Hope for Nyanza as key projects unveiled
By Harold Odhiambo
| May 30th 2021
A sheer of hope is sweeping through Nyanza after President Uhuru Kenyatta began unveiling his projects blitz for the region during the start of his three-day tour.
The projects estimated to cost over Sh100 billion have been tipped to transform the region’s economy and put Nyanza on the regional East Africa Community map as an economic powerhouse.
The mega investments cut across agriculture, trade, education, energy, water and transport sectors. Authorities have been racing against time to implement them to completion.
Moments after he flew to Kisumu, the president alongside opposition Chief Raila Odinga travelled to Siaya to launch the Siaya-Bondo water project and a road project.
The water project is one of the main interventions his administration has been working on to address the problem of access to clean water that had been affecting the region.
The president is expected to unveil several other projects in Kisumu including the marine school, the 400 kilovolts power Lessos-Kisumu power project, Kibos inland container depot, among others.
On Tuesday, the sporting facilities including the Jomo Kenyatta international stadium constructed at a cost of Sh490 million will also be unveilled. The facility will host the Madaraka day fete.
In Kisumu, the president is also expected to unveil the Sh350 million Uhuru business complex, the controversial Lake Basin Development Authority mall and the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga sports complex.
The region believes that the visit and the fresh bag of fortunes is a major breakthrough in the quest to transform an economy that has been struggling to stay afloat for decades.
Several leaders, economists and residents described Uhuru’s bag of goodies as a major economic breakthrough for a region that has been struggling with no meaningful industries and projects to support development.
Most of the projects came after the famous handshake between President Uhuru and his Raila. The deal and the political goodwill that has followed has seen Nyanza attract several investments by the national government.
The multiple-billion investments include multi-billion those tipped to put Kisumu city in the East Africa Community regional hub and regain its lost glory to Tanzania’s Northern corridor as the linkage to other countries in the bloc.
The projects include the revitalization of the Sh3 billion port, expansion of the Kisumu International Airport, revival of the Kisumu-Nakuru Meter Gauge Railway at cost of Sh4.7 billion, among others.
The government has also completed several complementing facilities to support the mega projects. The facilities include the construction of a marine school, a new railway station, a new ship yard and an inland container depot.
The delayed opening of the Sh1.9 billion oil jetty whose success rely on the receiving jetty yet to be built by Uganda will only be icing on the cake for the region.
The port and the railway line seek to put Kisumu directly on the regional trade map envisaged by its founders in the early 1900’s. In their heydays, the railway line, the cotton and the sugar industries were the backbone of Nyanza's economy.
Economists in the region described the projects the president unveiled as the drastic game changer to the Nyanza region economy adding that it’s a major breakthrough.
According to the chair of Kenya National Chamber of Commerce Kisumu branch Israel Agina, the launch of the port and the railway line is set to usher in fresh business opportunities.
“A single visit may not mean much but it is the projects that are being launched that are set to transform the region. We are hoping traders will also be given a fund to pick up,” said Agina.
But for the region, the visit means more than just the development projects. Several leaders told The Standard that the visit is also a major political statement for the region and the importance of peace.
A member of parliament who asked not to be named said that the visit is highly valued because of its economic impacts.
“The president is only remaining with a few months before he leaves office and the projects he has initiated with his handshake partner will be remembered for a very long time,” said the MP.
According to the legislator, the visit by the president is set to highlight the importance of working with the government.
“The multi-billion projects the president is set to unveil will create jobs for several people. It is not a secret that industries in the region have been on their deathbed for decades,” he said.
According to another legislator, the meeting leaders from the region held with Uhuru prior to the visit and last week’s visit by Raila to the region to lay ground for Uhuru was an indication of the impact of the visit.
The construction of several infrastructure projects including the Siaya Bondo water project, the 400 kilovolts Lessos-Kisumu power project also promises to transform the economy.
Other projects that the president has set his eyes on in his bid to revamp Nyanza include several sporting facilities.
Another top project is the Sh450 million Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium whose construction begun last year.
The project, situated within Mamboleo showground, will host the Madaraka Day celebrations, and construction works have been hastened to ensure it is ready for the event.
During the launch of the building of the project, President Kenyatta had indicated that it was part of his agenda to promote sports in the area.
He said during the opening of the stadium, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards would have a match to grace the occasion.
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Sports ground is another project undergoing a facelift at a cost of Sh350 million.
The sports complex was last year renamed from Jomo Kenyatta Sports ground following the commencement of the construction of the Jomo Kenyatta International Stadium.
The multipurpose complex has been used to host public events and sports, and the refurbishment has been focused on improving its condition which had deteriorated due to poor management.
However, Deputy President William Ruto’s Ruto’s pointman in the region and former Raila’s aide, Eliud Owalo said the president should unveil a clear implementation plan for Nyanza’s projects.
Owalo reads a political statement in the visit and fear it could be a political gimmick for a region that has lagged in development.
He said the visit was a political gimmicks, the President should use the opportunity to outline a clear implementation matrix for the development projects.
“History is awash with examples where previous presidential visits have been used to hoodwink the people of the region through artificial and cosmetic political pronouncements,” said Owalo.
He added; "I am skeptical about the visit realising any tangible economic gains to the people of the region. The Government is dead broke and is even struggling to pay salaries. It has no money to embark on any new projects as is envisaged in the development agenda for the region.
Owalo said the President’s visit is more "leaning towards a political shenanigan to save the handshake from imminent collapse as opposed to a development topology".
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