained.

On July 18, a story went viral of one city resident who was caught up in Machakos when the cessation of movement order was in place, but found the experience so pleasant that he decided to move to the town permanently.

It sparked hundreds of responses from Kenyans who had been toying with similar ideas, many citing the cost of living as a big factor in their thinking.

Others noted that they wanted to leave Nairobi in search of peace of mind, with the hustle and bustle that characterises the city not pleasing to some residents.

Among them was activist Boniface Mwangi, who revealed that he planned to leave Nairobi with his family in two years.

"As a family, we are planning to move out of this city in two years time. Tunarudi ocha (We're going upcountry).

"We need sanity and Nairobi isn’t providing that. We want to live in a village, grow our own food and hang out at the local shopping centre. Keep a Kali Simba too (We want to keep a tough dog too)," he wrote.

Speaking to, Nairobi-based journalist Miriam Mwende noted that she was also considering moving out of Nairobi for various reasons.

She observed that many Nairobians' reasons for wanting to move out of the city were tied to lack of value for money; citing the cost of housing as a key factor.

"You find for example that in a lot of places the rent is really expensive for small spaces. And worse there are several other annoying inconveniences such as unreliable water supply.

"People living in Machakos can easily commute to Nairobi and with the work from home now normal it changes the landscape of things," she stated.

Mwende further noted that many who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic had been forced to move out of the city.

"Several people who have suddenly become unemployed are also moving and finding other ways to provide for themselves and their families. I think the pandemic has proved to many that they can survive without employment," she observed.

Nairobi residents walking to work due to increased cost of transport within the city.
Nairobi residents walking to work due to the increased cost of transport within the city.