For a period of seven years only, Taita-Taveta county lost over Sh 80 billion worth of development projects, Taita-Taveta Express has learnt.
According to a section of Taita-Taveta professionals through exclusive emails, several multibillion shillings projects have failed to be implemented by investors while others have stalled altogether due to corrupt, unfocused and myopic leadership.
This has forced the investors to move to other counties in search for a more conducive investment environment.
Due to this political interference approximately Sh 88 billion worth of development projects was lost.Reports indicate that a stalled National Youth Youth Service Training college project worth over Sh 3 billion was caused by a border dispute between Mgeno land grazers from Mwatate constituency and Teri B group ranches in Voi constituency.
Before the county government came into force NYS had requested for allocation of 2,000 acres which in principle had been agreed upon. With the new political dispensation, the involved communities demanded for inclusion in the discussions on the allocation of this parcel of land .It is at this point that both the Kishamba and Teri B of Sagalla community together with Mgeno grazers laid claim on the parcel of land in question. The rest is history.
On the other hand several prestigious institutions and investors had expressed interest in undertaking development projects in the county but these came a cropper despite spirited efforts by professionals.
The institutions which were frustrated by petty and selfish political machinations include the Jesuit University which was inclusive of a medical school and hospital approximated to have cost Sh 4 billion, Daystar University approximated to be Sh 2 billion and Starehe Centre worth 2 billion shillings.
Further information shows that a Korean investor who had intended to put up a facility Sun City Gold Park and resort as well as a cement plant worth Sh 10 billion and Sh 25 billion respectively was frustrated and pulled out for undocumented reasons.
Another European investor who wanted to implement a Green energy project estimated at Sh 15 billion as well as an inland container depot whose value was not disclosed is another glaring case in point.
“This is a sad state of affairs and an indictment of our county government .These are wasted opportunities that could have created employment and improved the living standards of our people. Yet we continue lamenting about poverty and marginalization” said one professional who spoke anonymously.
Development analysts have
attributed these shortcomings due to the fact that the county lacks a watertight investment policy to guide it in managing these potential investments as well as protecting the interests of the public, government and the investors.
Lack of effective and aggressive leadership has also been cited as one factor contributing in this problem.
“It’s a well known fact that nationally our county ranks top in terms of resources endowment but ironically we also rank highest in terms of poverty levels” lamented a policy analyst from the county.
Another factor cited for the failure to implement these projects is the land issue. Despite the fact that Taita-Taveta county has huge tracts of land under sisal plantations the investors in this sector have been close fisted and unwilling to dispose off part of the land for development purposes.
On the other hand thousands of acres of land has been loosely held as community ranches purely for speculative purposes despite the fact that no meaningful ranching activities are taking place on the land.
In Voi sub-county for instance, hundreds of acres of land being labeled as ranches are just milk cows for a few powerful individuals who served in powerful positions in past regimes while the squatter problem remains a festering wound for thousands of locals.
“A sound county investment policy should include formalities and processes on how genuine investors can acquire land for development and how the affected communities are going to derive direct benefits from the projects. Development projects that only benefit a handful of powerful individuals at the detriment of the local communities should not be approved,” says Rachel Mwakazi Skjaepe, a Kenyan living and working in Norway.
Investors also lament about rampant corruption among the leadership from the top down, forcing them to part with millions as bribes, kick backs and favours.
An investor in the sisal sub-sector is said to grease the palms of virtually every leader who comes into office, from provincial administration to the political class, for his survival and longevity in business.
“From governors, senators, MPs ,DCs, MCA, even chiefs and village elders are at the beck and call of this investor who is always jittery about his survival on land that continued to generate controversy. Anybody who matters in the immediate society, including the media, are beneficiaries of this “fake” generosity” said a Mwatate professional. He adds: “The investor might be blamed for being part of these rotten and corrupt machinations, but probably this is their only way of surviving. They say if you cant beat them, join them”.
Another otherwise ambitious investment that has continued to attract controversy and confusion in equal measure is the Kishushe iron ore project, where two investors have been tussling over its ownership. The project on thousands of acres of ranch land, has in the past polarized local leaders as they took sides with the investor who was greasing their palms, including funding political campaigns on promises of supporting the project once elected into office.