A cabinet statement last September announced that the government will move amendments to the Urban Areas and Cities Act in National Assembly to accommodate two more cities. Though the statement did not name the cities to be elevated, Nakuru and Eldoret were mentioned as possible cities.
These two towns have registered tremendous growth over the last ten years worth being considered cities. In fact, Nakuru was named in a 2013 report by UN-Habitat as one of the fastest growing towns in Africa.
Nakuru is built on a lush neighborhood with several tourists attractions, natural resources and an intersection of major road networks making the town an ideal location for expansion.
Nakuru is an old industrial and Agricultural town, established during the colonial town but still with traces of prehistoric activities. It was an important town for the white highlands and key trading spot for agricultural commodities and farming machinery. It is home to several agricultural manufacturing which includes creameries, flour processing factories, canning factories, edible oils and dry-cell battery manufacturing. The original railway-line from Mombasa to Malaba cut through the town providing it with transport infrastructure to support trade.
We explore five reasons why Nakuru is poised to become one of the most influential cities in Eastern Africa.
- Proximity to raw materials
Nakuru sits on the productive highlands providing the residents as well as the manufacturing sector with ample food. It is the centre of agricultural activities including wheat, potatoes, dairy farming, beef, maize and horticulture with most of these being produced from the country, and is within reach of other highly productive counties . Nakuru borders Nyandarua County in the East which is ranked as the number one producer of potatoes and among top ten dairy producer in the country. To the West is tea producing county of Kericho, while the north has maize, timber, livestock and honey producing counties of Baringo, Laikipia and Uasin Gishu. Narok is to the south which produces livestock, wheat, barley and horticultural produce. With these raw materials, Nakuru has the potential to becoming a major manufacturing centre for agricultural produce.
- Interconnected road network
Nakuru sits at the heart of the Northern Corridor which connects Mombasa-Nairobi and Kampala. It is also served by the old Mombasa-Kampala railway which makes it an ideal centre for movement of raw material. If the city seeks new markets, it is able to reach Nairobi, Kisumu, Nairobi, and Nyeri within a radius of maximum 300 kilometres or duration of 3 hours. It is not much further to the border with Uganda and Tanzania. The city is at the intersection of major highways including Baringo to Turkana, Nyahururu- Nanyuki-Isiolo, Nairobi, Eldoret-Malaba, Kisumu-Busia, Narok-Kisii-Migori as well as Nyeri-Embu-Kitui roads. It is currently served by various buses and matatus connecting to these major towns. The planned inland port of the Madaraka Express SGR railway terminates in Suswa, 100 kilometres from Nakuru.
The City has been experiencing major infrastructural upgrade to enhance free flow of traffic including dueling major highways as well as construction of bypasses and interchanges.
The City is planning its own major airport, but before that, it is within a few hours’ drive to either Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Moi International Airport in Eldoret and Kisumu International Airport.
Nakuru is the main producer of geothermal energy in Kenya. The Kenya Geothermal Development Corporation has active sites in Ol Karia which is within Nakuru County while new wells have been discovered around Menengai, on the outskirts of the city, which has been described as the gem of geothermal. The estimated potential of the Menengai Geothermal Project is 1600MW.
The Kenya-Ethiopia 1,068km-long power transmission line terminates at Suswa. The bi-directional 500kV HVDC transmission line will be capable of transferring 2,000MW of electricity. The proposed Lake Turkana Wind Power Project will be linked with the national grid in Nakuru. The wind farm, is the largest in Africa, with a capacity of 310 megawatts — enough to power up to one million homes.
Although all these projects are integrated in to the national grid, the proximity of Nakuru city to these infrastructural developments makes it prime to tap in to the resources for development.
- Vibrant local and international tourism
Nakuru attracts huge number of domestic and international tourists mainly attracted by the surrounding game facilities. Lake Nakuru National Park, a UNESCO heritage site sits within the city while Lake Elemetaita, Hyrax Prehistoric site, Menengai Crater and the private Soysambu farm draw quite a number of visitors. Linked with the Lake Baringo and Bogoria, Lake Naivasha, Aberdare and Thomson Falls, as well as the Laikipia conservancies, the region provides a reliable tourists circuit.
Nakuru is also known for its easy escape from Nairobi for revelers with its active night life which has been often referred to as Nax Vegas. It is also popular among sports lovers with its main stadium Afraha hosting football, athletic and rugby tournaments.
For a town to be upgraded into a city in Kenya, is population must be over 250,000. The Kenya Bureau of Statistics estimate the town to have an onwards of 260,000 people which means that the city could have in excess of 300,000 people. Coupled with daytime population from adjacent towns of Nyahururu, Njoro, Molo, Kericho, Marigat, Ol Kalou, Solai, Naivasha and Gilgil, the city is a beehive during the day with loads of population retiring back to the ‘bedroom’ towns, a similar fete seen in other major cities across the globe. With expansion of services, Nakuru is set to host more than half a million inhabitants in the next 15 years providing the prerequisite population for purchase and labour and support a manufacturing growth.