The handing over of 240 acres of land in Voi Sub County on 23rd June 2022 by the County Government of Taita Taveta to the Export Processing Zone Authority (EPZA) is a bold indication that the special economic processing zone is about to take off, according to the Taita Taveta County Governor Granton Samboja.
“What is happening today is a nod from the county and national governments for work to begin. We welcome this with both hands and look forward to our people reaping benefits,” said Samobja.
The ceremony was attended by top national government officials, county government administration, EPZA representatives, and members of the public among other stakeholders.
The 240-acre parcel of land is merely a drop in the ocean of more than a thousand acres that the project aims to bring under economic use on completion and in addition to satellite production hubs spread across the other three sub-counties of Mwatate, Taveta, and Taita.
“The 240 acres is just the beginning of our cooperation to create a vibrant economy pedestalled on local products and creating employment and opportunities for the people,” the governor added.
According to the Memorandum of Cooperation between the two tiers of government and EPZA, the key sectors that will be boosted by the presence of the processing zone will be the textile, agro-processing, leather, manufacturing, and automotive assembling industries.
In view of this, the county executive for agriculture Davis Mwangoma said the devolved unit is keen to revive the once booming cotton farming in Taveta and the dry parts of Taita sub-county, with farmers already warming up to the new opportunity to diversify crops.
He further detailed the steps and reorganization of the sector in preparation for the opportunities to be created by the special processing zone.
“In the second quarter of 2021, the county, in partnership with the national government and international donors had begun an exercise to revive old ginneries, collapsed cooperative societies, and the distribution of early-maturity hybrid cotton seeds,” said Mwangoma.
On the economic impact of the project, Governor Samboja said that when completed, the processing zone will employ approximately 20, 000 workers drawn from a majority of unemployed youth and women on top of creating a new revenue stream for farmers.
“In total, the special economic processing zone aims to directly employ more than 20,000 locals and thousands more indirectly in the entire value addition chain and other supporting services,” said the governor.
Speaking during the handing-over exercise, EPZA lead representative, Gifton Mkaya, underscored the need to move away from conventional production and instead embrace value addition chains for local products.
“A time has come to shift our focus from traditional production methods and instead embrace value addition practices for our products. What this means is producing goods that are more valuable, durable, and fit for the global market,” said Mkaya.
The Special Processing Zone is in tandem with the national government’s agenda of creating and expanding manufacturing capabilities in all 47 counties.
Another objective of the project, according to Mkaya, will be tapping into the value addition chain for local products to compete in the regional and global markets and bring more money into the pockets of grassroots producers.
Samboja revealed that the project is already attracting global attention as investors from Turkey have expressed their intention to establish a motor vehicle assembling plant.
At the same time, more investors are expected to come on board as soon as the project takes shape with the support of the national government to create an attractive foreign investment environment.
By Arnold Linga Masila