- Hundreds of kilometres away in the lakeside town of Loiyangalani, stone buildings are replacing the mud-and-straw structures that have characterised the area. Loiyangalani on the shores of Lake Turkana, which is slowly becoming a hospitality hub, is accessible after one conquers rough terrain.
- He says the government should actively woo tourism industry players to invest more in the area, adding that Kenyans should be encouraged visit the county to cushion the sector during the low season.
- The latest entrant is the Palm Shade Resort, now a landmark in the heart of the town.
After years of marginalisation with little economic growth, Marsabit County is fast rising as an economic hub in northern Kenya
New mega-infrastructures that are key to driving economic growth are coming up in the county, thanks to public investment in infrastructure and political stability in recent years. The increased infrastructural developments, which are part of the Vision 2030 blueprint, are giving the arid and semi-arid land a facelift.
Marsabit is home to the Sh70 billion Lake Turkana Wind Power project in Loiyangalani. A national government project, it comprises 365 wind turbines, each of which can generate 850kW, and a high-voltage substation that will be connected to the national grid via a transmission line under construction by the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company.
“Once operational, the wind farm will provide 310MW of reliable, low-cost energy to the country’s national grid (approximately 15 per cent of the country’s installed capacity). A recent spot-check by DN2 found that most of the wind turbines have been installed.
Marsabit Governor Ukur Yatani says the 40,000-acre wind farm project has opened up the county for more investments.
“Northern Kenya is now the place to be. It is a virgin area in terms of natural resources, which have helped us integrate into the main economy of the country,” Mr Yatani says.
He notes that the allocation of resources by previous governments was woefully skewed, adding that devolution has ensured equitable distribution of development funds.
The county also has huge potential for solar energy production, thanks to the abundant sunshine all year round.
Then there is the 526-kilometre Isiolo-Marsabit-Moyale Road, whose construction has led to increased trade and investment since it is now much easier to move people and goods.
Mr Joseph Lemerketo, a trader in Sereolipi Township on the highway, says the road has reduced travelling time: “I can now travel from Marsabit to Isiolo and back on the same day, unlike in the past when the journey would take up to three days.”
And the landscape of Marsabit Town, a thriving commercial centre, is fast changing, with the new buildings and petrol stations an indication of the county’s ongoing transformation.
Ms Elizabeth Lemoyong, a businesswoman, is optimistic that the road will increase cross-border trade with Moyale and, thereby, increase trade between Kenya and Ethiopia.
Hundreds of kilometres away in the lakeside town of Loiyangalani, stone buildings are replacing the mud-and-straw structures that have characterised the area. Loiyangalani on the shores of Lake Turkana, which is slowly becoming a hospitality hub, is accessible after one conquers rough terrain.
But investors are pumping millions of shillings developing ultra-modern hotels and resorts in the area.
The latest entrant is the Palm Shade Resort, now a landmark in the heart of the town.
Decent accommodation is also available at the Oasis, Malabo, and El Molo lodges. The Oasis Lodge, for instance, is the only establishment with a swimming pool. It also has flat-screen TV sets, which are strategically positioned to attracting football lovers.
Mr Benedict Orbora, the owner of Palm Shade Resort, says the 40-bed facility employs nearly 20 workers.
“The creation of job opportunities is a big blessing to the local communities that mostly depend on menial jobs for their livelihoods,” he notes.
He adds that infrastructure such as roads, telephone lines, electricity, piped water, hospitals and schools that will connect them to the rest of Kenya are also needed.
He says the government should actively woo tourism industry players to invest more in the area, adding that Kenyans should be encouraged visit the county to cushion the sector during the low season.
The local airstrip and the upgrading of a long stretch of the Laisamis-Namarei-Illaut-Loiyangalani Road by wind-power firms have proved an economic boon.
But it’s not just tourist hotels that are reaping from the developments; transport companies in the area are doing booming business.
Chrispus Mwaniki, a driver with Tazama Wildlife Tours and Travel, says they are back in business, especially during the annual Marsabit-Lake Turkana Cultural Festival.
“The challenge is sustaining the flow. If the area were more accessible via a better road, then business would be even better,” he offers.