Honolulu Mombasa Sister City

1.    Location and Size

The county is located in the South Eastern part of the Coastal region of Kenya. It covers an area of 229.9 Km2 excluding 65 Km2 of water mass which is 200 nautical miles inside the Indian Ocean. It borders Kilifi County to the North, Kwale County to the South West and the Indian Ocean to the East. The County lies between latitudes 300 80' to the East and 40 10' South of the Equator and between longitudes 390 60' and 390 80' east of Greenwich Meridian. The county also enjoys proximity to an expansive water mass as it borders the Exclusive Ecological Zone of the Indian Ocean to the East.

2.    Physiographic and Natural Conditions

This section provides a brief of the major physiographic and topographic features of the county. It also covers the ecological and climatic conditions and their influence on the settlement patterns and economic life of the county residents.

Physical and Topographic Features

The county lies within the coastal lowland which rises gradually from the sea level in the east to about 132m above sea level in the mainland. The terrain is characterised by three distinct physiographic features, which includes the coastal plain, which is found along the shoreline, covering parts of the South Coast, the Island, parts of Changamwe and the North Coast.
The plain consists of an expansive flat land with raised beach terraces covered mainly by Coral limestone and back reef sand deposits that not only provide firm foundation for construction but also provide building materials.
The second category is the hilly areas mainly found within the western part of the county that is underlain by shells and rises gently from 45m to 132m above sea level. This is characterised by poorly drained clay soils which restricts settlement and infrastructural development.
The third category is the Indian Ocean and the shoreline covered with geologically sedimentary rocks of Jurassic to recent age.
The topography has evolved as a result of the lowering of the sea level over time leading to severe erosion by the storm water draining into the sea. In addition, the Subsequent rise in sea level led to the submergence of the valleys and the creation of Mombasa Island surrounded by deep natural creeks, ports and harbours such as Kilindini, Tudor, Makupa, and Old Port creeks. Other notable physiographic features includes, the fringing coral reefs, cliffs and tidal flats, sandy beaches, the coastal plain and a hilly severely dissected and eroded terrain. These features have greatly influenced the economic development of the County in a number of ways. For instance, the sea supports maritime trade while the fringing coral reefs, creeks and tidal flats with extensive mangrove forests are breeding grounds for fish. The fringing coral reefs in North Coast are an important marine conservation area hosting the Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve.

Ecological Conditions

The county's ecosystem has both marine and terrestrial components. Both ecosystems are characterised by diverse species of flora and fauna, the most common being coconut trees and different types of fish, which have different cultural, social and financial values. The ecological conditions are evolving fast due to numerous developments in the county, including the recent dredging to deepen the Kilindini Channel of the port of Mombasa, construction of the second container terminal and the expected construction of the Mombasa City Southern by-pass (Dongo Kundu).

3.    Climatic Conditions

The County lies within the coastal strip in the hot tropical region where the climate is influenced by monsoon winds.

i) Rainfall

The rainfall pattern is characterized by two distinct long and short seasons corresponding to changes in the monsoon winds. The long rains occur in April - June with an average of average 1,040 mm and correspond to the South Eastern Monsoon winds. The short rains start towards the end of October lasting until December and correspond to the comparatively dry North Eastern Monsoons, averaging 240mm. The annual average rainfall for the county is 640mm.

ii) Temperature

The annual mean temperature in the county is 27.90C with a minimum of 22.70C and a maximum of 33.10C. The hottest month is February with a maximum average of 33.10C while the lowest temperature is in July with a minimum average of 22.70C. Average humidity at noon is about 65 per cent.

