Nakuru well on way to becoming a city

A section of Kenyatta Avenue in Nakuru Town on March 20,2019. [Kipsang Joseph/Standard]
?Nakuru town’s elevation to a city is now imminent, having put in place almost all the requirements. In September 2017, the (national) Cabinet approved the elevation of Nakuru and Eldoret to city status, joining the ranks of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.

Since then, Nakuru has been gearing up for the new status. Nakuru County’s CEC for Lands, Housing, Physical Planning and Urban Development Francis Mwangi says Nakuru has already complied with Section 9 of the Urban and Cities Act of 2011.

The Act empowers the governor, on the resolution of the County Assembly, to confer a qualifying town the status of a municipality. Already, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui has signed the charter.

Requirements

For a municipality to take the next step into a city, the Act spells out criteria in Section 5 which must be met. This includes requirements that it has a population of at least 500,000 residents, an integrated development plan and has has demonstrable capacity to generate sufficient revenue to sustain its operation. It also should have the capacity to deliver essential services and have infrastructural facilities.

“The President may, on the resolution of the Senate, confer the status of a city on a municipality that meets the criteria set out in section 5, by grant of a charter in the prescribed form,” says the Act.

The town has been racing to meet the requirements, which include construction and maintenance of urban roads and associated infrastructure. There is also the construction and maintenance of storm drainage and flood controls and promotion, regulation and provision of refuse collection and solid waste management services.

Nakuru has also been working towards the construction, maintainance and regulation municipal markets and abattoirs, provision of sports and cultural activities and construction and maintenance of fire stations, provision of firefighting services, emergency preparedness and disaster management and promotion, regulation and provision of animal control and welfare.

“Development and enforcement of municipal plans and development controls, including municipal administration services... have been effected,” says Mwangi.

As the town gears up for the new status in the coming weeks, emerging state of the art buildings have drastically changed the face of the Central Business District.                                                                                    

This follows a directive by the county government to have all old buildings to be painted and owners of idle spaces within the CBD to commit to develop their plots.

The 2011 Urban Areas and Cities Act says a municipality qualifies to be elevated to a city status once it has attained a population of at least 250,000 residents. Nakuru town has a population of over 500,000 while the county has a population of over two million people.

Notice to landowners

Mwangi says they would soon extend the notice to plot owners to modernise development of old buildings through a beautification process.

He said they would put in place an Enforcement Committee to carry out a special audit of all buildings in the town to assess those that have not complied with their directive.

“We’ll be forced to demolish the old buildings that will not have conformed to our demands,” says Mwangi.

Recent survey findings by Institute of Economic Affairs show that Nakuru is rising to become the most preferred destination for investors where it is easier to start a business compared to major urban centres like Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. This was mainly due to reduced tax burden that has made the county more attractive to investors.

The study gave the county an overall score of 89 per cent in the tax sub-cluster ahead of Eldoret (78), Machakos (67), Kisumu (64), Nairobi (60) and Mombasa (56).

This saw Governor Kinyanjui push for the construction of an international airport in Lanet, which will provide a platform for more economic growth after Nakuru was voted the second richest county after Nairobi in a recent and inaugural 2019 Gross County Product report.

This was as a result of increased agriculture productivity in 2017 that saw the total value of goods produced in the county amount to Sh517.4 billion, which was 6.9 per cent of the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from 5.4 per cent recorded in 2013.

The completion of the airport will improve domestic and international tourism and complement the popular conferencing tourism both in Nakuru and Naivasha.

It will also allow easier exportation of flori-culture products from the rural areas of Naivasha, Nakuru and Nyahururu that were initially transported to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi for airlifting to overseas markets.

The survey shows that the county’s agricultural sector produced 10.6 per cent of all agricultural produce in Kenya with the floriculture industry was the top earner in foreign exchange.

“This is what has led to rapid infrastructural development that is slowly spreading to the rural areas and the approval by the Cabinet to promote the town to city did not come as a surprise to us,” said an investor who requested not to be named.

Fastest growing in region

In 2013, UN Habitat listed Nakuru as one of the fastest-growing towns in East and Central Africa owing to its central location that has seen the Trans African Highway pass through it from Mombasa, extending to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, giving it an edge as a business investment centre.

The county government is racing against time for the town to regain its lost glory of being the cleanest town in East and Central Africa as was in the 70s.

Recently, Cytonn Investment released another report showing the land sector in Nakuru County having recorded an annualised capital appreciation of 8.8 per cent that can be attributed to an increase in demand for land in residential zones.

The county saw its land prices rise by an average 12.7 per cent in 2017, according to the County Land Price Report, 2018.

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