Kiambu begins to wake up from long slumber
Despite its proximity to Kenya’s capital city, Kiambu — one of the oldest towns in the country — continues to lag behind others in development.
Unlike Thika, Kikuyu, Ruaka, Ruiru and other towns in the region, Kiambu does not have modern buildings and roads.
Kiambu, which is just 17 kilometres from the city centre, is characterised by old buildings, most doubling as commercial and residential houses.
This has robbed the town of its sheen, betraying Kiambu’s famous name and the wealth it possesses.
The town’s old section, known as the Indian Bazaar, has stagnated and only got a lifeline when the State built a link road through it and public service vehicles were ordered to use it recently.
Kiambu remains a street town, often characterised by traffic jams, with no room for expansion, thanks to poor infrastructure and planning.
Land grabbing has also seen Kiambu lose many public utilities such as the bus terminal.
Kangangi market in the middle of the town remains in a sorry state despite pledges by successive governments to transform it.
In 2016, for instance, the devolved government announced that the World Bank, through the Nairobi Metropolitan Service Improvement Programme, had set aside Sh103 million to modernise the market. The promise is yet to be fulfilled.
Critics blame initial planning for denying the town the space for expansion.
Kiambu Golf Club, the prison, and other amenities occupy huge tracts of land. Planners say the prison and the club should be on the outskirts of Kiambu to give the town room to expand.
Mr Josphat Ngamau, owner of Zoom Real Property Agency, says for Kiambu to develop, all the grabbed land should be reclaimed. He adds that there is a need for proper planning.
There are, however, efforts to modernise the town.
Recently, Governor Ferdinand Waititu launched a bus park, a modern market, the building of a bypass which links Kiambu town and Kirigiti road, as well as street lights, in a Sh160 million World Bank-funded project.
The ultra-modern Sh800 million Kiambu Mall, on half an acre plot, was recently opened. The four-storey mall with a leasable area of more than 154,000 square feet is already operational, with Choppies Supermarket as the anchor tenant.
Another project that has given the town a facelift is the seven-storey Kikinga House Annex, which is an extension of the adjacent three-storey Kikinga House.
The National Constituency Development Fund is also building a multimillion-shilling six-storey Kiambu CDF offices dubbed CDF Tower, opposite the police station.
Area MP Jude Njomo says the building will be constructed in two phases.
The town is banking on the proposed dualling of Kiambu Road from Muthaiga to Ndumberi to spur development.
Due to poor planning and land grabbing, the road will not pass through the town. It will be rerouted through Kirigiti to Ndumberi.
Mr Thomas Kimari, chairman of Kiambu Municipality, says the Kenya National Highways Authority should consider designing it to branch shortly past Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology to Kirigiti, Gicoco then Ndumberi, and another line through the India Bazaar, Kangoya to Ndumberi to give the town a second chance.
“If that happens, we will widen the town’s possible catchment, thereby creating an opportunity for it to grow because investors will set up serious businesses in the areas the roads will pass,” Mr Kimari told the Sunday Nation.