Monday, November 17, 2008

Kogelo big attraction for land buyers and business owners

Mr James Ojwang’ Obalo (above), chief of South East Alego location next to his building in Kogelo trading centre, which he said, has been fully booked by tenants who intend to operate various businesses. The village is experiencing a business boom following the election of Mr Barack Obama as US president. Mr Obama’s father came from the village. Photo/JACOB OWITI  

By PATRICK MAYOYO

Want to start a business or buy a prime piece of land? May be the best place to start shopping is Nyang’oma Kogelo, the village where US president-elect Barack Obama traces his paternal roots.

Less than two weeks since Mr Obama was elected to the highest political office in America and the world, all the shops at the local Nyang’oma Kogelo market have been rented out and close to 20 pieces of land have been sold.

Interestingly, some of the buyers come from as far away as America.

Mr Barrack Obama Snr came from Nyang’oma Kogelo. According to the area chief, Mr James Obalo, even those with undeveloped plots at the local shopping centre have resurfaced and have started making arrangements to develop them, hoping to cash in on the Obama boom.

“Things are moving very fast here. A few days ago, this market did not even have a bar, but now an investor from Kisumu has put up one and more people are coming here either asking for land or premises to let,” he said.

The chief said there have even been inquiries from investors who want to put up a tourist hotel in the area.

“And although the value of land has not shot up, we expect it to go up soon as more people seek investment opportunities here,” Mr Obalo said.

Investments

Prospects for investments in the tourism sector in the area look even brighter following a visit from officials of the  Ministry of Tourism who said plans were underway to brand the village as a tourist destination to be known as “the Obama route”.

The officials led by the chairperson of the Domestic Tourism Council of Kenya, Ms Anastanzia Wakesho, said the tourism body was committed to creating programmes to make Nyang’oma Kogelo attractive to both foreign and local investors. 

Prospects of the village becoming a major tourism attraction are high because of the interest the place has attracted among prospective tourists from not only America but from also from Europe following Mr Obama’s victory in the November 4 presidential election.

According to the general manager of Mombasa based tourist firm, Kenya Easy Safaris, Mr Jones Skipper, since Mr Obama was elected US president, he, Mr Skipper had received numerous inquiries from tourists who want to visit Nyang’oma Kogelo.

“Right now I have two tourists from Poland who want to go to Kogelo and see where Mr Obama’s father was born,” he said.

The area is likely to attract more tourists to the western Kenya tourism circuit because of the association of the village to the American president-elect.

“Because of Mr Obama’s world-wide popularity, he can easily make Nyang’oma Kogelo a major tourist destination,” Mr Skipper said.   

And the Government has shown indications that it is committed to opening up the area for investment by upgrading the roads and supplying electricity in the village.

This was the first time since independence that electricity reached the area.

Immediately after Mr Obama was declared the American president–elect, the Kenya Power and Lighting Company set about erecting poles and laying cables to supply electricity to the home of Mr Obama’s grandmother, Sarah Obama.

Trucks and graders from the Ministry of Roads and Public Works were also deployed to the area to repair the road leading to the home. A security patrol base has also been set up at Sarah’s home to boost security.

Siaya district commissioner Boaz Cherutich said the patrol base would remain indefinitely.

“The district security team established the base to maintain law and order in the village,” he said.Mr Cherutich said he was satisfied with the security arrangements at the home, adding that the patrol base did not interfere with the life of Mr Obama’s Kenyan relatives.

"They are moving freely and have welcomed many visitors,” the administrator said.

The police post was established a day after a burglary attempt at Mama Sarah’s home. Since then, police have been screening visitors to the home. The hedge around the home has also been replaced with a barbed wire fence.

The emergence of Nyang’oma Kogelo as a tourist attraction is expected to boost Government plans to reopen the western Kenya tourism circuit, which includes Nyanza and Western provinces and parts of Rift Valley provinces.

The major tourist attractions in the region include Lake Victoria, the third largest fresh water lake in the world, and also the source of River Nile.

Others are the Mt Elgon, Kakamega Forest, Ndere Island, Impala, Saiwa Swampand and Ruma national parks.

The circuit received a major boost recently when the Kenya Airports Authority embarked on a programme to modernise and expand Kisumu airport at a cost of Sh3 billion.

A Chinese firm has been awarded the tender to expand the airport’s two-kilometre runway and modernise the passenger terminal.

There is also the ambitious multi-million-shilling investment initiative spearheaded by Kenya Railways Corporation intended to turn Kisumu into a regional business and tourism hub.

In what is expected to be the biggest investment in a single town in the country in recent times, Kisumu is set to have a five-star hotel with 400 rooms, two three-star hotels with 300 rooms each, and an international conference centre with facilities to accommodate more than 2,000 people.

The town will also have a metropolitan railway system, an ultra-modern office park consisting of multi-storey commercial buildings, a car-park that can hold 2,000 vehicles, a shopping mall, a business process outsourcing park, a floating restaurant and other recreation facilities.

The Lake View Resort City initiative is modelled on Sun City of South Africa and is to be jointly implemented by a consortium of foreign and local investors.

Sun City is a casino resort town and tourist centre, which is about two hours drive from Johannesburg.