When I was growing up in Bavaria—Germany’s largest and proudest state—there were a lot of efforts to revive remote regions, especially those bordering the former East Germany and Czechoslovakia.
There were special incentives for industries to locate in these regions and important federal subsidies to their local governments. Other countries made much more radical attempts at reshaping their economic geography.
Indonesia forced people from “overpopulated” Java to resettle in remote parts of the country, including to the culturally distinct province of Papua. Brazil, Nigeria, and Tanzania relocated their capitals to “decongest” their mega-cities.
All of these experiments yielded the same result: complete failure! Germany’s remote regions never became centers of economic activity, while the big cities—especially in emerging economies—continued to mushroom and grow.
These lessons are important for Kenya as it embarks on a massive decentralization program—arguably the most radical in the world today.