Kakamega woos investors

Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa says investors will receive numerous incentives from the county government

All is set for the Kakamega International Investment Conference (KAIICO), which kicks off today at the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology in the town. The landmark event seeks to accelerate the county’s economic growth through attraction of investors and sustainable investments.

“The county is committed to creating a conducive environment for investors, with streamlined licensing processes and efforts to reduce the cost of doing business,” Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa said.

The Governor noted that the county is strategically located, has advanced road networks and infrastructure and highly qualified and innovative citizenry – ingredients that should woo investors.

“We seek to offer a unique opportunity to share knowledge, best practices and experiences for investment in sustainable projects that will create wealth and improve livelihoods. This forum will bring together foreign and local investment networks, angel investors, venture capitalists, corporations and development partners,” he said.

Additionally, the conference provides a platform for local investors to connect with key stakeholders, access valuable resources and explore investment opportunities in the county. Mr Barasa said the county welcomed all investors, as it offered various incentives including streamlined regulatory processes, access to government support programmes and opportunities for collaboration with local enterprises.

KAIICO focuses on the following investment areas: Agriculture and value addition, health care, social development, natural resources and environment and climate change. Agriculture is one of the key priority areas of the county. The sector accounts for approximately 52.3 per cent of the Gross County Product presenting a wealth of opportunities for investors.

“Thanks to the county’s favourable climate, fertile soils and administration’s proactive agriculture-friendly policies, we’ve witnessed significant improvements in food production.

One of the key areas of investment is agriculture due to the favourable climatic conditions of the county

Our focused interventions have already reduced food poverty from 47 per cent to 33 per cent, with further reductions expected by the time the bureau of statistics does its survey in 2025/2026,” said the county boss.

The major crops are sugar cane, tea, coffee and groundnuts, as well as dairy. “Currently, farmers face challenges that include high transportation costs and food wastage due to limited preservation capabilities. Additionally, despite our investments in fish, dairy and apiculture, the lack of processing industries remains a notable gap,” said Mr Barasa.

With the highest rural population in the Kenya, standing at 2.1 million, Kakamega County has significant potential for investments and economic growth

In terms of tourism, Kakamega is home to the only tropical rainforest in Kenya, offering a unique and diverse experience to tourism.

The Kakamega rain forest teems with White Columbus monkeys, over 400 bird species, snakes, butterflies, and exceptional historical trees, serving as a haven for nature enthusiasts and researchers alike.

Additionally, the forest’s rich vegetation and pristine atmosphere make it an ideal destination for academic and scientific research. Mr Barasa said the county government is committed to infrastructure growth to spur investment. “By mid-March, we would have built 600km of gravel roads, enhancing transport and communication in rural areas, crucial for agriculture and commerce. This momentum continues as outlined in the Kakamega County Integrated Development Plan 2022-2027,” adding the county is also upgrading major roads to bitumen standards.

The county has teamed up with the national government to expand the Kakamega Airstrip into a full-fledged airport.

“By extending the runway by an additional 1.5 kilometres, we’ll accommodate larger aircraft, making access easier and boosting tourism in the region. This upgrade will ensure smoother transportation of people and goods in and out of the county,” said Mr Barasa.

The county’s dependency ratio is expected to decline by 64.7 per cent by 2027, a move that the governor said would offer anyone investing in the devolved unit a substantial consumer base and a rising pool of skilled labour. “As poverty levels decline, the quality of our workforce is on the rise, making Kakamega an increasingly attractive investment destination,” he said.

To boost electricity access, the county has secured Sh3.6 billion from the national government to enhance penetration through last-mile connections.

Further, the Governor said they have a partnership with Hydrobox Kenya Limited, a private firm that offers sustainable and renewable energy solutions in a collaboration that will see the establishment of three power plants, each covering an 18-kilometre radius, thus, ensuring reliable electricity supply covers 97.6 per cent of the population.

“This initiative will not only address industrial, commercial, and domestic electricity needs but also provide a significant boost to businesses, making Kakamega even more attractive to potential investors,” he said.

In the healthcare sector, the Kakamega Teaching and Referral Hospital, whose construction is in the final stages, will introduce numerous openings, including equipment placement services, sterile line manufacturing for hospital fluids, efficient medical waste management, and the production of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical products.

The conference, which has attracted up to 2,000 delegates and at least 50 exhibitors, is being hosted in collaboration with KenIvest and other partners.

KenInvest has been a critical player at both national and county levels in regards to encouraging international investments, and has supported several investment forums such as the recently concluded Homa Bay International Investment Conference.

Kenya Yearbook Editorial Board is among the participants at the event as the institution seeks to deepen synergies and content partnership with the devolved units through its AgendaKenya County Edition, which is published every week.

Story by Dibo Willis-Ambetsa, MPRSK, ILA

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