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Kwale banking on vast mineral wealth to prosper

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By - PASCAL MWANDAMBO | July 16th 2013
By - PASCAL MWANDAMBO | July 16th 2013
FINANCIAL STANDARD

By PASCAL MWANDAMBO

Kwale County has always borne the ironical tag of being the richest yet the poorest regions in Kenya.

Richest in the sense that the county has some of the most precious and vast mineral resources in the country, unrivalled tourist attractions and vast terrain of fertile land.

Kwale also has a promising sugar factory that holds a great potential for the county and the whole Coastal region.

At the same time, however, local communities in Kwale have remained poor largely due to what area leaders see as marginalisation by successive governments and infiltration of the area by outsiders whose investments have not served the general good of the locals.

As such the county’s CEO governor Salim Mvurya has his job cut out for him in seeing to it that Kwale gets its rightful economic gains, which have eluded the area since independence.

Mvurya whose county government seems to have started on the right footing with the unveiling of its budget and swearing in of county executives without much ado.

It now faces the herculean task of steering Kwale to prosperity and ward off the negative publicity it has received so far as the cauldron of rag-tag armies and fundamentalist separatist groups such as the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC).

While the issue of unemployment has remained a thorny one for the region for many years, and has been associated with the problem of youths being lured into groups such as MRC and Kaya Bombo, the county government now has the obligation to tap into the vast resources to create more jobs for its people and more so the youth.

major producers

Kwale has a vast mining potential chief among this being the titanium mining. An Australian mining company Base Resources has been mining titanium ore in the county and is expected to make its first shipment later this year.

The company is also projected to export 330,000 tonnes of ilmenite, 80,000 tonnes of rutile and 40,000 tonnes of zirconium. The project is set to cost Sh26 billion.

Another company Cortec Mining Kenya Limited, which is prospecting at Mrima Hill in the county, is putting up a Sh12.8 billion factory to mine niobium mineral ore.

The company which as been awarded a 21-year lease is expected to put Kwale and Kenya among the major producers of niobium such as Brazil — which is leading in the world — followed by Canada.

Governor Mvurya is expected to join other coastal leaders, including Cabinet Secretary in charge of mining Najib Balala, in lobbying for the amendment of the current Mining Act which coastal leaders feel has disenfranchised local communities and denied them an opportunity to participate effectively in mining.

On the other hand Kwale needs to fully tap into its vast tourism potential more so after Diani and Ukunda towns were earmarked as tourism resort sites under the Vision 2030 blueprint. The county’s tourism resources include the Shimba Hills National Reserve, Mwalughanje Elephant Sanctuary, Kisite/Mpunguti Marine Reserve, the  Shimba Hills Forest as well as the pristine sandy beaches.

The county is also poised to generate more jobs for its youth when the once Ramisi Sugar Factory-now the Kenya International Sugar Company-is put on sound footing.

Currently the company employs about 1,200 workers but this number is expected to double to 3,000 next year when the factory becomes fully operational.

Ramisi Sugar Company collapsed in 1989 under the then Kanu regime largely due to corruption, mismanagement and political interference.


 

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