In all the chaos, Kisii town stands tall as region’s investment hub

The Kisii Naivas Mall

The Kisii Naivas Mall, a new facility in Kisii town that is standing at the exact location where, The Kisii Hotel, a colonial entertainment hub stood. The new facility is a development mark for Kisii town.

Photo credit: Ruth Mbula | Nation Media Group

For many years, The Kisii Hotel, a colonial entertainment hub that stood on the very spot a massive shopping mall has been established, served as the reference point for residents and visitors to Kisii town.

Even after independence, the hotel maintained its place as the high-end entertainment spot for salary earners, prompting musicians at the time to compose songs in praise of the facility.

People travelled from far and wide to have a taste of Gusii hospitality and cuisines brewed at the hotel until a few years ago.

One such frequent visitor was Mr Walter Otieno, now a retired teacher, who would travel from Oyugis in Homa Bay County, to collect his monthly salary at the Kisii town-based Barclays Bank, now Absa Bank.

After collecting his pay, Mr Otieno would proceed to The Kisii Hotel, frequented by the who-is-who in the region—to bite some barbecued nyama choma before heading back home.

Since 2012, Mr Otieno has never been back to Kisii town for banking services as new banks have opened branches that are now closer to his home in Oyugis.

Last week, Mr Otieno was back in Kisii town to run some errands when Nation.Africa caught up with him.

“I got lost because Kisii town has changed and 'The Kisii Hotel' is no longer here," Mr Otieno said, trying not to sound hyperbolic.

The Kisii Hotel, he recalled, was a significant landmark and a hospitable place for many who came to the town.

But the former educator was equally awed by just how the town has developed in just a decade.

"Definitely, there is a good story to tell about Kisii town. All these tall buildings used not to be here. The fact that tall buildings have sprung up within such a short time tells a story of a town with money flowing in it," he remarked.

First mall

Currently, a huge mall, and the very first in the entire South Nyanza region, is coming up on the three-acre piece of land where The Kisii Hotel sat for decades.

The mall has 30 shop spaces to let and is likely to dwarf the many mini-supermarkets in the town.

The mall will have a huge parking area, big enough to accommodate about 100 vehicles. Getting parking space in Kisii town is a huge nightmare as the shrinking land size has made it almost impossible to expand the town which remains congested, squeezed and overpopulated.

"The purchasing power in Kisii is very competitive due to the region’s high population and flourishing businesses, which have assured the flow of money. In addition, the people of Kisii wanted new products like Pizza and KFC because they are somehow fed up with ndizi," Real Estate Developer and the Manager of the new giant in town Mwenda Thuranira told Nation.Africa.

The mall will create employment opportunities and spur development in the area, Mr Thuranira added.

He said the new premises will be known as The Kisii Naivas Mall and added that the name was associated with Naivas, the main tenant at the facility.

According to the manager, the appetite to do business with the growing population in Kisii town was irresistible.

But the congestion in the town had made it difficult for many traders to sell their wares, in addition to the lack of parking space which had become a nightmare to motorists.

"We have 30 shops to let in the mall and just one Facebook post that we used to call for tenants has attracted 90 interested parties," he said.

Mr Thuranira clarified that the speculation that there are influential individuals in the region who are part of the investment was incorrect.

“It has been said so but that is propaganda. We rented the land from a businessman who was the owner of the now defunct The Kisii Hotel,” Mr Thuranira clarified.

He added, "Some people want cheap political mileage because the mall is set to bring development to the town."

Nonetheless, Mr Thuranira remains upbeat, saying that the current crop of leaders from the region is excited about the facility and that there is goodwill.

Apart from the Kisii Naivas Mall that is almost opening its doors, in the past three years alone, Nation.Africa has observed a meteoric rise of the town that started in the 20th century as an administrative center of the British Colony, then referred to as Getembe.

Kisii town sits on a rough terrain sandwiched between the Manga ridge, Nyanchwa, Kiong’anyo and Kiomakondi hills.

High-rise buildings

The town is harbouring one of the latest State Lodges and hosts the Central Bank of Kenya money collection centre at the Absa building.

The money collection centre was opened after it was established that Kisii County controls a substantial quota of the money market in the entire Nyanza region.

According to the Bank Supervision Annual Report, 2022 by the Central Bank of Kenya, Kisii is home to some 22 banking institutions.

There are high-rise buildings changing the skyline of the town every other time.

Some of the latest high-rise buildings are Mocha Place, Dallas Premier Hotel, Twin Towers, Gusii Mwalimu Plaza, Kwanza Place and Elimu Centre.

The growth of Kisii Town has seen an upsurge in the need for accommodation and other social amenities. According to the 2019 census, Kisii Municipality has a population of over 200,000 people.

Fast-rising estates of the town include Mwembe, Nyanchwa and Jogoo.

The urban center also boasts of supermarkets such as Quick Mart, Naivas, Shivling, Unique, Kisii Mart, among others. Each of the supermarkets have their branches on various streets of the town.

The densely populated town is also known for its social life with bars and entertainment joints punctuating every corner of town.

Kisii hosts some of the best high-end hotels in the local hospitality industry. They include Ufanisi Resort, Karmel Park, Dallas Premier and The Junction Hotel.

The town headquarters Kisii County government and brags of several educational and health institutions.

Also, the town has a high concentration of boda-bodas and, if not careful, one risks being knocked down by an ignorant rider pacing away on the non-motorised walkways.

Better services?

Kisii County Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Wycliffe Oyaro told Nation.Africa that prospects for doing business in Kisii town have increased and the circulation of money is high.

"Physically, the town has grown but there is a challenge service-wise," Mr Oyaro noted.

According to Mr Oyaro, the Simba Arati-led county government needs to improve the provision of basic commodities such as water and the collection of garbage.

"We need an adequate supply of water and timely collection of garbage. Timely provision of services adds to efficient growth of any urban centre," he said.

Mr Oyaro averred that some of the taxation policies by the devolved units need a review in order not to scare investors.

According to Governor Arati, his administration is doing all that is within its ability to bring order to Kisii town and enable a conducive environment for businesses to thrive.

"We are endeavouring to improve infrastructure development and amenities in line with the rising population in our urban areas and towns," said Mr Arati.

“Plus, the Kisii Municipality is now fully operational and is already accessing infrastructure development funds from development partners,” the governor said, adding that the neighbouring Ogembo town has equally gained Municipality status and will help ease the pressure on the throbbing Kisii town.

On waste management, the county boss said that he has "given instructions that a concerted inter-departmental approach to help address the solid waste menace in our towns be put in place."

Arati also observed that the dumpsite, an eyesore in Nyambera area, has already been sorted.

Part of the deliberate effort by his administration to make Kisii clean is to separate wastes at source to facilitate ease in recycling, he said.

While it was established as a vantage point to repulse the German soldiers who were advancing from Tanganyika (Tanzania), Kisii town has become densely populated to the extent that there seem to be no more space for anything.

But somehow, in some way, some construction work is always popping up and a giant commercial building is erected.

In the early 1990s, former Kitutu Chache MP, Dr Zachary Onyonka warned that Kisii was sitting on an ‘active volcano’, and that one day, a population explosion would compound the development of the commercial-cum-administration center.

While the fore-bearers of Kisii town never created reserves for the town’s expansion, subsequent leaders allegedly grabbed virtually every open piece of land for primitive accumulation of wealth.

That the land where Kisii police station stands has a title in the name of an individual is itself a telltale of gluttony that threatens the stability of this town that is choking from all manner of chaos.