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How Narok County will benefit from SGR

COMMENTARY
By OLIVER MWENDA | December 6th 2016

Development economists opine that physical infrastructure is requisite for industrialisation and economic development. It is a fact that transport has been one of the key influencers of human civilisation since time immemorial. Some cities and towns grew from transport corridors at sea and on land.

The decision by the Government to okay the construction of phase two of the Standard Gauge Railway, which is expected to pass through Narok and Kisumu, is certain to transform the economic fortunes of these counties.

Narok County has been sitting on the cusp of investor opportunity, serving as an economic and tourism nerve centre of the South Rift region. A critical analysis of investment opportunities in Narok County reveals untapped potential in Agriculture (value addition), Energy and Tourism.

Skeptics have poured cold water on the economic viability of the multi-billion dollar infrastructure project. As an optimistic Narok resident, I beg to differ. The SGR will not only open up the county and provide access to markets for farmers and livestock herders; it will significantly reduce cost and time to access the region. It will take approximately 40 minutes from Nairobi to Narok using the SGR; meaning one can commute. The opportunity to work in Nairobi and live in Narok is too good a bargain to let pass.

The expected population flight to Narok will necessitate investment in housing among other social amenities, consequently improving the economic fortunes of the county. The County Government’s commitment to creating an environment that makes it easy for companies and investors to do business will ensure that the growth in these sectors goes unimpeded.

The SGR is expected to offer employment opportunities to the youth in Narok as well as technology transfer. Through strategic partnerships with higher educational institutions in the county like the Masai Mara University, the county has the potential to produce the next crop of appropriately skilled and trained human resource to undertake future big ticket infrastructure projects without the need to import foreigners.

To complement the SGR, The Narok County government will hasten the creation of industrial parks in Suswa.

The Geothermal Development Company (GDC) is expected to develop the geothermal fields at Suswa which will offer affordable power to industries and manufacturers setting up in the area. Transport and energy costs will no longer be a concern to any investor willing to set up in Narok.The Tourism sector in the county will reap handsomely with the decreased time spent by tourist heading to the Masai Mara.

It is important to note that tourism doesn’t occur in isolation, besides spending money on marketing and promotion of tourism, it is imperative to build travel-friendly infrastructure. The SGR will effectively give us a much more competitive advantage over the likes of Serengeti in Tanzania and the Kruger National Park South Africa.

What is required now is a complete change of attitude by the residents; we need to embrace the SGR and put in place necessary foundation for the county to reap its rewards.

According to the Africa Competitiveness Report 2013, African economies can begin the process of deep integration if their infrastructure networks are designed in such a way as to link production centers and distribution hubs across the continent

The SGR does exactly this in Narok County. Wheat farmers in Narok South, potato farmers in Nairege Enkare in Narok East and the Mau region will now be able to transport their produce to markets in Nairobi and Mombasa and thus avoid the pain of exploitative middlemen.
Such infrastructure will enable the county to compete effectively in the national and regional marketplace, on top of this; the County will tap into the regional markets of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

A well-performing and efficient transportation network will lower prices on household goods. It will allow businessmen and women in Narok County to transport goods more cheaply and efficiently as well as access a variety of suppliers and markets for their products.

This will invariably enable our farmers and the business community in the county to run more cost-effective businesses as well as improve their competitive edge over other farmers in the region.The challenge of globalization has forced businesses worldwide to lift their game in regard to drastically reducing the cost of production and maximizing economies of scale.

The availability of land, cheap power, transport and the ease of access to major markets in Nairobi, Mombasa and the region courtesy of the SGR, makes Narok County the ideal destination for potential investors seeking to tap into the growing East African region.

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