Real estate in Isibania Town on the Kenya-Tanzania border has registered tremendous growth in the recent past. This is largely attributable to devolution, which has seen a number of investors venture into the town.
As a result, the demand for both residential and commercial property has gone up, leading to a sharp increase in the price of land and rents. The price of an acre of land has shot up from Sh600,000 to nearly Sh1 million in the last two years while the rent for a two-bedroom house in the town, which was Sh5,000, has nearly doubled.
“It is not easy to get a vacant residential or commercial space in the town. People are scrambling to get rental houses and commercial space for their businesses,’’ says Sammy Maroa, a real estate agent based in the town.
The major attraction for investors in this thriving cosmopolitan town in Migori County are the growing volumes in cross-border trade.
“Businesses here thrive on cheap commodities from Tanzania, and that is why many investors are coming here to cash in on this great opportunity,” says Mr John Chacha, a real estate player in the town.
The commodities imported from Tanzania include rice, sugar, soap and clothing, which are sold locally at much higher prices.
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The town is also a strategic business hub since it is a transit point to two main tourist sites, the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya and Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
“The town’s close proximity to the two national parks has seen it become a stopover for tourists. That is why the hotel business is booming here,” adds Mr Chacha.
Indeed, the town has seen an increase in the number of modern hotels, such as the newly built BMW Hotel, and Border Point and Summer Springs hotels.
The one-stop customs centre, which was completed recently, has resulted in increased movement of people, goods and tourists between the two countries. The centre, which houses several government agencies, has improved the efficiency of transactions at the border, thereby reducing the time it takes to clear people and goods at the border.
“These days doing trade across the border is efficient. It takes very little time to clear with the customs offices here. Things have really improved,” said Mark Warioba, a truck driver. It is estimated that about 9,000 people cross the border daily, with up to 100 trucks heading in either direction.
The Kenya Commercial Bank and Kenya Women Finance Trust have opened branches in the town, while others have agents. Also available are mobile money transfer facilities. which serve clients from as far as Mwanza and Musoma in Tanzania.
However, an emerging but serious threat to this thriving economy is insecurity.
“Robbery cases are reported in the town almost on a daily basis, with the robbers fleeing to Tanzania. This has created a lot of fear and thus traders are not going about their businesses freely,” said the local MCA Joseph Nyangi.
Meanwhile, Migori County police boss David Kirui has assured residents and investors of the police’s commitment to providing security in the town.
“The police are doing everything to deal with the insecurity.