How Kitui mineral wealth can drive Uhuru's Big Four agenda

Kitui County Governor Charity Ngilu (right) and Mining and Petroleum Cabinet Secretary John Munyes (centre) during the Inter-Governmental Mineral Stakeholders Consultative Forum held at Radisson Blu Hotel. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • In the last decade, manufacturing has shown sluggish growth, with data from the latest Economic Survey indicating it grew by a paltry 0.2 per cent last year.
  • Chairperson of Geological Society of Kenya, says with the coal deposits in Kitui, Kenya will be able to address its competitiveness as an investment destination.
  • Mining Cabinet Secretary John Munyes concurred that the mineral wealth in the county will play a huge role in driving the agenda.

Kitui County is positioning itself to catalyse President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda, with a renewed push to accelerate plans to exploit the cost effective coal power, among other minerals.

The county hopes that its huge mineral wealth will play a significant role in helping the government achieve manufacturing and affordable housing – two of the economic agenda spearheaded by President Kenyatta.

In return, the county government and local communities are guaranteed that the region will develop faster and they will also benefit from mining loyalties.
The government has identified manufacturing as one of the sectors that could offer sustainable solution to the country’s youth unemployment, but this cannot be achieved without exploiting the coal deposits in Mui basin.

The sector has been bogged down by high costs of doing business, specifically the cost of energy which is linked to success of the other three agenda.

SLUGGISH GROWTH

In the last decade, manufacturing has shown sluggish growth, with data from the latest Economic Survey indicating it grew by a paltry 0.2 per cent last year where several factories shut down their plants and laid off workers.

Experts are warning that the goal of pushing the manufacturing share of national wealth to 15 per cent in the next five years and reap the accompanying benefits of jobs creation may not be achieved unless the Kitui coal mining project is rolled out urgently.

Ms Gladys Kianji, the chairperson of Geological Society of Kenya, says with the coal deposits in Kitui County, Kenya will be able to address its competitiveness as an investment destination.

According to Ms Kianji, this will lower the cost of manufacturing, make housing affordable and also bring down the high food and commodity prices.

COST OF ELECTRICITY

“We should harness this resource without delay. The cost of electricity in Kenya will go down significantly and manufacturers will have a cost effective source of energy”, she told the Nation.

The geology lecturer at the University of Nairobi said most manufacturers continue to import coal at high costs to heat their furnaces yet we’ve got our own lying unutilised.

Mr Rajesh Patel, an investor who is setting up a steel plant in Ukasi area in Mwingi north, said no other county is endowed with the kind of resources Kitui offers in realising the Big Four agenda.
On affordable housing, Mr Patel said the coal ash waste can be utilised to make light but strong building blocks which for decades have been used to make skyscrapers in developed countries, as opposed to quarry stones.

LIMESTONE
“We all know what the combination of coal, limestone, iron ore and magnesium which are available in Kitui means in driving the affordable housing agenda” Mr Patel said.

Mining Cabinet Secretary (CS) John Munyes concurred that the mineral wealth in the county will play a huge role in driving the agenda.

Mr Munyes told a mining stakeholders forum convened by Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu that the success of the Big Four agenda is hinged on exploiting the coal, limestone and iron ore deposits, among many other minerals available in the county.

The CS said the national government was keen to streamline the mining industry and that various mining activities like coal mining will be the key drivers of Kenya’s economic growth.

“The underground wealth that you have in your county will be of benefit to not just Kitui but the whole country, in line with the 70:20:10 sharing formula among the national, county governments and communities respectively, provided in the Mining Act” said the CS.

BROADER VISION
Mrs Ngilu says the president’s Big Four agenda resonates with her vision for the county and that her administration will collaborate with the national government in realising the country’s broader vision.
Mrs Ngilu assured mining investors that the county was open to business and that they will be granted long term leases running up to 90 years to ensure that they recoup on their investments.
“ My government will take a lead role in facilitating dialogue among all players to ensure that all parties get the best deals while safeguarding the environment” she said.
She said her county government had also taken the necessary legislative measures to operationalise the mining law.
“Our people should not continue to wallow in poverty when our county is endowed with vast deposits of minerals and precious stones which create wealth for Kitui and but also the entire country,” she emphasised.

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