47 Counties of 2010




Autonomous. Competitive. Vibrant



What's in a number?

The Constitution of Kenya 2010 provides for devolution of political and administrative authority to 47 semi-autonomous Counties. These Counties are what were known as administrative District boundaries up to 1992 under the former Constitution.

Are they Equals?

No County is like the other in size or shape, owing to the fact that these boundaries date back to 1962 when the colonial government established them largely on account of homogeneity of tribe. Some are much larger than others in area and population.

What's the Future?

County boundaries will determine much of the direction and stability associated with local political issues where minorities are concerned. They will also affect inter-county relationships and regional ecosystems that have been around for the last 50 years of independence. Whether competing political temperaments will allow for boundary reviews in the future remains a matter of debate.





The Constitution of Kenya 2010 introduced the concept of political, administrative and fiscal devolution centered on a geographical unit known as the County. The table below gives the 47 Counties of Kenya as listed in the First Schedule of the New Constitution. They are clustered under the old 8 Provincial Administrative boundaries for clarity. Like the Counties, the Provinces are a historical fact of post-colonial Kenya.


Table 1. The 47 Counties of Kenya



From Coast Province
From North Eastern Province
From Eastern Province
From Central Province

1. Mombasa

2. Kwale

3. Kilifi

4. Tana River

5. Lamu

6. Taita/Taveta

7. Garissa


8. Wajir


9. Mandera

10. Marsabit

11. Isiolo

12. Meru

13. Tharaka-Nithi

14. Embu

15. Kitui

16. Machakos

17. Makueni

18. Nyandarua


19. Nyeri


20. Kirinyaga


21. Murang'a


22. Kiambu

From Rift Valley Province
From Western Province
From Nyanza Province
From Nairobi Province

23. Turkana

24. West Pokot

25. Samburu

26. Trans Nzoia

27. Uasin Gishu

28. Elgeyo/Marakwet

29. Nandi

30. Baringo

31. Laikipia

32. Nakuru

33. Narok

34. Kajiado

35. Kericho

36. Bomet

37. Kakamega


38. Vihiga


39. Bungoma


40. Busia

41. Siaya


42. Kisumu


43. Homa Bay


44. Migori


45. Kisii


46. Nyamira

47. Nairobi



County Boundaries


Figure 1. below shows the boundaries of the 47 geographical units of devolution or Counties of Kenya. The reader gains a better perspective on the relative expanse and placement of each one of the devolved units.


Figure 1. County Boundaries


Source: opendata.go.ke


NB. Detailed discussions on each and every County will be available on its respective link in Table 1 above - where details on the history, the peoples, the places, the government, and the economy of the Counties will be found. Therein will be captured every relevant data and pertinent information unique to each County so we can all gain a better understanding of what's going on in our Counties, and therefore, what the future holds for it as well. What these boundaries portend in terms of political representation is given under the link Representation under the New Constitution.

The governments to be formed in the respective Counties will essentially assume trust-ownership of public land within the County geographical area. Chapter 5 - Land and Environment:

62. (2) Public land shall vest in and be held by a county government in trust for the people resident in the county, .......

Public Land is discussed in detail in the link on the home page. That discussion examines the history, ownership and exploitation of land in Kenya; and going forward, interrogates the New Constitution's provisions on the whole matter of ownership, access and use of land in the Counties.


Deficiencies (of the boundaries so defined)


As we noted earlier, the manner and criteria initially used to determine the 47 County boundaries was solely based on historical facts and hence failed to incorporate modern scientific research and democratic theory that factors in such considerations as politics, economy, representation, cost, and population, etc. These boundaries were not delineated afresh as part of the constitutional-making process. They were simply pasted into the First Schedule.

Barely a few months after they were formed following the March 2013 elections, the two neighbouring Counties of Machakos and Makueni each laid claim to jurisdiction over the Konza Techo City, a government Vision 2013 project on ICT, largely believed to be in Makueni. Although the Minister for ICT had placed the 5,000 acre technopolis in Machakos County, in August 2014, the Senate was left with no choice but to request the IEBC and the Lands Ministry to confirm the actual location of the project.

On the 29th September 2014, simmering tension between the Counties of Meru and Isiolo over part of their common border came to a head when an entourage led by the Governor of Meru was attacked by a mob over the location of a border point claimed by the people of Isiolo but used as a tax collection point by the County of Meru.

