President Uhuru Kenyatta's directive that uniforms for government officers be manufactured at the Kitui County Textiles Centre (Kicotec) is being seen as a stamp of approval for Governor Charity Ngilu's new garment factory.
Mr Kenyatta directed that the uniforms be made at the factory in line with his fourth pillar of the Big Four agenda – manufacturing.
Whereas in terms of trade volumes the contract may not be very lucrative compared to making school uniforms, selling garments to the national government is not only a boost to Kitui's domestic revenue but also a major endorsement of Governor Ngilu's decision to set up a manufacturing unit in her county.
If all the 11,401 chiefs and their assistants are given two sets of uniforms at a cost of about Sh10,000 each, Kitui County is expected to earn Sh228 million from the deal this year.
The county will earn a further Sh23.5 million annually if it is allowed to manufacture uniforms for administrators from the rank of assistant county commissioner and above.
Governor Ngilu, who said her government is discussing the details of the deal with Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi's office, insisted that she is eager to deliver quality fabrics for the administrators in order to win the confidence of the President and other prospective clients.
"I'm gratified by the declaration by President Uhuru Kenyatta that henceforth, uniforms for all chiefs and their assistants across the country will be produced by Kitui County Textile Centre. We say a big thank you Mr President," Mrs Ngilu tweeted.
On Wednesday, the governor toured the garment factory at Syongila market, about four kilometres from Kitui town along the Kitui-Nairobi highway, to assess the preparedness of her staff, a day after President Kenyatta's announcement.
Governor Ngilu said the purpose of establishing the factory was not only to create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs but also to retain the more than Sh2.5 billion that parents in Kitui County use in buying school uniforms from manufactures in Nairobi and other counties.
This, she said, was in line with manufacturing pillar of the Big Four Agenda.
In October last year, Kitui County scored a first in the country after it established the state-of-art garment factory to manufacture school uniforms and other fabrics for the local and export market.
Excitement has been high as fabrics - mainly uniforms for secondary schools roll off the machines at factory with the "Made in Kitui" label.
The factory, which has 145 modern electric sewing machines installed together with other embroidery and pressing machinery is modelled like the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) garment unit and can run for 24 hours on different working shifts.
"At full capacity, our fabrics factory will run 24 hours, employing more than 600 young people who were jobless. Each of the 600 young people will earn a living here and build Kitui economy," Mrs Ngilu told the managing director of Nation Newspapers Division Francis Munywoki who toured the factory.
DEMAND FOR FABRICS
The governor said other than school uniforms, demand for fabrics including hospital and hotel bedding, staff clothing for counties, some of which were being imported from Asian countries, are more than enough to sustain the new factory.
She explained that with the estimated 486,000 students in both primary and secondary schools, the factory will ensure the county retains more than Sh2 billion every year, thereby stimulating the local economy.
"Over 90 percent of this money leaves Kitui to Nairobi since we lack a uniform making factory here. Kicotec seeks to cure this situation," she said, adding that the factory will subsequently boost the domestic revenues collected by the county government and hence support other services.