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Death of key towns is not a surprise

OPINION
By Mbatau wa Ngai | Oct 29th 2019 | 2 min read
By Mbatau wa Ngai | October 29th 2019
OPINION
Residential houses at Miwani town in Kisumu county, the once up on a time business hub when the area sugar mill was in operation. The town has been reduced into poverty hub as the miller closed and went under receivership. (Denish Ochieng, Standard)

Two feature articles carried by The Standard over the past two weeks detailing the collapse of businesses around Lake Victoria and along the coastal region were as heartbreaking as they were disturbing.

This is because of the large number of people plunged into poverty by circumstances beyond their control, and because of the fact that they can be replicated in much of rural Kenya.

The tragedy, however, is that our leaders at both levels of government appear oblivious to the events unfolding before them even as they spend billions of public money crafting and implementing mega-projects far removed from the daily lives of ordinary Kenyans.

It is worth noting that the problems bedeviling the economies at the opposite ends of the country are man-made and can easily be avoided.

The major problem appears to be mismanagement.

The collapse of Miwani town in Nyanza, for example, was as a result of the mismanagement of Miwani Sugar Company that led to its eventual shutdown.

Cautionary tale

The slow and painful death of Asembo town located on the shores of Lake Victoria, on the other hand, can be traced back to the collapse of the cotton sub-sector.

A sustained campaign by some indigenous traders to drive out their counterparts of Indian descent only speeded up the decline of the town’s fortunes. This should be a cautionary tale for communities in other parts of the country.

The same story was replicated in Wundanyi town, where the collapse of coffee and horticultural farming strangled the economy of Taita-Taveta.

The refusal by local residents to either develop or sell land to investors proved to be the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

The downward spiral of Malindi, which once hosted high-rollers from Italy is yet another reminder of how prosperity cannot be taken for granted. Here, the local and national leaders are accused of turning a deaf ear to foreign investors’ request to improve roads, waste disposal and security.

The result was the near-collective departure of the Italian investors and the tourists. It is not clear whether the current belated attempts to turn the county’s economy around will bear much fruit.  

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