Quite a few other murmurs over county boundaries continue in different parts of the country. Many of them largely revolve around economic factors. For example, on numerous occasions, the people of the County of Murang'a have been heard to lay claim to Thika town from Kiambu County, supporting their claims by pointing to the fact that they greatly outnumber the people of Kiambu in terms of investments in the Town.

Fortunately for Kenyans, their Constitution does give room (while laying out the scope) for future reviews if and when need arises. Excerpts from Chapter 11 - Devolved Government, Part 4 - The Boundaries of Counties:

188. (2) The boundaries of a county may be altered to take into account— (a) population density and demographic trends; (b) physical and human infrastructure; (c) historical and cultural ties; (d) the cost of administration; (e) the views of the communities affected; (f) the objects of devolution of government; and (g) geographical features.

Only sub-clause (c) was considered - perhaps by default, when county boundaries were pasted into the New Constitution given that the criteria used was simply the old 46 Districts and Nairobi's borders as the basis for County boundaries. Hence severe and almost fatal variations and inequalities exist within and between counties as presently constituted. Political (coupled with a social sense of urgency), rather than modern, scientific and democratic expediency was what largely informed this adoption. "Perhaps the weakest aspect of the Constitution with respect to devolution, however, was the failure to rationalize the number of counties beyond the 47 statutory districts, which vary widely in area, natural resource endowments and population size. Yet, the recourse to history rather than determining the counties afresh was understandable given the underlying interests that were at play in attempts to block the review process." (Nyanjom, 2011).

Indeed public discourse on the economic viability of some of the Counties was well underway in the early years. "The ability of counties to create wealth and enhance welfare outcomes of their citizens will depend on how well they are able to leverage their endowments, natural and otherwise, within the prevailing national, regional and global operating contexts." (Aligula, E 2012).

On the other hand, other experts were also of the view that many of the Counties did not have substantial GDP levels to write home about and would be hard-pressed to generate significant internal revenues especially in the first few years after their coming into being.

These divergent opinions would inevitably distorted the debate on how much of National Revenue should be allocated to the sub-regional governments. Some Counties were steadfast in demanding higher allocations yet the truth was that they lacked adequate internal revenue and human resource capacity to effectively administer their share of funds. Further to that, there was the nascent fear that such Counties were likely to be easily turned into centers of corruption by the political elite and well-connected mafia-style groups.


Mitigation (to the boundary deficiencies)


Kenyans may soon see (and should not in the author's view, fear), any well-intentioned proposals to amend the Constitution of Kenya 2010 with a view to rationalise and optimise the present County boundaries listed in the First Schedule. Such appropriate proposals will have factored in every sub-clause of Article 188. (2), repeated for the reader's convenience:

188. (2) The boundaries of a county may be altered to take into account — (a) population density and demographic trends; (b) physical and human infrastructure; (c) historical and cultural ties; (d) the cost of administration; (e) the views of the communities affected; (f) the objects of devolution of government; and (g) geographical features.

The beauty of such a review is that it will be shielded from political gerrymandering by the political class, as it will be exercised by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, IEBC, and voted for by the people's representatives both at the national and county legislative assemblies:

(1) The boundaries of a county may be altered only by a resolution–– (a) recommended by an independent commission set up for that purpose by Parliament; and (b) passed by–– (i) the National Assembly, with the support of at least twothirds of all of the members of the Assembly; and (ii) the Senate, with the support of at least two-thirds of all of the county delegations.

Necessary as they are, future County boundary reviews will also require careful management under delicate balancing acts so as not to upset cultural and community interests. Optimists are however confident that major boundary reviews will not be necessary if the latent wealth and potential of these 'weak' counties is exploited forthwith. They aver and point out that those counties which lag behind in development have the greatest untapped tourism and agrarian potential (via irrigation). Focus will invariably turn to the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA) that is expected to advise on the allocation of revenue and the Equalization Fund, the National Assembly and the Senate as they develop policy, guidelines and laws to manage these near-term challenges.




1. The Constitution of Kenya, 2010. National Council for Law Reporting. The Attorney General.

2. Nyanjom, O (2011). "Devolution in Kenya's new Constitution." Constitution Working Paper Series No 4. Society for International Development, SID.

3. Open Data at www.opendata.go.ke. Retrieved October 2011.

4. Aligula, Eric (2012). "It will be survival for the fittest in counties offering quality places." Daily Nation retrieved on 26 November, 2012.

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