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Why everyone now wants a piece of rich Naivasha town

HOME & AWAY
By Antony Gitonga | March 10th 2021
A section of Naivasha dry port land [Edward Kiplimo, Standard].

For a long time, Kenyans have been treated to negative and depressing stories from Naivasha.

In the past, stories of bodies being dumped in bushes along the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway or Mai Mahiu-Naivasha road, child defilement and bizarre murders of family members or lovers dominated the news.

But this is fast changing. Now the stories that are emerging depict the area as the next big investment destination and a commercial hub of international repute.

The establishment of a dry port and an industrial park in Naivasha has helped to change the town’s perception, with both local and international investors trooping to there.

The town, whose name is a corruption of the Maasai E-na-iposha (meaning “having waters”), was started in 1884 by Joseph Thomson.

The town, located 90km from the capital city of Nairobi and on the shores of Lake Naivasha, is home to tens of flower farms, a geothermal power plant, breweries and tourist destination points.

The mighty and rich

Now it has shed the negative image it was associated with and is currently the hub of business and conferences and home to the mighty and rich. Investment and tourism opportunities cannot be discussed without mentioning Naivasha town and its suburbs.

According to data from the Ministry of Tourism, Naivasha is ranked second after Mombasa in terms of the number of visiting tourists and is among the leading towns in the number of high-end hotels.

Naivasha is home to more than 50 flower farms, including V-D Berg, Maridadi, Finlays, Panda, Shalimar, Nini, and Longonot Horticulture.

Other key investments include Keroche Breweries, Roka Industries which produces electricity cables, Mashwa Breweries, Solinic Solar Company and Plantec Limited, which is currently Africa’s leading producer of vegetable and fruit seedlings.

An economics expert, Washington Ochieng’, points to the availability of key resources like cheap geothermal power, vast land and accessibility to Nairobi for the rush to invest in Naivasha.

Ochieng’ says the number of investors in the town will rise in the coming years as companies relocate from Nairobi, Thika, Mombasa and Eldoret.

“Currently the biggest challenge facing manufacturers is the high electricity charges and if they can get it cheaper in Naivasha using the geothermal power, then this is the place to be,” he says.

President Uhuru Kenyatta inspecting ongoing works at the Naivasha dry port when he made an impromptu visit on 22nd November 2019. [Courtesy]

He says the planned dualing of the Nairobi-Mau Summit road will be a major plus for those ferrying goods to the market.

Last year, the government set aside 1,000 acres for the Naivasha industrial park located a few kilometres from Mai Mahiu town.

The management of Kedong ranch has been instrumental in the establishment of the park after resettling hundreds of affected families on another 4,000 acres.

The extension of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line from Nairobi to Naivasha and next to the industrial park has turned out to be a major incentive to the investors.

During the launch of the SGR terminus in Mai Mahiu early last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that a local entrepreneur had agreed to set up a textile factory within the industrial park.

“We already have several major investors keen on investing in this park and those who claim that the SGR heads to nowhere are prophets of doom and history will prove them wrong,” he said.

Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui says the upcoming projects will positively change the county and Naivasha town.

He says they expect an increase in job opportunities and wealth creation.

“We are in the process of coming up with a masterplan for the area around the industrial park and we have suspended sub-division of land around Mai Mahiu to stop informal structures,” says Kinyanjui.

And to address the issue of housing, which will be in demand as more seek employment, the governor says the county, in partnership with various stakeholders, has embarked on constructing 2,400 units around Naivasha town.

“The national government has also released Sh700 million for supply of water to the park and residents of Naivasha,” he says.

Kinyanjui adds that the county is keen on building supporting infrastructure such as hospitals, sewer systems and planned trading centres to serve those working in the dry port.

According to Nakuru County Trade and Industry Executive Raymond Komen, an estimated 40,000 jobs will be created once the works on the Inland Container Depot, SGR terminus and the industrial park are complete and operational.

Already, Flower Business Park has embarked on a Sh1 billion expansion plan as demand, mainly for fruit and vegetable seedlings, continues to rise.

According to the business park General Manager, James Waweru, they currently employ over 4,500 workers, with the number expected to rise after the expansion.

A few kilometres from the park and within Kedong ranch, Akiira Geothermal Company has acquired 1,000 acres to put up a Sh9.8 billion geothermal power plant.

Danish Brewing Company EA, on the other hand, has agreed to put up a Sh4.5 billion plant in the industrial park.

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