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Kisumu stares at a bright future after years of failed promises

President William Ruto and Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyongo shake hands at State House,Nairobi on December 7, 2022. [PCS]

After years of gloom worsened by demolitions to pave the way for development projects, including roads, Kisumu is looking forward to a bright future as mega projects tipped to transform its economy begin to take shape.

Hopes are high that a number of projects being implemented by the national government, the county administration and various development partners will be completed in the coming year.

The multi-billion projects, which cut across agriculture, trade, education, energy, water and transport sectors are expected to cement Kisumu's position as an economic powerhouse.

President William Ruto's administration has announced plans to construct a Sh1 billion fisheries and research centre in Kabonyo Kanyagwal.

ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo, Ruto's point-man in the Nyanza region, recently said the government is committed to implementing all the planned projects as part of its efforts to revamp the blue economy.

The government is also fast-tracking rehabilitation of the Kisumu-Nakuru railway line which has been struggling for more than a year since it resumed operations.

Many passengers have not been using the rehabilitated line from Kisumu to Nairobi because of the time it takes. The train takes 12 hours. But the government also plans to extend the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which takes a shorter time, to Kisumu from Naivasha as a way of addressing the challenge.

Last month, Transport CS Kipchumba Murkomen said the government will consider extending the SGR to Kisumu as part of the efforts to position the city as the focal point for the country's trade with Uganda, Tanzania, DRC Congo and Rwanda.

On Wednesday, a senior official at Kenya Railways told The Standard that they hope to increase the number of trips to Kisumu on the Meter Gauge Railway (MGR) even as they wait for SGR.

"We are keen to transform transport to Kisumu. We expect cargo to increase and this will be of great help to Kisumu's economy," the official, who did not wish to be named, said.

Governor Anyang' Nyong'o's administration is also pursuing several projects, including a Sh30 billion agriculture investment project in partnership with a UK firm. The project is aimed at boosting food production.

Nyong'o said he is optimistic that the new year will be a major breakthrough for the county.

Speaking on Monday, the governor announced that his administration will digitise all its operations, a move aimed at making it easy to monitor service delivery.

"I have tasked my CEC for Public Service, Public Administration, and Participatory Development, and the Office of the governor to spearhead the ICT revolution in the county and ensure my government becomes tech-savvy in all its operations," said the governor.

Another project that the devolved unit has also implemented is K'ochieng' tomato plant in Nyando sub-county.

Kisumu County's Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KNCCI) chairman Israel Agina said the ongoing projects will bring solutions to a number of problems, including youth unemployment, and food insecurity.

"The fish project will increase our production, stabilize local supply and enhance exports. Import of frozen fish will gradually reduce. Fish processing and employment in the blue economy will grow," said Agina.

CEC for agriculture Kenneth Onyango said that the county is engaging a number of investors both local and foreign who can invest in agriculture in the county.

Kisumu is also in the process of coming up with an international convention centre that, according to the county's CEC member for trade Faridah Salim.

"We are keen to ensure The Mamboleo Convention Centre is complete. Our governor has engaged the relevant PS to ensure that we get our full funding for the project. The convention centre will be a game changer for Kisumu as a county and the Lake region," said Salim.

Kisumu Residents Voice Association chairman Audi Ogada called on the county government to ensure the projects are fully implemented as planned so the taxpayers can get value for money.

With the county government expected to start implementation of the proposed Kisumu Local Physical and Land Use Development Plan, more changes await the county.

The plan also proposes sweeping changes to existing structures in the city, expansion of the city's borders as well as new rules on land ownership.

Old estates such as Arina, Kibuye, Kimute, Argwings Kodhek Patels, Mosque, and Ondiek have been zoned to provide mixed developments.

One-bedroom houses will be constructed in the estates while about 50 per cent of the estates will be set aside for studio spaces. Estates on the outskirts of Kisumu, including Otonglo, Dago, Kajulu and Ojolla, have been set aside for high-density residential homes.

Others projects being implemented in Kisumu are Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Sports ground which will cost Sh350 million. The sports complex was last year renamed from Jomo Kenyatta Sports ground following the commencement of the construction of the Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium.

The multipurpose complex has been used to host public events and sports, and the refurbishment has been focused on improving its condition which had deteriorated due to poor management.

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