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After 7 years of hardship, Webuye locals welcome Pan Paper revival

By Alex Wakhisi | May 3rd 2016

The Government's move to revive Pan Paper Mills in Webuye has brought joy to the local business community and residents.

In 2009, many people in the once-lively town were left crestfallen when the factory collapsed due to a huge debt.

The closure of the factory signaled an economic disaster for thousands of employees and residents of Webuye township.

From empty shop shelves to deserted rental homes, the impact of the shutdown was devastating.

But the Government's move to revive the mill through an investor is expected to restore Webuye's economic fortunes.

Justin Simiyu, a trader in Webuye town, said the move to revive the factory comes as a relief to the business community in the 'ghost' town.

"We have suffered a lot as business people. We can now see the light at the end of the tunnel," said Ms Simiyu.

She praised the Jubilee government for coming to their rescue, saying they would now be able to get more customers to buy their goods and services.

financial crisis

"We will be able to reap more returns and profits from our businesses. We have been facing a financial crisis, failing to pay fees for our children and to raise money for domestic use," she said.

Rai Group of Companies has been confirmed as the new strategic investor to revive the collapsed mill.

The factory was placed under receivership in March 2009 after failing to service its debts of over Sh6 billion.

Nkrumah Wanyama, a resident of Webuye, said reviving the factory would create jobs for the youth.

"The move will improve the economic status of our county. It is a blessing to our people because they will get employment at the factory and this will reduce the crime rate," said Mr Wanyama.

Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale asked the Government to disclose the amount offered by the investor to buy the factory.

"I welcome the revival of the factory, it is long overdue. However, we demand for total disclosure of the nature of the contact in view of how much the factory was sold for. The reported Sh900 million would be a throwaway price," said Dr Khalwale.

Former Webuye MP Musikari Kombo dismissed those saying the revival was a political tactic by the Government to win over the voter-rich western region.

"There is no politics in the move by the Government to revive the factory. Those claiming Sh900 million offered by the investor to buy the factory is a throwaway price should tell Kenyans where they were for the years the company has been 'dead' yet they did not salvage it," said Mr Kombo.

He asked the investor to employ locals to ensure the community benefited from the factory being in their area.

"I request the investor to hire locals from Webuye, Bungoma, Western and Kenya as a whole. Reviving the factory is welcome and it is a blessing to us," he said.

Navakholo MP Emmanuel Wangwe asked political leaders from the region to support revival of the factory.

"Reviving the factory will bring light to Webuye town, which had collapsed following the closure of the factory. It is a good move by the Government and all political leaders regardless of their affiliations should support the initiative," said Mr Wangwe.

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula questioned whether the community was involved in the process of sourcing for the investor.

"The Government should make public the contract signed between itself and the investor. We need to know how the community will benefit from the factory. The community was not involved in the process of picking the investor," said Mr Wetang'ula.

And Budalang'i MP Ababu Namwamba said: "The Government should not think it is doing a favour to the community. We pay tax and we deserve to get our stake from the Government. The Government should not use it as a political gimmick."

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