4.    Population Density and Distribution

The County had a population density of 6,131 persons per Km2 in 2009 which was projected to increase to 6,640.5 persons per Km2 by 2015 owing to high population growth contributed to by the increased numbers of people seeking employment in the manufacturing, service and processing industries, the Port of Mombasa, Kenya Ferry Services, Container Freight Terminals, go downs and hotels.
Highly populated areas are in Majengo, Bamburi, Bangladesh, Mikindani, Jomvu, Miritini, Migadini, Port Reitz, Mishomoroni and Bombolulu among others. The County has various settlement schemes namely Mwakirunge, Jomvu-Kuu, Bububu-A, Shika-adabu, Vyemani, Mwembelegeza and Majaoni.
Despite efforts being made to settle people, the County still has a very large number of landless people most of whom live in the city's slums of Mishomoroni, Junda and Kisumu ndogo in Kisauni Constituency; Shika-Adabu and Ngomeni in Likoni Constituency and Bangladesh in Changamwe Constituency.
The land adjudication process is ongoing for Shika-Adabu and Vyemani settlement schemes. There are other proposed schemes in the county namely; Maweche, Kibundani, Ujamaa-Shonda and Kidungunyi.
There are also sparsely populated areas in the outskirts of the County which include Mwakirunge-Maunguja, Mwangala, Mreroni and the Mkupe Jetty area. These areas are least developed in terms of infrastructure such as road network, electricity and water supply. Education and health facilities are also scantly available in these areas making the inhabitants highly prone to poverty and disease incidences.
The high population densities in Mvita, Changamwe and Nyali are attributed to proximity to vital infrastructure such as roads, water, electricity and employment opportunities due to the presence of industries like the Export Processing Zones and other physical facilities such as the Port of Mombasa and the Moi International Airport, Mombasa. Kisauni (2,188 persons / Km2), Jomvu (3,537 persons/Km2) and Likoni (4,040 persons/Km2) are the least densely populated constituencies in the county. This implies that Changamwe, Nyali and Mvita require more resources towards expansion and erection of additional social amenities. Low densities in Likoni and Kisauni can be attributed to inadequate social amenities and poor road network.

5.    Infrastructure and Access


There are a total of 257.17 Km of bitumen surface roads, 127 Km of gravel surface roads and 91.29 Km of earth surface roads in the county. Main classified roads include Mombasa -Nairobi highway, Mombasa - Malindi road and Likoni - Lunga Lunga Road connecting Kenya and Tanzania. While the major roads are in fair condition, access roads within the residential and industrial areas are in deplorable state.
The situation is worsened by the poor storm drainage systems most of which is in dilapidated conditions. The roads are maintained by the national government through Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA) and overseen by Constituency Road Committees, Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA) and the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) and the private sector. The County has key bridges linking the Island with the mainland and other coastal areas; these include Nyali and Mtwapa bridges. There are plans to build the Dongo-Kundu by-pass which shall ease congestion at the central Business Constituency as traffic from Nairobi to South coast shall be diverted at Miritini towards Likoni and Diani.


The Likoni Ferry links the Island to Likoni and subsequently to Kwale and Tanzania through the Lunga-Lunga Border. Kenya Ferry Services operates more than 7 ferries and carries over 250,000 people and over 5,000 vehicles per day across the Likoni channel. It also operates in Mtongwe area at peak hours to minimize congestion at the Likoni Ferry crossing. The photograph below shows the Kenya Ferry Service, an important link between the Island and Mainland South towards Tanzania.


The County has ten kilometres of railway line and three railway stations. There is need to modernize railway transport to and within the county as it is a major transport and industrial hub in the region. This will facilitate faster and more convenient transport within the city and to other areas.


The port of Mombasa is also a key resource and the gateway to the East and Central African region, as it serves the entire region's export and import needs. In 2012, dredging was been undertaken with a view of deepening the Likoni channel to facilitate usage of the port by larger post panamax vessels. Figure 3 below depicts the container terminal at the port of Mombasa.


The county has one international airport, the Moi International Airport in Changamwe constituency. The airport is the second largest airport in Kenya and is used by both domestic and international flights. The airport is essential in the promotion of tourism and investment opportunities in the county and in the coast region.

