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Dilemma in Kakamega over ‘Sh200b’ new city project

If the deal is too good, think twice: Construction on course as county government warns building plans of Mwale Medical and Technology City have never been approved

Roberto Muyela @PeopleDailyKe 

In the heart of little-known Lunza village in Butere, Kakamega county, lies the site of an Sh200 billion-metropolis investment, which is quickly wooing investors and tourists.

Lead investor, 42-year-old former Aeronautic Engineer at the Kenya Air Force Julius Mwale, has branded it as Mwale Medical and Technology City. The project involves a mega mall, a 5,000-bed capacity medical complex, an airport, a golf course and more than 90,000 square feet of residential units.

Construction is ongoing for the medical tourism and technology city project, an idea that he conceptualised while he was in the USA where he worked and studied.  His conviction of replicating the idea in his home country became irresistible after visiting the Hampton city in US.

After conducting a five-year feasibility study that allegedly cost Sh400 million, Mwale says he was certain Lunza village was the perfect place to set up his dream city. “Many real estate investors and clients currently opt for quiet environments with manageable traffic.  An example is the high-end Silicon Valley residential estate, which is constructed in the serene environment of San Francisco,” explains the investor.

Mwale wants to make the village a medical destination, putting a break to the lengthy journeys Kenyans cover to South Africa and India in pursuit of medical services. The first leg of construction started in 2014 and to be completed by 2020.

He needed more than 5,000 hectares, but had only 300 hectares during the ground-breaking ceremony project. Luckily, villagers have boosted Mwale  by leasing parcels of land to the project. In return, Mwale promises to construct for them descent residential and rental homes.

John Wandagwa and Gilbert Luchera are among Butere residents who have availed land to Mwale and plans are afoot to construct residential units for them. The two residents have expressed optimism that the project is set to launch their village on a transformative trajectory. 

“This partnership is set to see them become property owners and investors in this city, which after its completion will be one of the largest cities in Kenya,” says Mwale.

While supporters of the project say it will elevate the economic standards of the immediate community,  the Kakamega county government says the construction is illegal as the building plans were never approved as per the Physical Planning Act of 2012 (see separate story). 

“Yes, the county welcomes investors. We are getting only Sh9 billion funding from the national government annually, so how can we fight a Sh19 billion project that could impact positively in this county?  But proper procedures and all laws must be complied with,” said a county minister. 

However, Mwale insists the licensing and approval hiccups are being sorted out. He says he has invested Sh19 billion in the construction of roads set to open up the area for world-class investments, installation of over 400 solar streetlights, a mall with a supermarket and several houses. Section one of the medical complex is complete. Plans are a foot to finish construction of an airport, Technology park, power plant, a cable car system and a golf course.

Mwale says a single residential flat in the city now sells at Sh35 million. Out of the 4,800 units, 3,000 are already committed and the remaining 1,800 are open for new buyers.  The metropolis also has studio apartments, which will be rented to willing clients on a monthly basis.

The hospital complex, Mwale says, will be a game changer in the way the residents of Kakamega access medical care, as it will provide free services to residents who will be referred to the facility from other hospitals.

However, patients who will be admitted privately to Hampton Hospital will be charged for the services they will receive.  The hospital plans to have 2,000 doctors and 4,000 nurses who will be attending more than 12,000 patients who will be visiting the hospital on a daily basis.

Already, Mwale Mall has opened up employment opportunities for residents in the area who now serve in it as shop attendants and cashiers.

  

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