The other week I was a moderator and Emcee at the Nandi County Investment Conference in Kapsabet, a feat I must say was beautifully fulfilling for me. I was pleasantly surprised and honestly caught off guard by the level of planning and investment that’s already going into the county which is seeking to position itself as the anchor county of the Rift Valley Region.
The home of Legendary Kalenjin hero Koitalel Arap Samoei sits on the sprawling Nandi hills, it is a shame really, that the county doesn’t count in the Tourism circuit, and badly needs a good hotel, seeing as VIP’s had to stay in the neighbouring County, Uasin Gishu.
Nandi was once one of Kenya’s wealthiest districts, having seen years of green prosperity through tea and coffee; but those years slowly faded, and today majority of try small scale farmers feel like slaves of tea while most of them cut down their coffee trees, having fallen victims to zero investments in Value Addition.
Today in the sleepy town of Kapsabet, you can see and feel Nandi’s economical potential beginning to simmer,bubbling with hope and promise of the fruits of devolution underneath. The side walk chats and after hour discussions I had with some of the county leaders and local residents revealed to me a people that are ready to fly. The town that in early years refused to have a railway pass through it, is today clearing the path for the Standard Gauge Railway,looking to efficiently transport their produce direct to port cities as well as to receive imports such as Infrastructure inputs. These they say are just some among the benefits they expect with the new’ Snake’ in the words of Koitalel Arap Samoei.
The Investment conference was a major highlight in the County calendar, and attracted investors from as far as Israel, who came to put up a coffee factory in Tinderet, Danish Investors armed with about 100 million shillings to build a milk processing plant, a medical group that’s set to break ground with a state of the art medical centre, among other key investments and pledges.
The county’s ICT agenda of growing a knowledge economy saw the youth of Nandi who make 77% of the population benefit from a pledge by Jamii Telcom’s Chairman Joshua Chepkwony to provide free internet to a youth centre that will be managed by the county, a space for techpreneurs to start ICT businesses and receive capacity training, Ihub and Nailab Style.
Farmers were challenged by the various speakers and stakeholders to add value to their produce, especially in tea, where the Kenyan market continues to rely on brands that have been on the market for years, yet Nandi county can only boast of one or two branded teas.
I must say I was deeply challenged by the depth of discussion and even more the practicality of resolutions made.
Investors in Water supply, Hospitality, Real Estate, value addition in Agriculture should now be eyeing the under developed and high potential county, the hope here is that the leadership stays on this tangent and disallows politics to overthrow the economic potential.
However, I would have wanted to hear more about some incentives for investors to encourage and make the county attractive and perhaps a county economic blue print that will lead the county into the prosperity they seek. However with the appointment of an Investment Board during the conference that included a few young business people, perhaps an economic roadmap will now be designed.
Euphoria aside, should Nandi County walk the talk and separate petty politics from development, theirs will be one of Kenya’s leading counties in the next few years.
Pictures ( A Kale would say, Kitole, Courtersy of @tichophil)