Posts and Telecommunications

There are seven registered post offices and one sub post office with the average distance to the post office being 5Km. Despite new communication trends, the post office still controls some significant share of the market. The county hosts approximately 247 cyber cafes most of which are located in the central business district. This has led to increased internet access, though there is need for more investment in this area to meet the increasing demand.
There are 18 registered courier service providers offering services within the country and other international destinations. These include DHL, Nation courier, Wells Fargo among others.
Mobile telephone coverage stands at 95 per cent with the major telecommunication providers, including Safaricom, Airtel and Orange, having a strong presence within the county. This has led to diminishing popularity for landline telephone services. Use of mobile phones for internet access has also increased, especially among the youth. There are estimated 3700 land line telephone connections which are increasingly losing business to the fast growing mobile telephone service.

6.    Education Institutions

The county is relatively well endowed with education facilities as demonstrated by the high literacy rate of 86.3 per cent. The teacher pupil ratio stands at 1:48 and 1:41 for primary and secondary schools respectively. There are a total of 94 public primary schools in the county with 70,340 enrolled students and 1,454 teachers. At the secondary school level, there are 28 public secondary schools with a student population of 14,576 and teachers population of 423.

The county also hosts Kenya School of Government, Mombasa, four youth polytechnics, one technical training institute (Mombasa Technical Training Institute) and a teacher training college (Shanzu Teachers Training College).There is one chartered public university (the Technical University of Mombasa); one research institution, (the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KEMFRI); satellite campuses of public universities namely University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and Moi University; and three satellite campuses of private universities namely Daystar University, Kenya Methodist University and Mt. Kenya University.

7.    Energy

The main source of cooking energy for the county residents is paraffin at 53.6 per cent, charcoal at 30 per cent, firewood at 8.8 per cent LPG at 4.7 per cent and electricity at 1.7 per cent. This trend continues when it comes to lighting where paraffin also leads at 51.5 per cent followed closely by those relying on electricity at 47.5 per cent. The Kipevu power plant produces power which is fed into the national grid. The county has a high potential for generation of solar and wind energy, but this remains unexploited.

8.    Markets and Urban Centres

The entire county is urban and hosts Mombasa City which is the second largest city in Kenya. It also hosts one of the largest wholesale and retail fresh produce market (Kongowea) where traders from all over the country and East Africa congregate and conduct business throughout the year.
The city and the whole county experiences physical planning challenges due to the proliferation of slums, lack of a well-planned sewerage system and other infrastructural facilities. Other key markets include Mwembe Tayari fresh produce market and Marikiti retail market. Additionally, there are all major supermarket and shopping malls within the city which provide convenient shopping to the residents.

9.    Housing

In the county, 65.6 per cent of all houses are stone walled while those made of brick walls stand at 7.5 per cent. Corrugated roofing accounts for 69.0 per cent of all roofing materials while tiles make up 9.7 per cent of all the houses in the county. Most of the mud walled houses are found in the slum areas where they are temporarily built. In these areas, land ownership is not guaranteed as most of the residents do not legally own land and the ones they live on are owned by absentee landlords.

10.    Land and Land Use

Mean Holding Size

A sizeable number of people living in the peri-urban areas of the county practice subsistence small scale farming and keep different types of livestock. Land ownership for agricultural and Livestock activities remains a thorny issue in the County as most of the residents do not legally own land and the ones they cultivate on are owned by absentee landlords.

11.    Crop, Livestock and Fish Production

Main Crops Produced

The main crops under cultivation in the county include cassava, cucurbits family, maize, vegetables, millet and sorghum. These are most preferred due to their resistance to diseases and pests. The climatic conditions of the county make plants very prone to diseases and pests and therefore, highly resistant varieties are encouraged.

Hectarage under Food Crops and Cash Crops

The total acreage under food crop stands at 400 ha while the total acreage under cash crop is 500 ha. Additionally, 340 ha of land are utilized for forestry farming. The County is generally a net importer of food and other agricultural products and this makes the cost of food high and inaccessible to most of the low income earners.

