Migori Town’s phenomenal growth, thanks to devolution

By George Agimba – Kna Migori
Less than ten years since the operationalization of the devolved governance system in Kenya, unbelievable changes are being witnessed across the length and breadth of Kenya, with the county governments acting as springboards for hastened growth.
One example of devolution-hastened development is the speedy growth of the hitherto sleeping town of Migori, whose case can be described as a complete overnight transformation.
The largest urban centre and headquarters of the county bearing a similar name, Migori town, serves as an important link between Kenya and Tanzania. And its strategic geographic positioning has made it one of the fastest growing towns in Kenya and one of the most viable commercial centres in the country.
According to the 2009 census, the population of the then municipal council of Migori stood at 29,825 but now, statisticians put the population within the town to over 100,000.
With that huge number of human beings concentrated in one region, there are a number of basic services that are critical for their survival, one of which is availability of good systems to realise high degree of sanitation for the town dwellers.
An urban set up of that kind will also require good infrastructure, that includes housing, good roads, high-class water system, lighting system and first-rate hospitality services from hotels and restaurants.
Fortunately enough, Migori is racing to catch up with the existing big cities in Kenya in terms of buildings and especially those housing business entities.
For the last five consecutive years, the town has experienced a construction craze by investors that has adorned it with a web of beautiful skyscrapers currently serving as commercial buildings within and around the town centre.
And in equal measure to the construction frenzy of the commercial buildings, the town is currently registering a fast spring of mansions and a blooming cache of small- enterprise entities that are driving it to totally acquire its new status, thanks to devolution.
Observers believe that Migori, the headquarters of the region’s devolved unit, has found its growth formula largely due to the decentralization of government services from Nairobi.
With the increased flow of financial resources into the region and the fact that the town boasts its closeness to the world’s popular tourists destination, Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Migori has had a dire need to improve its hospitality services leading to the mushrooming of first class hotels and restaurants, providing luxurious accomodation to high-flying tourists.
“It is fascinating to witness a sharp increase of hotels, restaurants and bars within the town centre and its environs in a such a short span of time after ushering in the devolved governance system. It is an outright proof that the economy of the town has greatly gone up because of the high circulation of money from within and outside,” said Mr. Jorum Ondiek, a teacher from Uriri Sub County.
That most of those investing in the huge commercial assets are people associated with the county Government, either as employees or traders dealing with the devolved unit as contractors and suppliers.
These devolution-assisted business people have really given the town a new lease of life by investing in real estate business, putting up lines of rental houses, homes and inns that have offered the town a big facelift within a short period, declares Mrs. Monica Milanya, a local business woman.
Being one of the beneficiaries of the over Sh500 million World Bank Urban Promotion Programs in Kenya, expectations are high among county residents that Migori town is set to make a further long stride in improvement of its amenities, a situation that is poised to attract more investors and visitors for the benefit of the local economy.
County Governor, Okoth Obado says his government is keen to initiate more development programmes not only in Migori town but in other up-coming urban centres within the region in collaboration with other development partners from within and outside the country to make the region a regional economic hub.
However, the visible transformation of the town has not been realized without some glaring misses.
Unfortunately to the local people and visitors, one of the cogs that is critical for aligning a particular region or centre with good sanitation – the sewerage system – has been lacking within the town, thereby exposing the lives of the town dwellers to serious health dangers.
But Governor Obado has been on record assuring residents of improving the sewerage system to make the town safe for habitation.