It started off as a small nondescript trading center that had a unique way of pulling local and foreign meat lovers.
Located 40 kilometers from Nakuru and strategically positioned along the Nakuru-Nairobi highway, Kikopey sprouted around year 2004 with only two kiosks and four butcheries.
Kikopey derives its name from the Maasai phrase which means ‘a place where green turns white’. This is because of the diatomite found in neighbouring Elementaita and Kariandusi.
Despite not being classified among big attractions in the country, Kikopey within Gilgil Sub-County has continued to lure nyama choma lovers in big numbers.
And because of the spot’s growing popularity, Kikopey, a scenic meat lovers’ paradise popularly known as ‘Choma Zone’ is fast growing and has attracted a number of settlements and multimillion investments.
Once predominantly inhabited by the nomadic Maasai, the trading center has changed gradually, becoming a cosmopolitan centre, boasting remarkable developments in curio trade, real estate and hotel and hospitality industry.
Kikopey has now evolved into a 24-hour economy township. Increased economic activities in the area have made the demand for housing in the town and its environs to sky-rocket.
In spite of the area’s economic endowment, it lags behind in terms of crucial infrastructure such as roads, street lighting and drainages, social amenities, as well as physical and social structures.
Elisabeth Nduta the proprietor of Lake Elementaita Nature Suit and Spa says the strategic location of the area coupled with the relatively cheap land prices, set the stage for its growth from a relatively quiet, rural setting to the now bustling town.
“When I arrived here in the early 2000, this place was a relatively small trading center with no stone structure, very few bars and shops and without a bus stop. People knew each other because of the relatively small population.
An eighth of an acre was selling averagely at Sh. 50,000 but the prices have skyrocketed to between Sh. 600,000 and Sh. 1 million for the same size of land,” she says.
She states that when she opened Lake Elementaita Nature Suit and Spa a few years ago there were few such facilities, adding that the hospitality industry, though seasonal, with high periods from March to September and low periods from November to February, is growing in the area thanks to its attractions such as the spectacular glimpse of the Great Rift Valley.
She now petitions Nakuru County administration to put up a water supply and sewerage treatment systems in the area as real estate and hotels have increased tenfold, while many other investors are looking for places where they can put up properties.
Nduta encourages young people to invest in many the business opportunities that have sprung up as the trading centre grows into a key economic hub.
Francis Nganga also an hotelier who trades as ‘Samfra’ wants the national government to fix parts of the highway, while the county government should gravel feeder roads and put up street lighting in the area.
Nganga says the fact that the Standard Gauge Railway terminates in Naivasha, barely 30 kilometers away where a Dry Port is already operational means there will be growth and investors will continue trooping to Kikopey.
“I have invested in real estate as demand for housing has gone up. These are amenities that require access roads, drainage systems and health facilities such as clinics and dispensaries. The county government should set up these social amenities to support growth of investments,” states Ng’anga.
He singles out Mutaita-Jogoo road which links the area to major hospitality and tourism facilities, as infrastructure that needs urgent upgrading by the national government.
Security is another factor. Peter Njoroge says security, which was a problem, has greatly improved in the last few years, with both the Anti-stock theft Police unit and the armed forces having bases in the nearby Gilgil Township.
He however observes that increased vigilance through construction of a police station at Kikopey will boost investor confidence, translating to more businesses being set up.
Njoroge who is a large scale tomato trader laments there is not even a single bank in the area, although residents and visitors are well served by banking agencies like Co-op Kwa Jirani, KCB Mtaani, Equity agents and M-Pesa outlets.
The area is surrounded by good schools such as Moi Forces Academy, Koelel High School and Gilgil Hills Academy.
Another notable institution is Comboni Polytechnic. The area has a relatively good transport network, and is served by matatus and boda bodas.
By Anne Mwale