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How 'Handshake' changed Nyanza

President Uhuru Kenyatta with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga during the BBI Consultative meeting at Great Rift Lodge in Naivasha on November 2, 2020. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

A group of people rushes next to the railway tracks and shouts with joy as a passenger train slowly rumbles past Obunga slums towards the newly constructed passenger terminus in Kisumu.

A few passengers pop their heads from the windows of the locomotive as some children on board wave to bystanders along their trail witnessing their entry to the lakeside city.

And although this was the umpteenth time the train was making this trip since it hit the rail again last December after decades of wait, the joy of its return is still evident.

Each of the two trips the train makes in a week to the lakeside city signals one thing - hope for the economic revival of a region that had lagged behind in development before the famous 'Handshake' between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

The revival of the railway line is among multi-billion shillings projects implemented in the region post-handshake that have been tipped to drastically transform the region’s economy.

President Kenyatta is keen to use the projects to cement his legacy in a region that had been grossly marginalised in the past leading to collapse of key sectors amid frosty relationship between its leaders and past governments.

And if all goes according to plan, Nyanza could be the next economic powerhouse to cement Kenya’s quest to dominate trade within the East African Community.

State entities tasked with delivering the projects have been given strict deadlines to ensure they are completed before the August 9 polls.

Now, however, a new sense of hope is sweeping through Nyanza as some of the projects initiated after the Handshake begin operations as others too take shape.

While most of the projects that were birthed by Uhuru-Raila partnership are compete, others are in advanced stages with contractors working round the clock to beat strict deadlines.

The projects include the revival of the railway line that is up and running, the Sh3 billion renovation of the Kisumu Port, building of key roads, expansion of the Kisumu Airport and airstrips in Migori and Kisii. 

Others are mega investments in infrastructure, tourism, trade, manufacturing, agriculture and the vast blue economy. Observers believe the projects will boost investor confidence and attract more investments to the region.

In Kisumu, the construction of the Sh600 million Uhuru Business Park is complete with the balloting exercise to allocate the stalls on course.

These national government high cost projects are expected to win Nyanza counties lucrative deals during the Africities Summit set for May.

Governor Anyang Nyong’o said they will prove to the rest of Africa that intermediate cities like Kisumu have what it takes to get Africa to the top of the globe.

 Among the key roads under construction is the Sh4.9 billion Mamboleo-Chemelil-Miwani Road which connects the lakeside city to counties in the Rift Valley and cuts across the vast agricultural Kano plains.

The Kisumu International airport is being expanded and improved at a cost of Sh240 million, a move that will see it receive international flights.