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Counties that are daring to dream big for a prosperous future

By By MARK KAPCHANGA | November 19th 2013


KENYA: It has been a busy season for governors — at least some of them. This conspicuous brand of governors have treated their constituents to some lofty dreams and flirted with mind-blowing figures in panned expenditure. 

They are not afraid to dream because to them, their punishment is that they will see the dawn before the rest of the world.

This, perhaps, explains the grand vision Machakos, Mombasa, Homa Bay, Nairobi and Uasin Gishu Counties have come up with. Their leadership are hungry to transform peoples’ lives by making them economically independent.

But, at what cost are these expansive plans? Do they have the requisite resources to propel their respective regions to the next phase of economic growth? Are these dreams realistic? We sample some of the counties that have dared to dream big.

Machakos County

Machakos County unveiled an ambitious Sh1.6 trillion project, which if completed could unseat Nairobi as a key business hub.

With a population of 1,098,584 according to the 2009 census, Machakos County has been touted as the region’s next business hub, likely to snatch the long-held crown from Nairobi.

The county’s main development pillars are on food production, youth empowerment, water, education and welfare, infrastructure, security and environment. To make the semi-arid county food sufficient, the governor, Dr Alfred Mutua desires to connect each of the 300,000 households in the area to water. Two tractors will also be allocated to every sub-location together with an excavator and a grader. This, according to the governor, will cost Sh1.03 billion.

In addition, Dr Mutua says he will drill 20 boreholes each at the cost of Sh5 million, translating to Sh100 million. More than Sh1.43 billion has been set aside for piping tanks, tanks and the related labour and operating costs for water harvesting that will last an average of seven months in every sub-location. In sum, the county says it will spend about Sh2.5 billion in water-related projects for the Machakos people.

In the security docket, Dr Mutua says he would increase police presence and response by providing at least two cars and motorcycles for each of the county’s 69 locations. Another Sh200 million will be spent to purchase 150 cars and Sh150 million per year will be used to fuel and service them.

It seems the tag; “in Machakos, when you call the police, they will come immediately” is informed by the fact that Dr Mutua has put aside Sh600 million in the next five years to increase police morale by building decent housing and stations. Through a public-private partnership, Machakos County targets to link all of its towns through a commuter train. This will also see the launch of a four-kilometre runway in Konza to act as an alternative to Eldoret Airport, bringing cargo and jobs to Machakos and exporting horticultural products to international markets.

“As rural electrification expands, we will focus on our natural resources and renewable energy. We will cash in on international funding to promote the use of solar, bio-fuel and other sources of alternative energy,” he said in his manifesto. 

“We will lobby for expansion of the rural electrification programme so that every village has power in three years and every villages a few years after,” he said in his manifesto.”

To-date, Machakos County Government has signed investment memoranda of understanding with investors worth over Sh56 billion. The appetite for the region’s piece of commerce has been catalysed by the incentives put forth such as the free land as has been done in some of the world’s leading economies such as Singapore, United States, Australia and Serbia.

Some of the firms that have signed agreements with the county include the Nairobi Hospital, which will construct a ultra-modern medical centre with 200 beds at a cost of Sh1.5 billion. Possibly, it is the recent proposal to put up a new City of Machakos that has portrayed Dr Mutua as one of the most focused governors in Kenya — one in whose office other governors should seek internship.

“We are creating this city to attract investors and accelerate the speed of development,” he said.  While Dr Mutua’s plans look somewhat realistic, critics say the Formula One (F1) project, the highest class of single-seater auto racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, could be a white elephant. 

F1 is the fastest multi-turn circuit-racing circuit in the world, owing to very high cornering speeds achieved through the generation of large amounts of aerodynamic downforce.


In October, the county launched a Sh560 billion agri-city project. The joint venture between Sultanate of Oman firm, Good Earth Power and New York City-based Urban Green Energy, is to be rolled out in phases for three decades.

The agri-city will host a large-scale agricultural production and processing industry and at the same time provide the necessary infrastructure such as the production of about 175 Megawatts of electricity.

According to the Governor Cyprian Awiti, the project will provide at least 20,000 jobs to a county with a population of 963,794 people. A month before the launch of the agri-city, Homa Bay had signed a Sh12.6 billion solar energy production contract with a conglomerate of Canadian firms as part of the county’s plans to make power reliable and affordable to its people.

Under the signed agreement, firms under the Lakeside Solar will develop 50 megawatts of solar plant in the county within the next one year. Lakeside Consortium is made up of Canadian Exporters and Engineers including Africa Energy Development Corporation, Eaton Cooper Solar Canada and Canadian Solar.

As part of his ambitious development portfolio for the county, Mr Awiti recently invited an expression of interest from consultants to undertake feasibility studies for the establishment of “nine value addition enterprises”.

They were a cassava processing plant, coffee processing plant, ginnery and textile industries, milk processing plant, groundnut processing plant, honey processing plant, rice processing plant and a water bottling plant.

According to the advertorial, the work would start mid-November and last a maximum of 30 calendar days. The county is currently engaging a US-based Oasis Group International to put up low cost houses in the county. 


Embu County is banking on agriculture to grow its economy.

So far, the county has signed deals worth over Sh441 billion with different investors. According to the Governor Martin Wambora, part of the fund will be put in agriculture. This will include the putting up of a modern abattoir worth Sh80 million.

Work is also in progress for a poultry project, costing Sh100 million, a peanut processing plant worth Sh2 billion and a Sh2 billion deal for the construction of a cotton ginnery.

In the infrastructure sector, agreements worth more than Sh20 billion have been signed. An insurance firm has already appended its signature on a Sh3 billion housing contract in Embu town.

In addition, an Indian investor is poised to train youths in the region on ICT. The same investor has reached a Sh40 million deal with the Kenya Industrial Estates for the establishment of industrial incubators in the county.

But this, it seems, is not all. A high-altitude training camp is to be launched in Kigari Teachers Training College. This will cost the county about Sh500 million. In a bid to transform Embu into Mt Kenya’s business hub, an American investor is to convert Embu airstrip into an international airport.

“We will also be launching an ultra-modern shopping mall to spike the county’s growth,” said Mr Wambora. The appetite for American money in Embu seems high as another investor is expected to establish a cancer facility in 2014. According to the governor, 24 tonnes MRI machine worth Sh100 million are expected from China for Embu provincial general hospital. “We are also buying dialysis and CT scan machines for the hospital by December.”


The lakeside county recently launched Sh4 billion projects for restructuring of Kisumu City, which is set to start in December. The county has also signed three major deals with European nations. A Sh400-billion deal was signed with the Canadian Government aimed at revamping water transport in Lake Victoria.

The project is expected to kick off in three months’ time and will involve the setting up a boat construction and maintenance firm in the county. It will also entail the commissioning of a major network in all the docking bays in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

The German Government has also entered into an agreement with the county where it will disburse Sh600 million for the construction of five new primary schools. Perhaps what is likely to change Kisumu city’s image is the construction of a 16-storey building beginning June 2014 that will house the University of Nairobi (UoN).


The county’s Governor Peter Munya has so far struck a Sh6.6 billion deal with Malaysia for the construction of a 300-kilometre road. It is split into two phases; a 50-kilometre stretch begins in January and will take about eight months while the second one will be completed in two years.

Exim Bank is financing the project and the county government is expected to repay the loan in ten years. This means every year during this period, the county will set aside Sh500 million for the grand project. Meru County this year set aside Sh900 million for infrastructure.

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