The smell of raw unprocessed African coffee wafts through your nose as you step into this cosy spot. Inside, a young waiter meticulously prepares coffee in the new coffee grinding machine. Eager clients wait patiently to sample the coffee drink.
Welcome to Espresso Royale restaurant, the only coffee house in Wajir County. There is a stirring noise from the machine, then some brewing noise, and in no time, coffee is ready. This may seem like no big deal in another county, but here it’s everything.
To residents of Wajir, it is a long time coming and a sign that Wajir is ripe for business.
But who is behind this hot idea?
“We came up with the concept in 2015 when we realised many people were travelling to Nairobi to enjoy fine dining experience. That’s why I decided to ‘bring Nairobi to Wajir’,” says the proprietor Mohamed Ugas, who relocated from the US to resettle in his home town Wajir.
Ugas, 42, says he came up with the idea to help boost tourism by changing the image of the county as a terror prone region. And things are looking up. Shem Khayo from Kakamega County who works at Espresso Royale, says the excitement from patrons is palpable.
Ripe for business
“Since we opened we have never had empty seats. The place is always full with excited customers,” says Khayo.
Mohamed Samow, a frequent customer, says the coffee place is more than a restaurant. To them, it is a sign that Wajir is growing – step by step. Even a coffee shop in the desert county signifies a step towards development.
It is an addition to the growing hospitality businesses in Wajir, with the famous Kilimanjaro franchise now on the block, Midpoint hotel and Wajir Palace Hotel. Still recovering from effects of terrorism, it is impressive how investors like Ugas and others are defying odds to set up business establishments.
Such investments go along way in redefining the narrative of Wajir and positioning it as a unique tourist destination.
With an ever growing population, as depicted in the Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey, where Wajir was placed among counties with fastest growing population, investors are tapping into the market. “Wajir has untapped business potential, reliable manpower and ready market that is waiting for us. It is also strategically located for anyone who wants business in Kenya and beyond,” says Ugas.
Wajir Governor Mohamed Abdi has welcomed this new joint and commended the investor for the daring move.
To encourage more investors to come on board, Mr Abdi has promised to tighten security. “Like Ugas, we want all people born in Wajir County and who reside outside the country to come back in large numbers and invest,” says Abdi.
He also urged outsiders to take advantage of the key infrastructures like Wajir Airport to invest in the county. To attract more business, stakeholders have appealed to Government to address erratic power supply and poor infrastructure network.