Thika faces headwinds in pursuit of city status
The town’s businessmen demand infrastructural development and improved services, not just beautification and housing developments from county government
Thika town businessmen say the Kiambu county government must address challenges residents are grappling with before they can dream of the town being upgraded to a city. Traders under Thika District Business Association (TDBA) met Kiambu Deputy Governor James Nyoro to set stage for a strategy dubbed ‘The Thika we Want’.This is a spatial integrated development plan that will define the town’s future social and economic development programme.
In a forum that sat for more than six hours, the participants identified major challenges affecting businesses in the area and highlighted the need for integrated, multi-sectoral planning approaches to solving most of the problems.
They said a major cause of the mess in the town was distorted priorities brought about by leaders who never put into account stakeholders’ recommendations in seeking solutions due to vested interests.
The problems include a perennial hawker menace, unplanned town transport system, traffic jams, inadequate parking space, poor waste management, water shortages and delays in building plans approvals. Others are rampant grabbing of land set aside for public amenities and lack of inclusivity in governance due to favouritism in county government appointments.
Speaking on behalf of the traders, TDBA Chairman Alfred Wanyoike said there is need for a more multi-sectoral approach to solutions, with residents being consulted in identifying their priorities and suggesting solutions to their own challenges.
Wanyoike said unplanned urbanisation has led to stagnation of Thika’s business development, pollution, congestion, insecurity and other consequences that are scaring away potential investors.
And speaking on behalf of the area MP Eng Patrick Wainaina, personal assistant John Njuguna said their office was ready to work with the county government to spur growth and seek solutions to the challenges facing the town.
Once called the Birmigham of Kenya for its many industries and known as Pineapple town due to abundance of the fruit from the multinational plantation Delmonte, Thika has fallen into hard times after factories closed shop.
DG James Nyoro said the solution to returning Thika to its lost glory lay squarely on restoration of order in the way policies were implemented as well as adherence to the rule of law. “Devolution is about making it easy for government to offer services to its people and depoliticising issues. We need to map out where we are and where we want to go,” he said.
Nyoro said that by the year end, he would come back and present for debate, concrete suggestions on the Thika’s Master Plan for the next 20-30 years.
The deputy governor promised to address the issues of hawkers and illegal structures in the CBD, traffic jams, uncoordinated public transport system, waste management and building approvals immediately.
“We will invest on model kiosks and identify areas where to place them. We also need solutions that are favourable to both the hawkers and formal businesses. We have to set aside an area where those selling foodstuff shall be operating from as we shall no longer allow food hawking due to the health risks involved,” said Nyoro.
He also warned that the county government would repossess all grabbed public lands to create space for hawkers and car parks. “We will take an inventory of all grabbed land in Thika so that we can clean all this mess. We are now sealing potholes on the town streets as we budget for resurfacing of all roads in the CBD,” he added.
Nyoro promised to start lighting up the town and partner with other government agencies to improve on infrastructure as well as installing CCTV cameras on strategic locations for proper monitoring.
In attendance were representatives from TDBA, Kenya Association of Manufacturers, MCAs, hawkers, real estate agents, and public transport leaders.
Earlier this year, Governor Ferdinand Waititu launched Sh46 million town beautification programme. The money has been set aside for the beautification of and the seven roundabouts in the CBD funded by the World Bank in partnership with the county government.
Meanwhile, 40 civil servants from Thika West Sub-county are set to benefit from a Sh50 million housing project, envisaged to ease the housing problem that has ailed the rising population of government workers in the area.
The housing project will contain 40 units of two bedrooms each with adequate space for a family set up and modern fittings. The rent will be affordable as each home will be rented out for Sh12,000 compared to Sh8,000 market price.
— Oliver Musembi, Mathew Ndung’u
and James Wakahiu.