According to local history the name of town comes from a slave trader called Chief Kivoi who settled near the Voi River about 400 years ago. There after the village grew as a trading centre for the local Taita people with other Kenyan tribes and Arabs.
The town started to grow at the end of the 19th century when the Uganda Railway was constructed. People started to move in to work on the railway and the nearby sisal estates. However, township status with an area of about 16.27 square kilometres (6.28 sq mi) was not granted until 1932. The town has long since outgrown the original grant