LONG WAIT

Slow dream to Kenya's technocities, Tatu City taking shape

Schools and businesses are already open at Tatu City, and a range of houses suits all incomes

In Summary
  • The new city is expanding to meet the demand for businesses, homes and social amenities.
  • The One-Stop-Shop intends to coordinate the activities of various government entities and private service providers
Tatu City in Ruiru subcounty, Kiambu county
REAL ESTATE: Tatu City in Ruiru subcounty, Kiambu county
Image: JOHN KAMAU

Kenya is matching towards its first megacity dream after Tatu City sets up Kenya’s first-ever “One-Stop-Shop” facility at the 5,000-acre new city.

The One-Stop-Shop intends to coordinate the activities of various government entities and private service providers for applications for permits, approvals, and licenses within the Special Economic Zone.

Tatu City is a 5,000-acre, mixed-use development with homes, schools, offices, a shopping district, medical clinics, nature areas, a sport and entertainment complex and a manufacturing area for more than 250,000 residents.

Schools and businesses are already open at Tatu City, and a range of houses suits all incomes. Located 30 minutes from Westlands, Tatu City represents a new way of living and thinking for all Kenyans, creating a unique live, work and play environment that is free from traffic congestion and long-distance commuting.

The private sector SEZ pioneer in Kenya, Tatu City recently partnered with Konza Technopolis, a public SEZ, to establish the Association of Special Economic Zones of Kenya, which aims to further economic zone development and operationalisation.

The board, led by Meshack Kimeu, SEZA’s acting CEO, commended Tatu City as the country’s first operational SEZ, responsible for catalysing more than Sh130 billion of local, regional and international investment in Kenya.

Last month, Chinese firm Stecol Corporation has bagged a Sh1 billion tender to do infrastructure developments for the final phase of Kijani Ridge, which is part of the residential area of Tatu city.

The deal will see the firm build six kilometres of tarmacked roads, six kilometres of footpaths, a five-kilometre underground stormwater conduit network and a water supply pipeline.

The Chinese firm will also fix 2.7 kilometres of sewer lines, hundreds of streetlights, 12km of fibre optic cabling and kilometres of 11kV medium voltage underground power lines.

Works on the project that starts immediately will see the contractor work within a timeline of 10-12 months.

The new city is expanding to meet the demand for businesses, homes and social amenities.

ENABLING ENVIRONMENT FOR INVESTORS

Established in 2015 by an Act of Parliament (Special Economic Zones Act No. 16 of 2015), SEZA’s core objectives are to provide for the establishment of SEZs in Kenya, to promote and facilitate business for global and local investors and to create an enabling environment for investments in the country.

Kenya’s SEZs offer registered SEZ enterprises 10 per cent corporate tax for 10 years (and 15 per cent for the subsequent 10 years), import duty exemptions and zero-rated VAT, among other business-friendly benefits.

Although the country envisioned the first such city in June 2008 when plans for Konza were announced as part of Vision 2030, the dream has taken longer than expected.

It was a government-led development blueprint with the stated aim of turning Kenya into a “middle-income country providing a high-quality life to all its citizens by the year 2030.

These were big dreams. Yet, more than twelve years after the launch of the Vision 2030 project, none of this has happened.

Legal and logistical problems hampered the project so badly that it took until 2013 for the government to finally pump the first tranche of money into Konza. 

Dubbed "where African silicon savannah begins",  it aims to attract business process outsourcing, software development, data centres, disaster recovery centres, call centres and light assembly manufacturing industries; and build a university campus focused on research and technology as well as hotels, residential areas, schools and hospitals.

 It is also intended to include a science park, a convention centre, shopping malls, hotels, international schools, and a health facility.

The project rests on a 5,000-acre piece of land lying in three counties of Machakos, Kajiado and Makueni, providing excellent connectivity through land and air.

An official at the city told the Star on condition of anonymity that so far Phase One of the projects has attracted over 40 per cent uptake by investors.

The investment will be done through a 99-year land leasing on maximum and 20 years on minimum.

It is estimated that on completion of phase 1, some 20,000 direct jobs will be created with 12,000 residential units being put up.

With over 1,000 workers on-site, horizontal infrastructure including roads, parks water and sewerage treatment plants through tunnel technology and automatic garbage collection systems are taking shape.

With an estimated cost of $14.5 billion, the government promised to finance 10% of Konza for infrastructures, while the private sector would provide the rest of the funding to build universities, offices, housing and hotels.

However, the processes to create KoTDA, a legal entity that facilitates the signing of contracts with external lenders, were delayed until 2013.

A year before, in 2012, the National Land Commission (NLC), which administers public land, introduced a tedious acquisition procedure which led to even further delays in the project.

Although the project's first brick was laid in 2013, not everyone agrees with the Konza Technopolis master plan.

Some publicly doubt whether it will be executed. Its colossal size, intended to offer the aforementioned services, render it somewhat unfeasible.

Its location has also been questioned, given its distance from the capital, making it less appealing for professionals.

Another criticism is that the project does not make use of the country's existing infrastructures.

This delay has scared off at least one German university and numerous startups.