Rongai is no longer too far

The town that not long ago Nairobians only considered fit for an outing to enjoy the juicy ribs of Maasai goats is fast becoming everyone’s location for a putting up a dream home, writes WINSLEY MASESE

About two decades ago, few would think of buying a property or building a dream home in Ongata Rongai, Kajiado County.

It was considered too long a journey to commute to and from, especially for those working in Nairobi.

To many, it was only ideal for an outing to enjoy the juicy ribs of the Maasai goats and perhaps view wild animals from the neighbouring Nairobi National Park.

But things have since changed for the better. Today, Ongata Rongai town is fast emerging as the commercial and transport hub for other upcoming neighbourhoods such as Rangau, Tuala, Gataka, Ole Kasasi, Kandisi and Kambi Moto.

David Gitau of Vidmerk Ltd, a real estate firm, attributes the spillover effect and the fast expansion of Ongata Rongai to appreciation of land value in the town and the realisation that it would soon infect the inner regions.

“About six years ago, a quarter an acre piece of land in Ongata Rongai was costing Sh1 million. Today, an acre is going for at least Sh10 million. This is beyond the reach of those who want to own homes,” he said.

The expansion has further been boosted by the availability of huge tracts of land.

“‘Buy now, don’t wait’ best fits the craze with which Kenyans are moving into the interiors of Ongata Rongai,” says Bernard Kimani, the branch manager at Propensity Properties, a real estate and property management and consultancy firm.

Tarmacked road

He predicts that once the infrastructure, water and security are improved, the value of land in the town is likely to appreciate tenfold. This, he says, will largely be boosted by the yet-to-be-constructed tarmacked road between Kitengela and Ongata Rongai.

Last year, for example, one would wait for about three hours to catch a public service vehicle to Tuala. Today, however, there are over 10 matatus plying that route and one needs not wait for long. It is the same story for those going to Gataka.

“The area has huge chunks of land for expansion and this has fuelled the growth of these outskirts as investors want to buy before the price appreciates,” noted Kimani.

Besides, people want to avoid the now fairy tale of how cheap the price of land in these outskirts was only that people were not wise enough to see it coming.

“They move outside the town in the hope that once the road is complete, communication between Rongai and the outskirts would be easier,” says Gitau.

Largely considered a residential area, this town is slowly changing as more commercial interests take charge.

Financial institutions such as Kenya Commercial Bank, Barclays Bank of Kenya, National Bank, Equity Bank, Cooperative Bank, Post Bank and Bank of Africa have already pitched tent in the town. 

Commercial centre

Retail outlets such as Uchumi, Tuskys and Tumaini have opened branches to tap into the growing population.

Institutions of higher learning that further fuel demand for land into the outskirts of Ongata Rongai include Nazarene University, Catholic University of Eastern Africa, and Multimedia University. 

Kimani, who used to visit Ongata Rongai on his way to Kiserian, which was a small town by then, says what happened to the town a few years ago is likely to happen to the outskirts.

“As population increases, the price of land will increase and this is likely to see people move to the interior where the price is currently affordable,” he said.

Everyone, according to Kimani, seems to want to own a home and that has kept demand for property increasing and with improved infrastructure and other amenities, land prices in the outskirts will increase as it did in Ongata Rongai.

As these regions open up for investment, Kimani predicts that Rongai will one day be connected to Kitengela and Ngong, becoming a huge commercial centre.  When Kimani visited Rongai in 1966, on his way to Kiserian, it was all bush and wildlife from the Nairobi National Park roamed freely.

The bush has been cleared and the animals are no longer there. Similarly, in early 2000, a visit to Kambi Moto brought one closer to zebras, ostriches and other wild animals. They have been pushed back.

Anyone who hears this story usually hurries to buy a piece of land and the “buy now and don’t wait” befits the rising demand for home ownership in these outskirts. “We have been told that there are plans to expand the Magadi Road and once this is done, the growth is unstoppable,” Gitau said.