A plan by East African Breweries Limited to pump in Sh15 billion to a new plant in Kisumu has turned political, with opposition head Raila Odinga questioning why President Uhuru Kenyatta was owning the project.
The plant is expected to create 110,000 jobs once complete in between 18 months to two years.
Mr Odinga, with almost fanatical following in the counties of Kisumu, Siaya, Migori, and Homa Bay where the plant will get its contracted sorghum farmers from, said that President Kenyatta should not take credit for the private investment.
“They are trembling…the brewery is a private investment, not one by the Jubilee government. Our manifesto was better than that of Jubilee and that is why Uhuru has resorted to launching new ones in Kisumu,” Mr Odinga said in Narok, hours after President Kenyatta announced the plan in State House.
That the plant, to be launched on July 16, was being set up in Kisumu, with raw materials from neighbouring Nyanza counties and opposition bastions of Kitui and Makueni, was important for the President.
He delayed his campaign trip to Kirinyaga for a meeting with Diageo Global chief executive Ivan Menezes and later a live press conference at State House, two not so common things accorded to business investments in Kenya.
“Our policy strategy has been very clear: we have invested in ports, rail and power; and we have substantially eased the conduct of business in Kenya. The strategy has been richly rewarded: in just the four years since 2013, over 1,500 companies have invested in Kenya; more than twenty of them chose Kenya as their Africa headquarters,” President Kenyatta said of his Jubilee administration vision.
The Nyanza counties – controlling 1.82 million votes- as well as Kitui and Makueni’s 897,312 tilting towards Mr Odinga’s running mate Kalonzo Musyoka, with the announcement, therefore, became instant targets for the Head of State.
It is projected that the plant will push sorghum demand from the current 20,000 metric tonnes to around 40,000 in the next five years, while increasing number of contracted sorghum farmers from 30,000 to 45,000.
“As a result, gross additional farmer earnings are expected to reach over Sh6 billion annually over the next decade,” the Head of State said.
The Nairobi Stock Exchange-listed brewer is 50.02 per cent owned by British multinational Diageo, and were yesterday represented by its global chief Ivan Menezes.
And in another veiled attack at Mr Odinga in State House, President Kenyatta praised EABL’s Senator keg, which will now be produced in the new plant, just under a week after Mr Odinga said he will legalise chang’aa.
“This year, Treasury has done its part by introducing an 80 per cent remission for beers made from sorghum, millet and cassava. Quality brews such as Senator Keg will remain affordable for wananchi; and the makers and sellers of illicit brews will find life ever harder,” President Kenyatta said.
In the briefing in which journalists were not allowed to ask questions, President Kenyatta named one by one industries he said had set up and which, according to him, will generate jobs in line with his promise when he was elected in 2013 and as he seeks re-election in the August 8 elections.
Among those he named are Twyford Ceramics in Kajiado, the first of such in Kenya, Wrigely’s Sh 6 billion plant in Machakos that is near completion, Sh1.5 billion soap maker Bidco factory in Thika.
He also mentioned the Sh12 billion Sultan Hamud-GZI can manufacturing, and the leather city under construction in Machakos that he said will employ 50,000 Kenyans once complete.
Similarly, the President named the Sh5 billion Keroche Breweries plant in Naivasha, the Eldoret first-ever Special Economic Zone, with over Sh200 billion investment and what he said are 100,000 jobs.
“Already, we have made substantial progress towards that goal: every year since 2013, an average of 800,000 have found jobs. This is the way to create a Kenya that provides us all with the platform to achieve our true potential,” he said of the investments.
“I want to thank the investors, both our own Kenyan investors, and our friends from elsewhere – for showing trust in Kenya, for showing trust in Kenyan workers; and for showing trust in the policies this government has implemented.”