Private sector can tap Kisumu growth potential

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Lake Victoria
Kisumu residents enjoy the view of Lake Victoria. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Change is inevitable and it shall always happen from time to time. The recent demolitions of businesses that were stationed on Kenya Railways land in Kisumu have caused the loss of at least 10,000 jobs, both directly and indirectly. I will begin with my regret on the same point.

That the county government, in its formative years, failed to have a discussion with Kenya Railways, which occupies the town’s most prime plots, to cede, voluntarily or involuntarily in a well negotiated scheme to the county government. This would have been an opportunity for the County to plan with it’s own land.

The most affected traders are small-scale traders. The only challenge is that the traders will never get a similar space as the one they had before. This is an opportunity to further develop other growth nodes like Otonglo, Kibos, Mamboleo and Dunga.

Kisumu’s foundation as an investment hub is almost set and for the last seven years of devolution there has been improved growth in almost all areas.

The road network has improved and links all major towns of the county. The electricity infrastructure has been well set till deep in the villages. Modern primary schools have been constructed and early childhood development centres also equipped.

Indeed, the construction of a Sh300m Training and Innovation Centre at Rotary is ongoing, coming fast after the nearly complete social centre, which will be used for cultural activities and arts. The water network has improved albeit at a slow pace. The Soin Dam near Koru is about to undergo construction, which will trigger massive irrigation. Modern trade markets costing hundreds of millions are set to be put up at Otonglo and Kibuye.

The Sh100 million IDEAS project for dairy improvement funded by European Union is about to kickstart in Chemelil.

Kisumu has an international Airport and rehabilitation of the lake port is currently under way with assisted infrastructure in the marine school that will be an enabler.

The hospitality sector has greatly improved with state of the art establishments and Kisumu can comfortably host an international conference with guests fully accommodated.

The foundation for growth has been laid. But the town still lacks enough private sector growth. That is the challenge thrown to the citizens and the business community.

We need investors but most importantly, the natives need to start putting their money, which will signal confidence to other outside investors who have been jittery. In alternate place of failed sugar industries, natural water sources and vast land still exist for alternative cropping. Now that we have the airport, what are we taking out as cargo exports?

What will we take to other African countries? We receive milk from other counties, what are we taking to Nandi or Kakamega or Kisii? There will be need for affordable housing expected to accommodate 50 percent of the people expected to be in cities by 2030? These are private investor initiatives and the environment and regulatory environment for such businesses has never been fairer in Kisumu.

Firms like SfD East Africa, have set up to be the leading financial, economic and data advisory firm in Western Kenya for such platforms. They have the data and skills to aid investors and we can take advantage of such firms to set up. They have assisted tens of firms whether in soft lobbying, inquiries, assistance with government processes, research and set up of businesses.

What is needed urgently is a focused and continuous engagement of The Coalition of Business Organisations like Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kenya Association of Manufactures and Youth Caucus in Business on the framework and assistance needed to market and allow private sector Investments. SMEs and Medium Sizes Firms need a credit easing scheme to thrive..

Let the county work on investing on the fundamental basics of a good business environment. Good roads, stable power, single licence schemes, reduction of setting up of business bureaucracy and incentives for large business owners.

This article originally published on Business Daily and has been authored by George Abwajo – Project Lead, SfD and member, Kisumu County Budget and Economic Forum.

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