Sustainable Economic Development Along the Turkana West Development Corridor Through Enhanced Connectivity

A pilot project of the Cities and Migration programme

Project: Sustainable Economic Development Along the Turkana West Development Corridor Through Enhanced Connectivity

Implementing Partners: UN-Habitat in partnership with the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development; the Turkana County Government; the LAPPSET Corridor Development Authority; and the Refugee Affairs Secretariat

Location: Kakuma and Kalobeyei, Kenya

Duration: November 2019 – November 2021


The Sustainable Economic Development Along the Turkana West Development Corridor Through Enhanced Connectivity project aims to improve connectivity and networks that enable businesses, local governments and individuals to gain access to a wider choice of goods, finance, employment, and investment opportunities, leading to a sustainable local economy in the region. 

It will organise development forums for cities along a major Kenyan transport corridor, expand a network of cities for knowledge exchange and cooperation, establish an Economic Enterprise Zone (EEZ) to promote the local economy in Kakuma-Kalobeyei, build hard and soft infrastructure to support a city network, and strengthen capacity at the local level to integrate migration into city development.


Turkana County has historically been a marginalised area with some of the lowest development indicators in Kenya. Located in northwestern Kenya along the borders with Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Uganda, the county has long been a destination for refugees, especially from South Sudan. It has two main refugee centres – the Kakuma refugee camp and the Kalobeyei refugee integrated settlement – which together have a population of approximately 187,000 refugees. The host community consists of 46,000 persons. 

With the support of aid and development programmes, there has been some economic activity in Turkana County; there are about 2,500 businesses and a local market valued at USD 56 million per year. However, the current economic system of Kakuma-Kalobeyei is highly dependent on humanitarian aid, making it vulnerable and volatile.  At the same time, this refugee-based economy presents opportunities for sustainable growth. For example, the governor of Turkana County capitalised on the large number of residents to request city status for Kakuma-Kalobeyei, which will provide increased fiscal transfers and a greater mandate for the local authorities. 

More local development efforts are needed to help Kakuma-Kalobeyei capitalise on these opportunities and use them as the basis for building a sustainable local economy that can flourish as aid gradually decreases and refugees return to their home countries. 

An approach that emphasises systems of cities

The Cities Alliance project in Kakuma-Kalobeyei aims to strengthen the local economy by taking an approach that emphasises a thriving system of cities. This is a core focus area for Cities Alliance, which has worked for over six years to conceptualise secondary cities, explore how these systems of cities can be connected, and how they can promote increased prosperity. Cities Alliance has produced two seminal works on the topic: Managing Systems of Secondary Cities and Connecting Systems of Secondary Cities. 

The system of cities approach is built around the central idea that improving connectivity and networking within cities can significantly lower disparities in levels of regional development, increase productivity and prosperity, and support cities to manage migration. 

In Kakuma-Kalobeyei, the approach will leverage the current opportunities presented by the refugee population, their skills and networks, relationships with the host communities, and the political will of the local authorities to trigger sustainable economic development.


“Refugees are an opportunity for Turkana.”
--Mr. Joshua Lemuya, County Chief Officer at the Ministry of Lands, Energy, Housing and Urban Areas for Turkana County


The project’s activities are designed to work together and enhance connectivity and networking in Turkana County. They involve developing a process for engaging all stakeholders along the Turkana West corridor (where Kakuma-Kalobeyei lies) and investing in both hard and soft infrastructures along the corridor that runs from the port city of Lamu in southern Kenya to Southern Sudan and Ethiopia (the LAPPSET corridor). 

Together, these components will help Kakuma-Kalobeyei extend the opportunities provided by the refugee-based economy to build sustainable economic development with increased entrepreneurship and job creation for both refugees and host communities. 

The area of consideration covers all of Turkana County, including Kalobeyei integrated settlement, Kakuma camps, and the host communities. The project area (highlighted in light pink on the map) includes major surrounding towns and smaller market centres located along the LAPPSET corridor running from Nakodok in South Sudan to Lamu. The corridor will form a spatial spine across Turkana County from Nakodok through Lokichogio, Kalobeyei Integrated settlement, Kakuma camps, Kakuma town and Lodwar near the border with Baringo County in the south. 

Result 1: Enhanced connectivity and networking among stakeholders along the LAPPSET corridor

The project will organise at least three development forums in cities along this major Kenyan transport corridor and expand a network of cities for knowledge exchange and cooperation.

At least three development forums will be organised for cities located along the LAPPSET corridor, including Juba in South Sudan. The forums will bring the corridor cities together to exchange knowledge, identify common economic opportunities, and tackle ongoing issues such as access to land and labour markets. The forums will include representatives from refugee and host communities and key constituencies of the city, such as governments, chambers of commerce, informal sector representatives, service providers, and development partners with an emphasis on ensuring gender parity. They will encourage collaborative government initiatives at the national, regional and local levels while engaging business leaders and entrepreneurs from the refugee, host and migrant communities. 

The project will also establish two self-organised and funded community-based groups who will meet with the county government and organise meetings with key stakeholders. This process will include identifying existing communities in Turkana West and connecting and expanding the network that the new community based groups will create along the Turkana West corridor. They will meet to discuss the issues, opportunities and recommendations for economic development in the region so that the new network can advance knowledge exchange and collaboration with other partners, leading to improved outputs and sustainable practices. The networks will help small-scale businesses expand, opening up new opportunities and access to jobs in nearby markets. 

Result 2:  Mechanisms to support the development of an enterprise hub 

Kakuma-Kalobeyei will establish an Economic Enterprise Zone to promote the local economy. 

With Kakuma-Kalobeyei formally declared a municipality in December 2019, Turkana County is scheduled to begin planning for the area neighbouring the Kalobeyei settlement and to revise the Town Draft Plan for Kakuma. This project will focus on integrating planning for an Economic Enterprise Zone into the official planning process so that it will gain statutory recognition. 

The planning for the EEZ will include stakeholder consultations to formulate a clear business strategy that can guide investors and consider methods to promote local economy in the EEZ, such as tax reduction. The zone’s spatial plans will help direct city planning efforts to invest in supporting physical infrastructure that is essential to expand businesses and facilities, such as warehouses for manufacturing and other services. 

The project will also identify key development projects for infrastructure and business investments that can support the establishment of an economic and trade development corridor in Turkana County in consultation with the government, identified stakeholders and donors to clarify possibilities to support projects in the EEZ. 

Result 3: Hard and soft infrastructure to support the development of a network 

The project will establish three local industry associations and two diaspora networks as well as identify two investment projects.

The project will establish three local industry associations or communities of interest, identified through multi-stakeholder meetings with refugees and the host community representing key city constituencies (government, chamber of commerce, informal sector representatives, service providers and development partners). These associations will work closely with the project to help identify needs and develop investment projects.

In addition, the project will identify and develop two investment projects to support the development of facilities, such as public transportation. It will also establish two diaspora networks to support improved access to finance, knowledge and markets as well as knowledge exchange. 

Result 4: Strengthened capacities at the local level to integrate migration into city development approaches

The project will benefit at least 200 community members and county officials through training and workshop sessions.

Capacity-building activities will be embedded throughout the process.  The project will organise at least two capacity development sessions with a special focus on county officials and raise awareness through workshops, training, and global platforms. Migration mainstreaming will be done through local exchanges from Kalobeyei, regional exchanges along the Turkana West corridor, and peer learning exercises in collaboration with the Ministry’s Housing and Urban Development department.