Nakuru County has entered a collaboration agreement with the United States of America to promote agriculture, technology transfer, trade and investment opportunities that could transform the livelihoods of the residents of Kenya’s newest city.
Under the deal, the US government will through the Kentegra network provide a Sh 61 million grant to expand the pyrethrum growing base in Nakuru County.
Governor Susan Kihika said her administration was already working with various development partners and investors from the US in promoting HIV/Aids awareness and management programs, improving the devolved unit’s health systems, training medical staff and upgrading and fitting medical laboratories with diagnostic equipment.
Kihika stated that the County Government will continue working with local and international partners and donors to spur development.
The Governor noted that her administration was exploiting the cordial relationship between Nakuru and the US government by urging investors from the US to set up value addition factories in the County and advance its agriculture technology.
“We invite US investors to come and establish value addition factories in Nakuru. The core of the new relationship will be expanding opportunities for economic growth and creating jobs for the youth,” she added.
The County boss who held a series of talks with a delegation from the US led by the country’s envoy to Kenya Ambassador Margaret “Meg” Whitman, said Nakuru was a desirable location for US-based businesses planning to move into Africa and reiterated her administration’s commitment to boost the county’s attractiveness to investors, starting with reforms in the tax regime through harmonization of fees and elimination of non-tariff barriers to trade.
Kihika observed that the county was also banking on geothermal energy to attract local and foreign investments as one way of bolstering its economy.
“Due to the 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.
She said her administration was providing an enabling environment and incentives for the private sector to negotiate strategic partnerships with foreign investors in critical sectors such as agribusiness and food processing.
The partnership, Kihika added, will also target youth development and empowerment programmes, small scale farmers and businesses among other projects that will positively impact on residents.
The discussions between Governor Kihika and the US Ambassador also centered on strengthening commitments aimed at boosting economic growth, growing exports of agricultural exports to the US markets and revival of the once vibrant pyrethrum sector.
The Governor challenged farmers to move from subsistence farming and penetrate the high-value export market, besides joining cooperatives so as to access services and market their produce.
She added, “We held discussions on areas of mutual cooperation including agriculture and trade. The emphasis here is to increase exports of both processed and raw agricultural products such as pyrethrum to the US market and also tap into US’s expertise in agriculture.”
The move is part of Nakuru’s grand plan to help farmers tap into the foreign export market through value addition for various agricultural products.
Nakuru, one of the bread baskets of the Rift Valley region, is seeking a market for its agricultural products, including edible fruits, nuts, vegetables and coffee.
“The partnership between the Nakuru County Government and US is intended to boost water technology, Infection Communication Technology; and food and nutrition; and security among other sectors,” Kihika indicated.
She urged the US government to venture into ecotourism and other sectors in the county with the aim of improving the collaboration.
Other areas explored during the talks included developing affordable housing, water and sanitation, transport, green energy and urban mobility
Ambassador Whitman said the US will promote investment opportunities available in Nakuru, especially in agriculture, and partner in mobilizing US firms’ investments in the region.
“The US is alive to the fact that Kenya is a vibrant economy and critical trade partner. Kenya is already playing a pivotal role in the global economy,” she said.
Nakuru has previously worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in a bid to revitalize the vibrant flower industry in the region as it eyes a larger share of the US cut flower market to promote exports and boost earnings.
The envoy noted that USAID spends about USD500 million in Kenya annually and that her country was keen to support devolution through projects and capacity building with the aim of accelerating development and self-reliance.
Naivasha is Kenya’s floriculture powerhouse, producing at least 70 percent of Kenya’s flower exports.
It is also Kenya’s floriculture heartland and home to leading flower firms including Oserian on the shores of Lake Naivasha and the ailing Karuturi which used to export at least a million stems a day in its vibrant years.
Others in Nakuru include Fontana Flowers Limited, Alisha (Mau Flora Ltd) and Agriflora Kenya Limited.
Ambassador Whitman observed that Nakuru has the potential to feed Kenya, East Africa and other foreign countries with agricultural products like potatoes, avocados and carrots.
By Jane Ngugi and Charloth Chepkemoi