By Mangoa Mosota
The couple moved from Emuhaya District to Maseno Township nearly 20 years ago to open a shop. Now they have four businesses.
Mr James Mokua and his wife, Janet Kerubo, own a retail shop, bar, butchery and restaurant. "We moved here because we saw opportunities arising from the establishment of the university," says Kerubo.
The couple is among many traders in the township whose businesses have flourished largely as a result of the university.
Maseno has grown from a dusty market with less than ten buildings 18 years ago to 200 including residential houses, bars, hairdresser shops, motorcycle taxis.
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Traders tell The Standard the proximity of their businesses to the university, which has more than 5, 000 students guarantees good business. "There is good money here," says Mr Lucas Ogola, one of the over 30 motorcycle taxi operators. "I make about Sh1,500 daily minus the cost of hiring the motor cycle and petrol," says Ogola, who transports staff and students between the main and Siriba campuses.
"I have two wives with four children and I take good care of them," brags the 26-year-old.
Ms Sabina Apiyo, a hairdresser, serves about 30 clients daily, most of them students, and makes an average of Sh30, 000 monthly, after deducting expenses that include Sh5, 000 monthly rent. "On weekends, when the university is in session I get overwhelmed with work," she says. She has three employees.
Maseno Total Petrol Station’s manager Willis Odongo says the university fuels its vehicles there.
However, the traders say business plummets when the university is in recess, which can last up to four months. "Many traders take a break during the vacations to engage in farming," says the university Director of Public Relations Owen Onyango.
With the growing population, demand for housing is high and rent is hiked frequently.
"I have six two-bedroom houses which are occupied all year round. I charge Sh3, 000 per house," says Mr Basil Achienga, who also owns a hardware shop at the township. He says investors putting up rental houses buy most of his goods.
Due to the high demand for land in the township, costs have sharply risen in the last few years. "In 1992, a 100 by 50 feet plot was sold for Sh20, 000. Five years ago, the same size of land went for Sh100, 000 and today, it costs Sh400, 000," says Mr Isaac Orora, a lecturer at the university.
Onyango says the impact of the university is felt as far as Luanda Township, five kilometres away from the university where many entertainment joints have come up. "Most of the vegetables and cereals eaten in our university and the community around come from Luanda," he says.
Lela Township is also growing with residential houses coming up. The houses target staff.
The economic boom has attracted Kenya Commercial Bank and Post Bank to Luanda.