Best known as the City of Champions, Eldoret town, the capital of Uasin Gishu County and commercial hub of the North Rift region, boomed in business in the just concluded eighth Devolution Conference.
For the last three days, Uasin Gishu, the host of the biannual event, was full of life as Eldoret, the town that is currently awaiting the final stages of ratification into the country’s fifth city, roared in a 24-hour economy.
Economic fortunes in the conservative town momentarily changed and enterprises ranging from food kiosks, shoe shining, boda boda and taxi operators to high-end hospitality facilities, entrepreneurs, and club managements among others made millions of shillings.
Within the short period, the region was host to the Head of State William Ruto, Deputy President (DP) Rigathi Gachagua, governors and county executives from the entire 47 devolved units, envoys representing development partners and the opposition chief Raila Odinga.
It was a beehive of activity in Eldoret as guests flocked the region both by road and air. There was reported increased flights to the Eldoret International Airport and the Eldoret airstrip where other dignitaries landed on private chartered planes and helicopters.
But to the residents, it was a rare and great opportunity to make economic fortunes from the conference.
“It was both a great opportunity to make income, learn new aspects of business and establish contacts with clients. It gave us room to showcase our entrepreneurial creativity, meet new corporate clients and learn from diverse exhibitors,” said Rael Sambu.
Sambu, who runs Samrae Branding and Advertising side hustle, said the devolution conference generated good income for her within three days.
“It was a good platform to showcase our innovations in branding in an event where National government, Counties and development partners participated. Business was booming,” said Sambu.
Justus Kibet, the proprietor of the popular Tamasha Lounge in Eldoret town said; “The Devolution conference lived up to its expectations and was a huge success for our enterprises.”
Kibet said there was exciting nightlife as hundreds of delegates flocked to the entertainment joints.
“We were glad to host 11 governors, several senators and other county executives who enjoyed meals and drinks, some partying through the night. Our guests are accorded privacy and all enjoyed their time, giving us good business,” Kibet added.
Tamasha, located about half a kilometre from The Sports Club, the venue of the concluded event, runs a restaurant, barber shop, and carwash among other enterprises that meet the needs of its patrons.
“Food and drinks were sold at normal rates to ensure we keep our regular visitors. There was an influx of clients and we increased security surveillance to curb cases of drink spiking. We had two layers of screening from the entrance. There were no incidences reported,” said Kibet.
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Daniel Letting, the general manager at Kettle House Eldoret, also said all the 60 rooms were booked by delegates by the end of July, more than two weeks before the event.
“Reservations were made as early as June and the devolution conference gave us a mileage in business. We had guests from all regions of the country including Meru, Kisumu, Mombasa, and Garissa among others,” said Letting.
The management increased accommodation fees by Sh 1,000 in every category due to high demand. The Kettle House Eldoret offered single standard rooms at Sh 3,000, Delux at Sh 4,000 and executive rooms at Sh 5,000 per night.
But competition for accommodation, gave room to youthful creative and innovative entrepreneurs to reap from a new concept of Air B n B business in Eldoret town.
It is an online initiative where clients book rooms for Bed and Breakfast.
Hellen Kariuki who has an AirBnB in Eldoret said her four units were taken prior to the meeting.
“Clients booked three-bedroomed units at Sh 35,000 daily while those of six rooms were booked at Sh 70,000 daily for the conference period. On normal days, they are charged at Sh 20,000 and Sh 40,000 respectively. This was good business for us,” said Mrs Kariuki.
The AirBnB concept offers fully house-furnished homes for guests who will have an equipped kitchen, and rooms for meetings among others, for clients who love privacy.
“Bookings were overwhelming and we had to seek alternative places for clients who contacted us after the available rooms had been taken,” said Karikui.
Ken Cheboi, a taxi operator, however, said most delegates had vehicles but said those who operate at night, did good business transporting clients who loved the nightlife.
“I operate a day business and we had few clients because most counties organized their transport means,” said Cheboi.
Mr Willy Kenei, the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) Uasin Gishu chairman said Eldoret town is emerging as a conference destination noting that the more than 10,000 delegates were comfortably accommodated and there was no security hitch.
“The presence of the high number of delegates, National and County leadership, and international partners in Eldoret is testimony enough that the town is ripe for a city status,” said Kenei who noted that there was an International Orthopedics conference of Doctors in the town during the period.
Kenei added: “There was adequate food and water for the entire teams and security agencies increased surveillance and eased traffic flow. There were increased flights and airlines including Kenya Airways at the Eldoret International Airport.”
Elijah Kosgei, the Uasin Gishu County executive for Devolution said the conference accorded residents a great opportunity to interact and do business
Uasin Gishu Governor Jonathan Bii said for the first time, the North Rift region hosted top National and County leadership that also made good deliberations to enhance devolved governance.
“It is the first time that our county opened up to the rest 47 counties for three days. Our infrastructure is now ideal for future national and international events of similar magnitude,” said Bii who lauded the Council of Governors, county secretariats and the national government for organizing a successful event.