President Uhuru Kenyatta launches construction of a new wing at the Kenya Pipeline in Kisumu last Wednesday. [Photo: Denish Ochieng/Standard]
The quest to turn Kisumu into a commercial hub for the East African Community is taking shape. Local businessmen believe the commissioning of two multi-million shilling projects is a sign of good things to come.
Last Wednesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched construction of a Sh15 billion Kenya Breweries Ltd plant in Kisumu. The factory will absorb 1,500 employees and contract up to 25,000 sorghum and cassava farmers as well as create about 50,000 other jobs in the supply chain.
The President also launched the construction of a Sh1.7 billion Kisumu oil jetty whose completion in October could turn the city into a focal point for commerce in the oil and gas sectors.
It also signals a return to maritime trade which had dropped since the grounding of ferry wagon MV Uhuru following collapse of the old railway line.
The President also pledged to revive the Kisumu Cotton Mills (Kicomi) which ground to a halt in the late 90s. In July last year, members of the Finance, Planning and Trade Committee of the National Assembly said plans were at an advanced stage to revive Kicomi which would start with a government injection of Sh500 million.
This followed a February tour of Kisumu by Uhuru during which he pledged to revive collapsed industries, with emphasis on the cotton mill, the East African Breweries plant next to it and fishing processing units.
Also to be launched is the construction of a Sh14 billion new port on Lake Victoria. This, it is expected, will boost trade across the lake shared with Uganda and Tanzania.
Local businessmen now think these efforts will position the lakeside city as a commercial nucleus in the East African Community in which Kenya is the dominant exporter.
Kisumu Business Coalition Chairman Israel Agina said the projects would strengthen the emergent city’s quest to attract foreign direct investments.
“The oil jetty will ease loading of sea vessels and increase trade with landlocked regions of Comesa (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa). The brewery will drive investments in the region as it will provide job opportunities,” he said.
Kisumu Governor Jack Ranguma, who chairs a regional economic bloc that brings together 13 counties, said the projects would bring investors to the region.