It’s the curiosity and anticipation of visiting Machakos People’s Park that saw Japheth Kavondi take part in a Safari Rally event held early in the year.
“I went with the expectation of seeing the park. I wanted to see what it was about the park that had people talking. My friends, who had visited Machakos, were simply bowled over by the park. I also saw pictures they posted online and decided I had to visit to see for myself the reason why suddenly, Machakos was on everyone’s lips,” says Japheth.
The Safari Rally event sponsored by Kenya Commercial Bank and hosted in Machakos was the chance that would give Philip a chance to fulfil his dream. “I must admit that I was very impressed at how green the park was yet the weather was hot with no rain,” he says of the new park in Machakos. Constructing the park was idea of the governor, Dr Alfred Mutua.
The hype around development in Machakos County has attracted large numbers of people to the town most of whom are residents from neighbouring counties, especially Nairobi and Kiambu who are looking for a place to unwind and have fun not too far from civilization.
The 40-acre Machakos People’s Park, the recently renovated Kenyatta Stadium, security systems and equipment as well as the county government’s initiative to enhance agriculture, upgrade infrastructure and promote Machakos as a sporting, entertainment and cultural tourism hub, are among major developments that are seeing Kenyans from all walks of life, jam the town on weekends and public holidays.
Although the governor says they have not yet calculated the revenues generated so far from tourism in the county, he estimates the traffic of people to be around 35,000 every weekend.
Japheth is among hundreds of Kenyans discovering Machakos each day. Filled with curiosity and the need to sample new things, Kenyans are heading out in numbers to Machakos making it what one would call the most visited county by locals so far.
Local tourists flocking to Machakos are visiting the town for recreation, concerts and major sporting events.
During the Madaraka Day celebrations, Philip Wahome, MultiChoice Kenya corporate communications manager and Coca- Cola teamed up to celebrate the World Cup in a fun even dubbed‘ #Brazil2Macha fun fest’ where they held an exciting mini parade mimicking the Rio Festival parade.
The two corporates say they settled on Machakos for the World Cup football launch for a number of reasons. Firstly, the proximity of Machakos to Nairobi, just 30 minutes’ drive away offered the two corporatess an opportunity to serve residents of both counties.
Secondly, the highly visible branding the county had created for entertainment and sporting was no doubt an attraction in itself. They also were amazed at the warm welcome from the county officials.
“Machakos County has a welcoming government with good security. Immediately we shared our idea, the minister for tourism put together a committee for the event and gave us weekly updates on the preparations. They also took us on a site visit, showed us the CCTV surveillance cameras and the number of security personnel who would be available for our event. Without a doubt, we were convinced that Machakos was the place we wanted to be,” says Philip.
Early in the year, the county purchased 120 police cars, 40 security dogs and 500 CCTV cameras to enhance security.
The governor’s presence at the park on the second day of the event and his full participation in the organisation of the event, is what impressed the Coca Cola, DStv, GOtv and Super Sport teams most.
“They were there for us and answered our calls,” says Philip of the cooperation they received from the county government. “From an event’s perspective, we have never seen a county as supportive as Machakos is,” he adds.
His team had anticipated 20,000 people but instead had a record turnout of close to double that number. “Nairobi residents were still driving into the park as late as 11pm on Saturday.
On Sunday, the event was to start at 6pm but we had the queues still going at 5.30pm,” he says, expressing his amazement at what taking the event to Machakos meant.
The event ‘#Brazil2Macha fun fest’ trended on Twitter before and during the two-day event.
The hype around developments in Machakos is exactly what the county governor and his team envisioned for the county. “There was nothing to come to Machakos for before. We have re-energised and created a buzz about this town and it can only get better,” said the governor in a phone interview with BDLife this week.
Mutua is well aware that people want to see his new creation and to see for themselves that what is being hyped is really there. And with this, he is fulfilling his vision of making Machakos a tourism hub for the country.
With simple things targeting local Kenyans first and not foreigners, Mutua’s dream is having a far reaching implication for this town – all of which is geared towards economic growth and empowerment for his people. “The main thing here is it’s the people’s park and not some lofty project targeting foreigners,” emphasises Mutua on the objective of county improvements.
Mutua’s willingness to accept investors with open arms is one of the reasons why Machakos is leading the pack. “People are ready to invest and want to invest in a county that is moving, not one that is steeped in political issues” he said.
Machakos was the first county to launch an investment conference. The meeting was a success based on the pledges the county received from willing investors.
“We got pledges of Sh56.3billion during the conference but at present we are counting Sh1.5trillion in pledges. If people are willing to invest amounts the size of the whole country’s national budget in one county, then it means there is potential,” says the governor.
The promises are towards the construction of Machakos City, another ambitious project by the county.
Machakos County will by the end of September begin to lay infrastructure, in preparation for the construction of its modern city.
The county will construct enough sewer lines, a 12km dual carriage way and a dam. Investors will do the rest.
The county government already donated a five-acre piece of land to Kentraco to build an electric power substation.
Since the upgrading of its sports stadium, the county has hosted dozens of important sporting events.
CAR Africa women’s Sevens Cup in April, Bamburi Rugby Super Series semi-finals match, Tusker premier league, Masaku Sevens and East and Central Africa Senior Challenge tournament are some of the highly acclaimed events that have so far pulled crowds to Machakos.
The county is crafting its niche in tourism, investment and agriculture. According to the governor, the county has offered land to investors to develop 10 hotels which will be up and running in two years. His aim is to see the county rake in millions from tourism.
Machakos will also construct a convention centre to gain revenues from conference tourism. According to Mutua, Machakos should be a county known for relaxation, conferencing and cultural enhancement.
The Machakos People’s Park is one of the projects under the county tourism programme. The park has elaborate attractions like an open air amphitheatre, miniature golf course, man-made dam with sailing boats, a children’s play area, fountain, swimming pool, solar stand and well-manicured gardens.
Machakos will in a few weeks inaugurate a 33km road. “This will ease the travel time from one point of the county to the next by 30 minutes from the current 3 hours.”
The road has remained unconstructed for years. “We decided to use 11 contractors instead of one. We are using Sh650 million instead of the proposed Sh1.3 billion for the same quality of road. By dividing the road into smaller sections, we are ensuring better supervision, efficiency and curbing of corruption,” read his brief on the project on the county website.
Machakos is no doubt becoming a trailblazer in development.
Counties such as Nakuru whose sub county, Naivasha is another tourism hub is, however, confident that it will not be left behind, according to its governor Kinuthia Mbugua.
“Machakos has a competitive edge over most counties due to good weather and its proximity to Nairobi. But Nakuru is unique with natural attractions that can never be found elsewhere”.
PHOTOS From The #Brazil2Macha Festival