Why it's now time to look beyond land ownership

An aerial view of grabbed land at Kibiku Forest in Ngong, Kajiando County hived-off and fenced. [Gitau Wanyoike, Standard]

Recent demolitions in Athi River, after the Machakos Land and Environment Court’s ruling, have brought to the forefront the deep-seated significance Kenyans attach to land.

Many watched with empathy as fellow citizens lost their cherished buildings and properties in this complex saga, highlighting the profound connection between Kenyan identity and land ownership.

As we navigate the aftermath of these events, numerous discussions have arisen, each emphasizing the complexity and imperative need for due diligence in land acquisition. It prompts us to ponder the invaluable lessons we can glean from this unfolding experience. Several crucial factors have come into focus, with a paramount emphasis on performing rigorous due diligence, leaving no detail unattended and no stone unturned.

Land buying and selling companies have found themselves in the crosshairs of criticism and public disdain. Nevertheless, it is essential to play devil’s advocate, particularly when it comes to these companies.

In the era preceding and following independence, numerous land buying companies were established. Undoubtedly, there are many individuals who can attest to acquiring and owning land through these companies, highlighting their role in facilitating land access for citizens.

However, this article seeks to underscore a fundamental point: Ownership of land or a house should not be a matter of life and death. Unlike the past when land reigned supreme as the primary factor of production, we are witnessing a shift towards other production elements, notably machinery and the digital revolution.

One avenue to alleviate Kenyan’s fervent obsession with land and property ownership is through the government’s affordable housing project. The key driver should be to provide affordable housing by pooling resources, allowing a broader segment of the population to access decent accommodation.

A critical challenge posed by the traditional housing approach lies in the ad hoc and disorganised development of housing, rendering it arduous for both developers and the government to provide much-needed infrastructure resources essential for housing.

A viable path forward involves diversifying our investment portfolios into other assets, particularly those driven by the digital revolution, which have demonstrated potential for huge returns on investment.

For instance, when comparing investments made between 2015 and 2023 in companies such as Amazon, Gamestop, Tesla, and Apple, we witness remarkable percentage increases, ranging from 20 per cent to a staggering 250 per cent, underscoring the lucrative possibilities within these sectors.

In conclusion, the events in Athi River should help us re-evaluate our societal values and economic priorities.

While land remains a symbol of heritage and security, it is essential to recognise the evolving landscape of wealth generation and the opportunities offered by modernisation and diversification in our pursuit of prosperity and well-being.

The writer is an expert in nuclear technology and radiation protection