By Nancy Claire Juma
Maseno now becomes the newest town in Kusumu following its unveiling by Governor Prof Prof. Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o on 10th September 2020.
Its inauguration as an official town is a major milestone in the realization of aspirations put forward by the Governor in his Manifesto to deepen the structures of devolution by bringing services closer to the people as well as unlocking the untapped potential for Kisumu’s urban centers to spur economic development.
The Governor on March 1st, 2020 through a Gazzette Notice elevated the status of five centers; Ahero, Maseno, Muhoroni, Kombewa and Katito to towns, the centers having reached a threshold of 10,000 residents.
While presiding over the launch alongside his deputy Dr. Mathew Owili, the Governor reiterated that the growth of the satellite towns will bring services closer to the people in addition to creating economic nodes to offer opportunities to many people as well as reduce pressure on the City of Kisumu.
He acknowledged that urbanization was real and people must be ready to embrace it.
“We must begin early to prepare for urban life. The earlier we plan for them and build necessary infrastructure, the better for our people in the next 10 to 20 years’’. He said
It is projected that by 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be living in urban centers and there is need to respond to the growing population demand by elevating their status.
With this in mind, the Governor quickly noted that the new status of Maseno town will enable the County attract financing from development partners and donors to improve the much-needed social infrastructure that will in turn provide a conducive environment for business to thrive, enhance trade and eventually drive the economy to greater heights.
He went on to say that Maseno by virtue of being a university town, has the capacity to contribute to socio-economic transformation of not only Kisumu County but also the Western Region and the East African region.
He called upon local investors to maximize on the opportunities presented by the new status by developing requisite infrastructure such as hotels to meet the growing demand.
“Let’s not think of investments as something that is always coming from outside’’. Said the Governor
He urged investors not to be discouraged by the existing challenges presented by urbanization assuring them that the County is working round the clock to put up proper physical infrastructure.
To underscore this commitment, Nyong’o said the County has appropriated over Kshs. 40 million under the FY 2020/2021 to cater for infrastructure such as water, sewerage, roads, lighting, solid waste management and tourism development and will in future have a dedicated budget for Maseno to adequately offer services to the populace.
The National Director for Urban Development Charles Otieno who represented the PS for State Department for Urban Development was excited with what Kisumu is doing in terms of unveiling towns and establishing urban areas noting it as the only way through which the city will attain the middle-income status.
He rallied the residents to support the Governor in ensuring that the urban areas are positioned to realize the dream. However, Otieno warned that the middle-income status will not be attained without providing the requisite infrastructure necessary for urban areas to provide the middle-income status for its residents.
He confirmed that with the new status, Maseno town can now benefit from programs under the National Government such as the Kenya Urban Support Program and Affordable Housing programme to help develop its foundational infrastructure.
Maseno University Vice Chancellor Prof. Julius Nyabundi who described the unveiling as long overdue highlighted that for Maseno town to grow, the university will have to be nurtured with the necessary infrastructure to meet the rising number of students. He revealed that through its students, the university pumps in close to Kshs. 2 billion a year into Kisumu’s economy, something he says cannot be ignored challenging the County to put in place proper structures to attract investments.
The Kisumu CEC for Lands Dickson Obungu in response to Nyabundi’s requests confirmed that the county is already working on an Integrated Urban Physical Plan that will streamline the land structure and address the existing land issues. This will be in addition to other development projects around roads, waste management, and sanitation.
Already the county has completed the Esivalu Water Project serving a population of over 60,000 residents around Maseno Town and its environs.
Obungu also revealed that the county has plans to finish the conferment process of the remaining 4 towns before the end of the year.
Kisumu West MP Hon. Olago Aluoch also added his voice into the conversation by proposing that the opportunities brought about by the new status be enjoyed equally by all residents to ensure peaceful coexistence.
Maseno town will now be headed by a Town Administrator working under the oversight of a town committee which the Governor says will recognize its cultural diversity.
Joining the Governor were members of Kisumu County Cabinet, County Assembly Members led by the Speaker Elisha Oraro, officials from both National and the County Government, and Community Elders among others.