The town's proximity to Tanzania makes it strategic for international trade. And with good roads and low cost of land it is developing into a real estate destination of choice in the South Rift, writes Allan Olingo

The air is cold but the wind is calm. Small, stunted trees grow crookedly in defiance of the bleak, windswept atmosphere. This small and dusty outpost about 75 kilometres directly south of Nairobi awakens slowly to a new day.

This is Kajiado township that has quietly experienced significant growth in the past five years and is poised for explosive economic growth in the next few years. This is evidenced by the number of houses coming up everyday. Young men can be seen ferrying large bags of cements, lumber and jerricans of water on makeshift wheelbarrows.

A major contributing factor to Kajiado’s growth in real estate has been the population growth in Nairobi, resulting in an insatiable need for housing as well as commercial and industrial zones. This, in turn, has pushed many developers southwards along the Nairobi-Athi River-Namanga corridor in search of habitable areas. The expansion of Mombasa Road and the introduction of mass transport such as the proposed light rail has also elevated Kajiado in the eyes of investors.

According to area councillor Gidraph Kang’ara, people who bought land or invested in real estate in Kajiado town during its nascent days, are now getting their rewards.

"This area has everything for a self-sufficient residential town with a bustling business district. With the expected County governments, it is a sure hotspot," he adds.

It is not surprising that many developers have turned their sights on Kajiado. Al-Bushra Properties Ltd is one such company.

Growth potential

"Its proximity to Tanzania via Namanga makes it strategic for international trade and commerce, yet the cost of home ownership is less than half that of Nairobi. This offers plenty of potential for growth and return on investment as opposed to already developed places such as Nairobi and other major towns," notes Faisal Guhad, a project manager with Al-Bushra Properties.

Kajiado, indeed, holds great promise to investors. Unlike Nairobi it is not smoggy, gridlocked with sea of cars and kamikaze drivers forcing pedestrians to sprint across highways to reach their destinations. The town’s peace and tranquillity is one of its greatest assets.

Construction materials are readily available from nearby centres in Athi River and Kitengela, which have also shown great expansion in the last couple of years. Like in many towns, however, the supply of housing especially in urban areas is far below the demand. The few houses available are beyond the reach of many.

Estates like Mumtaz Garden by Al-Bushra Properties in the heart of Kajiado offers a modern integrated and affordable housing.

Mumtaz Garden Estate. This is one of the new residential estates in Kajiado.

"Our development comprises of more than 100 four and three bedroom bungalows with master ensuite. There are also two bedroom units for those who might not need a lot of space," says Guhad.

Property prices here are relatively low with a four bedroom house costing around Sh4.3 million. Rent for a one bedroom house ranges between Sh4,500 and 6,000 while a two bedroom house can fetch Sh7,500 in rent.

These prices, compared to areas like Nairobi or the neighbouring Athi River and Kitengela, are relatively low, making many flock to Kajiado.

"Our commitment is to work with investors to ensure the creation of a shared vision for Kajiado town as a property investment spot, which is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable," says Kangara.

Gulad notes that property growth is vital to the regeneration of any town and Kajiado is no different.

"We have been providing new affordable homes, creating jobs, offering training schemes to residents and reconnecting the township with its surrounding environment," he adds.

Cost of investment is low owing to affordability of land; however, the main challenge has been provision of water. Water scarcity is probably the biggest headache for residents of Kajiado town, most of whom spend more money on it than food.

Trade in water is perhaps the most lucrative business in the town and has attracted both the rich and ordinary folk. The affluent have drilled boreholes and bought tankers to transport water to thirsty individuals and institutions, while the ordinary vendors use hand carts, bicycles and wheelbarrows to transport it from the boreholes to homes at between Sh20 and Sh30 for a 20-litre.

Water provision

On the other hand, the town council in collaboration with donors has sunk boreholes to help ease residents’ burden.

"As a council, we have dug wells to provide clean drinking water to residents. This also enables people to engage in small scale farming," says Kangara.

The town in general is a place inhabited by the Maasai, but there has been an upsurge of Somali influence. According to Elizabeth Wairimu, a homeowner, this has made prices of properties go up.

"Another reason for the high costs here is the newly carpeted Athi River-Namanga Highway that attracts investments. Land prices have more than doubled between 2008 and end of last year," says Wairimu.

Speculators have not been left behind and are buying land around the proposed Kajiado airport. The airport is meant to serve tourists headed to Amboseli and the neighbouring Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Land in Kajiado is very productive making agriculture a key investment opportunity. This has attracted silent investors who have set up restaurants and clothing businesses. Banks are also competing for space along the major streets in the town.

Strategising

On average, a plot measuring 50 by 100 feet in the town centre is selling for Sh300,000 and due to the prevailing demand, it is hard to come by one in the market.

Kangara notes that the real estate vision for Kajiado is to have a highly successful county that will attract investors to set up industries, schools and universities making it an investment destination of choice in all of South Rift. Guhad adds that with Kajiado town being the headquarters of the greater Kajiado County, they foresee a county government with many young professionals in all sectors of the economy and thus a need to meet this expected demand in housing.

"Many people would like to live in Kajiado if the promised high speed train to Nairobi and the construction of the airport is expedited by the Government," says Guhad.

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