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Nakuru banking on tax reforms to revitalize its economy

Nakuru County Government has embarked on plans to boost the region’s attractiveness to investors, starting with reforms in the tax regime through harmonisation of fees and elimination of non-tariff barriers to trade.

Governor Susan Kihika said her administration would review a multiplicity of levies and taxes that are affecting the devolved unit’s intra-county and inter-county trade thereby discouraging investments while raising prices for the consumer.

Nakuru, regarded as a key food basket in Rift Valley, also seeks to lure investors to its vibrant agricultural sector to add value to its products and gain direct sales of its farm produce to foreign markets including East African countries. The county is one of the leading producers of potatoes, carrots, milk and vegetables among other crops.

The county, the Governor noted, was further committed to averting situations where businesses incur costs in multiple permits and licenses over and above the single business permit.

“We are taking deliberate steps to reduce the cost of doing business and position Nakuru as an essential destination for local and foreign investments. As a county government, we are committed to actively pursuing interventions that will make Nakuru the economic powerhouse of the region, thereby making it the destination of choice where trade and investment thrives,” said the Governor.

Ms. Kihika indicated that the county had identified its trade and investment prospects adding that it was pursuing active partnerships to unlock its potential.

“We pledge to offer full support in the belief that it is only through Public-Private Partnerships, value addition, trade and investments that we will achieve the objective of transforming Nakuru into a middle-income economy,” she added.

Addressing the Nakuru County Assembly, the Governor stated that attracting and retaining investments entailed businesses partnering with the county government to enhance development through building infrastructure, restoration of natural resources and offering productive jobs in order to raise the living standards for every resident throughout the devolved unit.

Economic survey findings by various institutions show Nakuru is fast rising to become the most preferred investment destination for local and international investors.

It is projected that the county has an economic potential worth Sh200 billion in agricultural value addition, manufacturing, geothermal exploration, tourism, and real estate.

Results of a survey released by the Institute of Economic Affairs show it is easier to start a business in Nakuru town compared to five other populous urban areas.

Economists attributed this to the mainly reduced tax burden that has made it more attractive to investors. The study gave the county an overall score of 89 in the tax sub-cluster followed by Eldoret (78) and Machakos (67).

The bottom three in the category were Kisumu (64), Nairobi and Mombasa at 56 and 54 respectively.  The county saw its land prices rise by an average of 12.7 per cent in 2017, according to the 2018 County Land Price Report.

In addition, the economic potential of the county was captured in a World Bank 2015 Survey which showed the county’s gross domestic product per capita at $1,413, the fourth-highest in Kenya after Kiambu, Nyeri and Kajiado.

Governor Kihika pledged that toward transforming Nakuru into a more economically vibrant city that will rival Nairobi, her management is embracing smart master planning.

This she added involves properly designating outlying areas for new industrial locations, residential estates for both higher and middle class and other institutions and provision of supporting infrastructure.

Ms. Kihika affirmed that the county government would continue to leverage the economic activities with natural resources in the county like the lakes and the game parks. Nakuru is also banking on geothermal energy to bolster its economy

“Due to ongoing geothermal production, we are anticipating a boom in the geothermal industry in the county which will in turn open some of the most exciting investment opportunities for investors. Various investors have shown interest in putting up industries in the county because of affordable power. We want geothermal energy to support the economic fortunes of Nakuru,” said the Governor.

In Naivasha’s Olkaria area, the State controlled Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) is putting up several power plants to produce more energy. And in Menengai, 20 kilometres from Nakuru Town, the State-owned Geothermal Development Corporation (GDC) has completed drilling several geothermal wells.

The Geothermal steam wells at the crater have a capacity of 105 Mega Watts with the potential to attract easy ‘green’ funding for new investments.

Investors are expected to tap into areas such as large scale greenhouses, meat processing plants, manufacture of geothermal gases such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide among other areas.

The national government in August 2019 gazetted 1,000 acres of land at Satellite near Maai Mahiu as an industrial zone which will host the much-awaited Naivasha Industrial Park.

She pointed out that Lanet Airport which is under construction targets the direct export of produce to Europe and other global markets.

Other key projects in Nakuru include KenGen textile City Park, Lord Egerton Agri-city and Kabarak University smart city.

The county has also been working to attract investors and one industry which appears to have heeded this call is the hospitality sector. New modern hotels and resorts have set up base in the county in the past few years.

Road infrastructure has also improved, with the construction of two interchanges along the Nairobi-Nakuru-Eldoret highway, which have spruced up Nakuru town. The interchanges at Nyahururu and Njoro turnoffs are already complete.

Boasting tourism sites like Lake Naivasha, Lake Nakuru National Park, Hell’s Gate National Park, Lord Egerton Castle, Mount Longonot National Park and Crescent Island among others, Naivasha and Nakuru towns are also sailing on their global fame as conference centres with companies flying in to hold global meetings, creating an insatiable demand for new hospitality facilities which can cater for large delegations of people.

By Anne Mwale

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