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How Kenol town grew from a lone roadside petrol station to a bustling gateway


A section of buildings at Kenol market, Murang'a. [Boniface Gikandi, Standard]

Thirty years ago, Kenol market had a single petrol station located along the Nyeri-Nairobi highway that also offered relief to motorists and their passengers for sanitary facilities.

The growth of the market centre started slowly with some of the eateries coming up next to the petrol station that caused conflict over security.

Today, the market is a district headquarters with a law court among other public amenities, a change from the days it was a haven for criminals.

The late William Mbote started the petrol station and a nearby eatery after he leased it from Kenol-Kobil company, remaining there until more investors trooped in.

In the early 2000s, the government was forced to relocate Maragua District Headquarters from Mariira Farm to Makuyu as the Kenol District headquarters was being constructed through the partnership of the local leaders.

Immediately after the district headquarters was established, Golden Palm Hotel opened its door and offered the missing conference facilities at the market.

Today, the fast-growing market centre lies at the heart of the 84 kilometres Kenol- Sagana- Karatina-Marwa Dual Carriage Highway, where the investors are eying for a portion of land to establish businesses.

In the past three years, Kenol market christened Gateway to Mat Kenya has expressed heavy traffic snarl due to the high number of people using the routes to Murang'a and Nyeri.

Construction of the dual carriage highway brought relief to the area residents, with Murang'a leaders proposing the expansion of the Kenol- Murang'a road.

On Friday, Kilele Mall was opened with local leaders lauding efforts by Murang'a businessman Simon Wachira to create employment for the youth.

The Mall will accommodate supermarkets, commercial banks and a 24-hour restaurant.

Opening the facility, Deputy Governor Stephen Munania said the county government will give a conducive environment for business.

"We shall work in partnership with all business persons to ensure there is increased employment of the youth," said the deputy governor.

As the town was expanding, Murang'a South Water and Sanitation Company (Muswasco), Managing Director Mary Nayaga said they were constructing a Sh2.1 billion sewerage project as well as increasing the supply of clean piped water.

"With increased population production of water should be enhanced to provide the commodity and support growth of the fast-growing setup," said Ms Nyaga.

Maragua MP Mary Wamaua said the opening of the facility will spur growth and create employment for hundreds of youth.

The MP said Kenol is shared by the constituencies of Kandara and Maragua and has been a source of employment for hundreds.

"We appreciate coming of the mall as it will add value to the town and attract more investors," she said.

The cost of land has tripled with an acre going for more than Sh10 million depending on the location, an increase of Sh7million from 2017.

Milka Kamau, a land agent, said the coming of the dual carriage highway opened the sleepy Kenol market with hundreds of buildings coming up.

Ms Kamau said investors have established petrol stations between Kabati to Makutano and Kenol to Kaharati. There are new eateries.

"Kenol has overtaken many urban sets up as it has hundreds of small and big businesses," said Kamau, adding that the urban set-up has expanded to the Kagaa area.

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