Nakuru County, which is home to Africa’s largest geothermal power plants located in Olkaria in Naivasha and Menengai in the outskirts of Nakuru town, is banking on the steam power to drive its economy.
Nakuru, which was once a vibrant, bustling industrial hub has in the past two decades witnessed a growing trend of grand industrial exits.
However, the county is now banking on geothermal energy to power industrial reforms, restore the region’s lost glory and boost the national government’s realisation of the Big Four agenda.
In the wake of plans to build an industrial park and a dry port in Naivasha, Nakuru County is now on the brink of experiencing a major flow of new investments following an unprecedented boom in geothermal energy exploration and production.
The county government now targets key investments that are expected turn around fortunes and bolster its revenue base according to Governor Lee Kinyanjui.
“Due to ongoing geothermal production, we are anticipating a boom in the geothermal industry in the county which will in turn open some of the most exciting investment opportunities for investors. Various investors have shown interest in putting up industries in the county because of affordable power. We want geothermal energy to support the economic fortunes of Nakuru,” said Mr Kinyanjui.
He added, “Nakuru is famed for tourism and flamingos. On top of that, we are rebranding ourselves as a geothermal energy economy.”
According to the county chief, Olkaria and Menengai are already bracing for even more activity in the coming months, to serve the desire of more energy that will be required for industries in the region.
“In Naivasha’s Olkaria area, the State controlled KenGen is putting up several power plants to produce more energy. And in Menengai, 20 kilometres from Nakuru Town, the State-owned Geothermal Development Corporation has completed drilling several geothermal wells,” he said.
The Nation has also learnt that in order to attract investors to the county, Governor Kinyanjui's is also aggressively pushing the national government to agree to a system where big investors planning to set up shop within Nakuru can be lured through cheaper tariffs.
According to the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture Director for East Africa Njuguna Kamau, the cost of power has been the biggest challenge facing many investors in various parts of Kenya.
CHEAPER ENERGY FOR INVESTORS
“The cost of power consumes over 50 percent of [the]cost of production, adversely affecting the profit margins of investments. Nakuru County will provide an opportunity for investors to access cheaper energy for their investments," he told the Nation.
Nakuru County has been luring both local and international investors to take advantage of the affordable energy reservoirs to set base in the region.
Since last year, Governor Kinyanjui has been luring investors from India, Oman, Europe, United States, Netherlands among other countries, seeking to make key investments in Nakuru.
The county’s location, infrastructure and energy from the geothermal plants are added advantages to attract investors according to the county chief.
Investors are expected to tap into areas such as large scale green houses, meat processing plants, manufacture of geothermal gases such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide among other areas.
The national government in August gazetted 1,000 acres of land at Satellite near Maai Mahiu as an industrial zone which will host the much-awaited Naivasha Industrial Park and dry port.
The industrial park and dry port are expected to be a major boost to Nakuru and Kenya’s economic growth, providing employment opportunities for thousands of people especially the youth.
GROWING INDUSTRIAL HUB
Already, Nakuru is a beneficiary of key projects by the Jubilee administration including the standard gauge railway and the mega industrial park being developed by the Ministry of Industrialisation.
Other key projects in Nakuru include KenGen textile city park, Lord Egerton Agri-city and Kabarak University smart city.
The county has been working to attract investors and one industry which appears to have heeded this call is the hospitality sector.
New modern hotels and resorts have set up base in the county in the past few years.
Road infrastructure has also improved, with the construction of two interchanges along the Nairobi-Nakuru-Eldoret highway, which have spruced up Nakuru town.
The interchanges at Nyahururu and Njoro turnoffs are already complete.
Nakuru, regarded as a key food basket in Rift Valley, seeks to lure investors to its vibrant agricultural sector to add value to its products and gain direct sales of its farm produce to foreign markets including East African countries. The county is one of the leading producers of potatoes, milk and vegetables among other crops.
Boasting tourism sites like Lake Naivasha, Lake Nakuru National Park, Hell's Gate National Park, Lord Egerton Castle, Mount Longonot National Park and Crescent Island among others, Naivasha and Nakuru towns are also sailing on their global fame as conferences centres with companies flying in to hold global meetings, creating an insatiable demand for new hospitality facilities which can cater for large delegations of people.
A recent survey by the Institute of Economic Affairs indicated that it is easier to start a business in Nakuru town compared to five other populous urban areas in Kenya because of the reduced tax burden.
The analysis measured performance indices in Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret, Machakos and Mombasa counties.
It also considered areas relevant to investors, which include structure of taxes, fees, good governance and conditions for investment.