Towards a Green Nation: The Case of Kenya

In July 2015, Kenya submitted a climate action plan to the United Nations ahead of the 2015 Paris Climate Summit. The action plan pledged to cut emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The document set out a strategy to expand geothermal, solar and wind energy capacity, increase tree cover across the country and reduce reliance on wood fuels.1 The 2015 Climatescope Index published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance ranked Kenya sixth out of 55 countries investing in wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable power generation.

The country was ranked second amongst African countries. The Index states that Kenya’s high ranking is a result of the policies it has adopted in the energy sector, which are attracting massive funding.2 This article delves into Kenya’s journey towards becoming a green nation by looking at some of the innovative policies it has put in place.

In 2008, the Ministry for Nairobi Metropolitan Development created Nairobi Metro 2030, an ambitious plan to make the metropolis safe, prosperous and secure for residents.3 A notable area highlighted in making Nairobi a great metropolis is consciousness of the environmental implications of burgeoning developments. Are they causing more harm than good? Are they offering proper livable spaces for the residents? Are they competitive on a global level? Sustainability and the environment remain core issues in green cities. The Nairobi Metro 2030 opened the gates for other government ministries to create policies that support innovation, sustainability and environmental protection in Kenya.

Through the Kenya Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan (GESIP) of 2015, the Kenyan government developed a green economy strategy to support development efforts towards addressing key challenges such as poverty, unemployment, inequality, environmental degradation, climate change and variability, infrastructure gaps and food insecurity.4

Kenya’s key policies and programmes supportive of a green economy include investments in renewable energy, promotion of resource-efficient and cleaner production, enhanced resilience to economic and climatic shocks, pollution control and waste management, environmental planning and governance and restoration of forest ecosystems.

Kenya has, therefore, taken several steps towards greening the economy and seeks to consolidate, up-scale and embed green growth initiatives in national development.5 The Kenyan constitution emphasises promoting and inculcating the value of sustainable development in Article 10(2)(d),6 and recognises a clean and healthy environment as a right in Article 42.7 Some strategic objectives of GESIP are promoting green technologies in the construction industry and integrating green technologies in design and construction.8 This has enabled architects and engineers to develop building designs integrating green technologies.

Kenya’s strategic objectives towards becoming a green nation meet the criteria set by landscape and urban designer Michelle de Roo in the publication Green City Guidelines published in 2011. The ‘guidelines’ project was made possible with funding by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation.9 According to the guidelines, green cities, neighbourhoods, streets and buildings increase the value of real estate and reduce energy and water runoff costs. They also provide opportunities for relaxation and recreation and improve the mental and physical health and well-being of people. They even increase habitats for ecological communities, foster biodiversity and provide opportunities for urban residents to experience nature. Additionally, green cities decrease the amount of impervious surfaces, provide water retention possibilities on-site (reducing peak runoff problems), filter pollutants and dust from the air and regulate temperature extremes.10

The Kenya Science, Technology and Innovation Act No. 28 of 2013 was enacted by the Kenyan government to facilitate the promotion, coordination and regulation of progress in science, technology and innovation. It is particularly positioned to assign priority to the development of science, technology and innovation and to entrench them into the national production system for connected purposes.11 This shows how seriously the Kenyan government regards matters of science, technology and innovation.

According to a publication titled Going Green by The Youth Entrepreneurship Facility of the International Labour Organization:

Going green means adjusting business models to pursue profits while benefitting the natural environment. Thereby, businesses can go green in two ways, by: Increasing resource and energy efficiency in business processes or producing environmentally friendly products and services” 12

In this regard, there are many new public buildings in Kenya focusing on energy efficiency and preservation of the natural environment by creating more green spaces. According to the Green City Guidelines, there are multiple benefits to planning and greening. These include the creation of a healthy city image and reduction in the greenhouse effect by the absorption of CO2, which also filters pollutants and dust from the air.13 Kenya’s gains are also indicated in the Green Building Information Gateway (GBIG), a global platform to celebrate organisations, brands and people contributing to green buildings around the world. Kenya has registered several buildings with GBIG as of 2016.14

The Green Africa Foundation (GAF), a local non-governmental organisation in Kenya, has developed a ‘Green Mark’ standard for buildings and will provide guidelines in best practices for environmentally friendly designs. The new standards will cover the sustainability of building sites, water conservation, energy efficiency, construction materials, indoor air quality,

innovation, operation and maintenance.15 So far, several Kenyan buildings have won awards worldwide. The Learning Resource Centre of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa won the Green Building Award category, which recognises buildings that meet environmental design criteria.16 Vienna Court, an office complex located along State House Crescent in Nairobi City, received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold pre-certification. Very few buildings in East Africa have attained this internationally recognised mark of quality for a green building.17

Strathmore University in Nairobi has invested in an innovative solar power technology that is currently feeding 75 percent of its power demands.18 The same can be said of Garden City, a premier shopping mall in Nairobi. The mall has the largest solar carport located in its car park, which operates as the second largest photovoltaic system in Kenya. The 3,366 solar panels on the carport generate 1450 MWh of clean solar electricity per year.19 From what is happening so far, Kenya is headed in the green direction.

According to GESIP, there are several challenges to a green economy in Kenya. The chief challenge is the enforcement of enacted laws and regulations. Currently existing green standards are too few and little information on green technologies exists, causing difficulty for many people to access and adopt them. The set-up cost for green technology is also high. This simply means that more funds are needed in order to transition to green technologies.20 As the key to current and future building designs, governments and the private sector need each other now more than ever and must come together to invest in green technologies.


  1. Kenya vows to cut emissions 30 per cent by 2030, but subject to conditions –
  2. Global index ranks Kenya 6th in green power revolution – generation/-/539552/2968712/-/format/xhtml/-/m9g372z/-/index.html
  3. Nairobi Metro 2030 – Ministry for Nairobi Metropolitan Development –
  4. Kenya Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan (GESIP) 2015 (a)
  5. Kenya Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan (GESIP) 2015 (b)
  6. Kenya Constitution 2010 – (Article 10(2) (d)
  7. Kenya Constitution 2010 – (Article 42)
  8. Kenya Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan (GESIP) 2015 (c)
  9. Green City Guidelines – (a)
  10. Green City Guidelines – (b)
  11. Science, Technology and Innovation Act No. 28 of 2013 – National Council for Law Reporting –
  12. Going Green – Youth Entrepreneurship Facility –
  13. Nairobi office complex attains green building status – attains-green-building-status
  14. Strathmore University eyes power bill cuts with mega solar system – solar-panels/1248928-2394702-4fjs6x/index.html
  15. Garden City – Africa’s largest solar car port system – system/
  16. Kenya Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan (GESIP) 2015 (d)
  17. Green City Guidelines – (c)
  18. The Green Building Information Gateway –
  19. Green Africa Foundation –
  20. CUEA library building wins award for best green building in Kenya – green-building-kenya/


Mr. Jack Shaka is a governance, democracy and conflict specialist based in Africa. He writes on social issues and global trends.

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