I am a member and I admire the industrious nature and economic sensitivity of my Gusii community. One cannot fail to notice our healthy competition among those here at home and in Diaspora. Were it not for the devolved and re-energized corruption that has seen us erect expensive hospital gates without matching healthcare, ours could be a flourishing economy.
Sometimes when we think we have stagnated, we look for the enemy out there and forget to realize the one in us. I ply the road traversing three counties at least once a week, from Keroka through Nyangusu to Kilgoris. One thing however, sticks a hard ball in my throat; the many unused buildings along the road in the name of Dukas. They are aligned on either side especially a few kilometers before Kiomiti market through Gesusu, Keera to Nyangusu. I have been seeing this pattern of unoccupied Kiosks around my home markets within Nyamira County, only to find it better replicated in Kisii County. However, one thing is evident; the people are a hardworking lot.
Now that we are endowed with a rich brick making industry, most of our people have been automatically sent to hardware owners to buy cement and other construction material to mount a Duka by the roadside. Apart from the main market centers, on either side of the road one will see a complete or incomplete Duka, most likely, locked. Most of them are decent, well furnished buildings fitted with expensive steel or fine wooden doors. Blue paints are glaring but brick red or green or the unpainted waiting for the gracious day, will not miss. While most are roofed, some are roofless or have no doors and window grills and are already growing old. A few are mud-walled or iron sheet-walled. In small numbers, a few are rafter and pole structures yet to be smeared. A number of the complete type are completely fenced and locked. One will be shocked that a number others are tilted at an angle on the verge of total collapse. You will see nineteen successive Dukas with the oldest announcing that it has never been used for the last twelve or more years yet the neighbours have been busy raising new structures and closing them. You will be shocked to see masons and carpenters working on a new, expensive structure towards completion and most likely, the new “landlord” will also lock it up to wait for “clients” or “business”. Even those of us without much income will still try a mud-walled and grass-thatched storey structure so long us our land touches the main road.
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Most of these buildings have cost the owners between half a million to two million shillings only to be closed! In fact, some have decent residential units to the rear which are most likely occupied at very low costs while the Duka has never sold. The labels are very clear; XYZ enterprises, KK kinyozi, ABC shop and Duka, Jasho Wholesellers, JKL Hotel, MMM French Beans centre, Y-party office and many other such sweet names but all the same, none has ever operated. The only thing that is evident is wasted labour, skill , time and money. Unfortunately, many more are coming up. The climax is behind Nyangusu Market along the winding road to Kilgoris junction and the story is untellable. Our money has gone down! I am afraid, a good number of these “investors” must have gone for a loan to acquire a plot and “develop”.
We cannot do without markets. We cannot do without business premises and residential houses to boost our daily operations, yet we cannot embrace unhealthy and economically depleting competition, for this will bring us to our knees. This is the surest way to spend out our business capital. Instead of one using the neighbour’s ready premises, it looks like each one of us wants to have his own Duka, closing it up notwithstanding. Instead of constructing my own kiosk five kilometers away from the main and busy market just because our land stretches to the tarmac or I have bought a plot, I’d rather rent the neighbor’s premises that has never attracted clients at the market centre at an affordable rate and spare the other cash for business capital. My potential landlord and I would enter a very economically rewarding and vibrant kind of symbiotic relationship where I eat and let eat, as opposed to the picture where the two of us own closed up and depreciating Dukas by the road.
I find this scenario unhealthy. Indeed, this is stalling the economy of my people. As my neighbour is busy constructing, my daughter should be attending a salon college and on graduating, she finds ready premises from which she can beautify colleagues. Instead of building my own kiosk, my son can take the money as his capital for a shoe boutique. Motorbike repair shops are minimal along the road. Driving schools are located at Keroka and Kilgoris and no other along the twenty seven kilometer road. We need more green houses for the dry season.
How can we define a syndrome where one notices the neighbour’s mistake and still repeats it? Are’nt we our own enemy? It’s time we faced reality and embraced the win-win approach to business and investment as we move out of the individualistic approaches that do us more harm than good. In the current scenario, the winner is the hardware owner and perhaps, the technical brick layer if he has not raised another structure by the road.
Sorry, this was a journey I decided to digress from. As I turned the Nyangusu junction, I raced down the Kilgoris road admiring the beautiful and natural sceneries with minimal closed business premises along the road. The few I saw were actually is use.
The writer is a Freelance Based in Nyamira County, Keroka. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org