Average Farm Sizes

The average farm sizes for small scale farming is between 2.5 ha. This is small compared to the high population of the county hence leading to a majority of the food being imported from other counties and countries in order to satisfy the food needs of the county residents.

Main Storage Facilities

The National Cereals and Produce Board storage silo in Changamwe Constituency serves the entire county. However it is supplemented by private storage facilities such as the grain bulk handling facilities, and private stores owned by individual businessmen and farmers who use traditional storage methods.

Main Livestock Bred

The main livestock bred in the county include goats, sheep, cattle, chicken and other poultry. The Kenya Meat Commission abattoir which is located in the county imports animals for slaughter from other counties due to unavailability of beef cattle in the county.

Number of Ranches

The county is predominantly urban and is almost entirely occupied by human settlements and therefore there are no ranches in the county.

Main Fishing Activities, Types of Fish Produced and Landing Sites

The county has 65 Km2 of open water and access to 40 Km2 of the Exclusive Ecological Zone (EEZ) which is a high potential fishing ground. The local communities living adjacent to the ocean are however unable to fully exploit the fish potential due to lack of appropriate fishing gear and vessels and the recent attacks by pirates in the Indian Ocean waters. The main types of fish caught include rabbit fish, scavenger, snappers, parrot fish, surgeon fish as well as sharks, lobsters and prawns. There are 14 fish landing sites in the county some of which face the risk of being encroached as is common along and near the beaches and hence made inaccessible.

12.    Tourism

Main Tourist Attractions, National Parks/Reserves

Mombasa city being an ancient town hosts several tourist attractions and world heritage sites. Of significant mention is the historic Fort Jesus Museum which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Likoni Ferry Services and the gigantic Elephant Tusks along Moi Avenue are the city's land marks as they are major tourist attraction sites. Additionally, several buildings in the old town including the Old Port are a major tourist attraction.
The white sandy beaches are also of significant attraction to both international and domestic tourists.
The county is host to the Mombasa Marine Park which is home to a variety of fishes and other sea features and two private nature trails, Haller Park and Butterfly Pavilion, operated by Bamburi Cement factory.

Main Wildlife

The main species of wild life in the county are found in the private nature trails operated by Bamburi Cement factory. They include buffaloes, wildebeests, giraffes, hippopotamus, tortoise and a multiplicity of birds and butterflies. Photo 10 below depicts some of the wild life found in the Bamburi Nature Trails.

Tourist Class Hotels/Restaurants

Tourism related activities account for over 68 per cent of the wage employment in the county. There are over 430 beach and tour operator firms that provide various tourist-related services. The county is home to approximately 201 registered hotels and lodges mainly along the North coast with a total bed capacity of about 6,723 beds and average annually bed occupancy of 64 per cent. The situation reverses during peak tourism months of April and December with hotels registering over 99 per cent bookings.
Tourism is well facilitated by existence of beach hotels offering world class services to both domestic and international tourists.

13.    Industry

The county hosts a significant number of industries spread across all sectors of the economy. Specifically, the service industry leads where shipping lines, ship repair and servicing yards, container freight stations, transport, clearing and forwarding firms and grain bulk handling leading the pack.
Additionally, there are a number of manufacturing industries such as export processing (apparel) companies, oil refineries (both edible and petroleum), glassware, flour mills and car assembly plants located across the county. These industries offer the much needed employment opportunities to the local residents as well as other expatriates especially in the shipping sub-sector.
However, Nyali and Likoni Constituencies do not host any meaningful industry and the residents have to access employment opportunities in Mvita, Kisauni and Changamwe constituencies where the majority of these industries are located.

©Gilbert Githere
updated: December 22, 2016

Honolulu  Mombasa Sister City
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Mililani, Hawaii 96789
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