Kitengela is in Kajiado county and is the twin ‘cement city’ sister to Athi River town.
We call it cement city because engaging in any meaningful form of agriculture in this area is near impossible as it is dry. Apart from cement factories, other investments are steel manufacturing and banking. Church business is also roaring.
Strangely, as Kite, as the town is fondly known, is making rapid development. Athi River looks like it is stuck in a time rut. Every evening, one would be forgiven to imagine that Nairobi is on fire given the SUVs, proboxes, tuktuks and other vehicles making their way into Kitengela.
I used to pass Athi River town when I was 10-years-old using the bread-shaped buses of the 70s so I can expertly make an informed opinion what constitutes a dead town.
The first thing which catches your attention as you approach Kitengela is the construction boom. Each day, a new building is completed as the foundation for another is dug elsewhere.
In fact, Kitengela must be the only town in Kenya with more hardware shops than entertainment spots. Pep talk is never complete without a ‘mjengo’ (construction) update.
Here, even women take a keen interest in construction. Occasionally, you will come across a woman supervising a mjengo or overseeing the purchase of material. They could be the owners or doing the work on behalf of their spouses.
Some women supply materials to sites or act as brokers while others do what they know best; feeding ‘fundis’ (workers).
Thieves have also been bitten by the mjengo bug. They steal from these sites as many are poorly guarded.
White collar theft
It is believed that the fundis carry out ‘white collar theft’ by colluding with a few corrupt hardware attendants to inflate prices of cement, sand, bricks, iron sheets and other materials.
Of course, there are beautiful things about Kitengela which attract droves of visitors from Nairobi. The greatest attraction is our ‘nyama choma’.
The town is also dotted with freshly planted trees. One wonders where residents get water for the fauna but a few smart ones have built massive underground tanks. Owning a borehole and a greenhouse is trendy here.
The place is dusty for most parts of the year. Matters are not helped by seemingly sleepy county government officials who see nothing wrong in not having built even a kilometre of tarmac, a bus terminus or market stalls for years.
Like most residents, I was not born in Kitengela but if I was to pledge allegiance between my native area and where my house is, you bet I would be happy in a Maasai ‘shuka’.
Kitengela is found in the richest county though such information could be misleading. Nearly 20,000 residents toil at EPZ factories for 12 hours daily for a paltry sum.
So who is rich in Kite? Rumour has it that fundis make more money than bank clerks but that is a story for another day.
If you intend to visit Kitengela, be advised to buy a helmet and a dust mask.
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