About the City of Kisumu

Early Beginnings

The City of Kisumu is believed to be one of the oldest settlements in Kenya. Historical records indicate that Kisumu has been dominated by diverse communities at different times long before the white man arrived. The people from Nandi, Kalenjin, Abagusii, Maasai, Luo and Abaluhya community converged at the tip of Lake Victoria and called the place “sumo” which literally means a place of barter trade”. Each community called it different names, for instance;

  1. The luo called it “Kisumo” meaning “a place to look for food” such that the luo would say “I am going “Kisuma” to mean “I am going” to look for food“.
  2. The Abaluhya called it “Abhasuma” which means ” a place to borrow food” such that the luhya would say “I am going “Khusuma” to mean I am going ” to borrow food”
  3. The Abagusii called it “‘egesumu'” meaning “a structure for keeping/ rearing chicken”. It is believed the Abagusii were in Kisumu but found Kisumu was not good for crop husbandry and agriculture.

The First white settlers in the late 19th century could not pronounce the local dialects “Kisumo”, “Khusuma” or “Kisuma“. They therefore corrupted the name to the current name “Kisumu”. 

Kisumu was identified by the British explorers in 1898 as an alternative railway terminus and port for the Uganda railway to replace Port Victoria which was by then an important centre on the caravan trade route near the River Nzoia delta.

On Friday, 20th December 1901, the railway line reached the Kisumu pier and Mrs. Florence Preston (the wife of the railway engineer) drove the last nail in the last sleeper by the shores of Lake Victoria. The centre adopted a new name called Port Florence. However it was only called Port Florence for a year, and then it reverted back to its earlier name of “Kisumu”. It was elevated from a Town to a Municipal Board in 1940 and later to a Municipal Council in 1960. It was designated as a “city’ in 1996 but was NEVER awarded a City Charter. In 2006, the City of Kisumu became the first to be designated as an UN Millennium City” in the entire world. Section 60 of The Urban Areas and Cities Act no. 13 of 2011 which came to effect on immediately after the general elections of 4th March 2013 created the City of Kisumu.

The City of Kisumu  has a friendship status with Cheltenham, UK since 1985. The City became a sister city to Boulder, Colorado USA in 1976 and Roanoke, Virginia, USA in 1980.


Today the City of Kisumu is the third largest City in Kenya, the Principal City of West Kenya Region and the Headquarters of the County Government of Kisumu. It is also the second most important city after Kampala in the greater Lake Victoria basin, the gate-way to East & Central Africa and the Commercial Capital of the East African Community. The City of Kisumu host the Secretariat of the Lake Victoria Economic Bloc that brings together 13 Counties of the Republic of Kenya.

The World Bank 2016 survey report  listed the City of Kisumu  as having the best business environment and  most Investor-friendly City in Kenya (Read Full Report here)


The City of Kisumu has vast opportunities of investment ranging from Trade, Commerce, Financial Services, Technology, Transport, Tourism…. Read More

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