KISUMU: The Siaya County Government has launched a series of events aimed at attracting investors to the region ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit to Kenya later this month.
The Sports, Culture, Investment and Tourism expo, launched on Wednesday, is part of plans by county officials to take advantage of the much awaited visit. Dubbed 'Destination Siaya Kababa 2015', the expo involves showcasing areas of potential interest to investors.
In a region where sports has not been properly tapped for economic gain, the event will climax with sporting activities including rugby and a half marathon.
The Obama Sevens, a rugby team made up of local players, is set to play between July 21 and 26 at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology. The half marathon will be held on August 8 along Lake Kanyaboli.
Governor Cornel Rasanga said there is need for proper legislation to help protect endangered animals like Siatatunga antelopes. "Since we are going to receive tourists, we need to come up with laws that will assist in managing such resources," he said.
Mr Rasanga called for investment in the health sector to help ease the disease burden in a region that has one of the worst cases of infant mortality rates, which stands at 691 per 1,000 births.
Sports, Culture and Education Executive Pamella Akello said the region has huge investment potential, which if tapped could fast-track development. Ms Akello said the expo will create awareness on the need to conserve the environment. "We are encouraging people to register for the half marathon. With that we will be able to identify and nurture local talent," she said.
Siaya has lagged behind in development for decades, despite having massive resources like idle land, rivers Nzoia and Yala, Lake Victoria and Lake Kanyaboli. However, this changed when Obama was elected to office. The US President, who is in his final term, traced his roots to the region.
The hospitality industry has attracted substantial investment as investors take advantage of the huge numbers of visitors making their way to the region to trace Obama's roots. Obama's father, Barack Hussein Obama Senior was from Siaya.
Obama is expected in Nairobi on July 24 to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, a White House initiative that gathers entrepreneurs and investors from around the world.
Yala Swamp where Kanyaboli, Africa's second largest oxbow lake, derives its water from has been witnessing increased human activity. This has subsequently threatened survival of papyrus reeds, Sitatunga antelopes and other flora and fauna.
In an effort to restore the largest wetland in the region, covering over 200 square kilometres in Western region, locals in collaboration with Seeds of Peace Africa will use the marathon to create awareness on the need to conserve the ecosystem. County Assembly Tourism and ICT Committee Chairman Jared Abayo (West Gem) said rugby is an elite sport and bringing it to the local level would help nurture talent.