Why Thika could be Mount Kenya region's first city
Should Governor Kimani Wamatangi’s plans come to fruition, Kenya could soon have its fifth city in Thika.
The governor has embarked on a raft of plans to develop the Thika Industrial Smart City, banking on information and communication technology to build a modern metropolis.
In an interview with Nation yesterday, Mr Wamatangi said the bid for city status kicked off with the ratification of a resolution by the County Executive Committee after which a technical committee was formed to seek views from the public.
“The committee overseeing the process comprises representatives from the Law Society of Kenya, Architectural Association of Kenya, Association of Urban Areas and Cities, Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya, Institute of Surveyors, Kenya Institute of Planners and local traders,” said the governor.
He said the new city will be an industrial hub that will create jobs for thousands of Kenyans.
“I have directed the County Executive Committee official in charge of housing, physical planning, municipal administration, and urban development, Ms Salome Wainaina, to midwife the process,” the governor added.
He said the process has been in place for the past three months and some of the notable achievements have been the relocation of hawkers from the town centre and the commissioning of the Sh400 million Makongeni market alongside 15 others.
“We are planning a raft of incentives to attract investors in housing, manufacturing and mining sectors. We are also planning to build a light rail system connecting to Nairobi and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport,” he said.
He urged residents to focus on the economic benefits of the proposed city and desist from politicising the process.
Should residents endorse the plans and the county assembly approve them, the Senate will be required to ratify the proposal and forward it to President William Ruto, who will make the conferment.
“This is a good thing that will make the country gain its fifth city after Nairobi, Nakuru, Kisumu and Mombasa,” Mr Wamatangi said, while pointing to the “immense benefits” for residents that come with city status. “We are determined to tap into them,” he added.
He said Juja, Kabete, Githunguri, Gatundu, Githurai and Kimende towns will, in the process, be upgraded to municipality status. The county currently has Kiambu, Ruiru, Kikuyu, Limuru and Karuri towns designated as municipalities.
The governor said President Ruto has committed to signing the city charter, should locals approve of it, “and that will open the floodgates to more money to fund the development of infrastructure, healthcare, water connectivity and markets.”
Mr Wamatangi added that “we are only pursuing this for the economic and social benefits of our people and the country, but the debate is not static as it is a national agenda much as it is a Kiambu County issue and we cannot exactly control the dynamics”.
Thika West Deputy County Commissioner Mbogo Mathioya lauded the move, saying, Mr Wamatangi has shared his vision for the city “and it is revolutionary in the way that the benefits will trickle down to residents and also spill over to other areas of the county”.
Ms Wainaina said preparation for the upgrade will see the town get “street lighting, traffic lights and major road upgrades”.
She said the Kenya National Highway Authority has committed to expanding roads in the town and dualling part of Thika-Garissa highway.
Kiambu Business Community Chairman Alfred Wanyoike welcomed the proposal and called for the “formulation of a new taxation regime to ensure [taxes] do not overburden already strained businesses.”
He added that safety in the housing sector must be taken seriously “since upgrade to city status will attract developers wishing to put up high-rise buildings and our notoriety for collapsing structures should be addressed to ensure safety.”