Property boom draws investors to Suswa town

By Our  Reporter

Suswa town situated along the Narok – Mai-Mahiu road has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years, thanks to the growing number of real estate investors and the retail business boom.

With the Suswa Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Station now linking the town to Nairobi, things are looking brighter leading to a steady rise of property and land prices.

It is a complete change of fortunes for the town that only few years ago was a dusty shopping centre known more for hosting political rallies convened by Maa speaking leaders led by the late William ole Ntimama.

The famous Suswa Declarations where the Maasai leaders made statements binding the all Maa communities (Maasai, Samburu, Ilchamus and their kinsmen from Tanzania to far reaching decisions and political alignment was what the town was known for.

A man carrying a goat he purchased at the busy Suswa livestock trading market. Photo Biketi Kikechi

The number of hotels, bars, butcheries, milk bars and other eateries has remarkably increased both along the highways and in the busy back streets.

The town’s skyline has also taken a new phase because of a number of storey buildings that are coming up in the back streets that only a few years ago were open spaces without buildings.

About three years ago, a 50×100 plot along the highway within the town was going for between sh400,000 to Sh600,000 but the new developments have catapulted the buying rates to between Sh1.5million to  Sh2 million.

“You can still get plots in the backstreets at Sh400,000 to Sh500,000 but land is moving very fast and those prices will definitely double in the coming months,” said Mzee Joseph ole Koilel of Duka Moja.

He recounted the town’s history from around 1980, when it had only one permanent building owned by a Mr Ng’eno from Bomet, now deceased, who later sold the property to a Maasai businessman and relocated to his home region.

“That was the sole building here, when Ng’eno was operating retail and wholesale shops, a bar and butchery in the early 1980s, but now we have hundreds of shops with new ones coming up every other day,” explained Koilel.

Rental charges are still fairly affordable, with small shops going for between Sh5,000 to 7,000 while larger shops range between Sh10,000 to Sh15,000 on the main street.

Suswa does not have a bank and all transactions are done by bank agents who have shops in the town or through the Mpesa money transfer service.

Mary Wangeshi 21, moved to Suswa last year after leaving college opened a nail polishing business, where she also sells earrings, nose studs, braids and other beauty products for women.

“We are mostly busy on market days when many women come to buy products and during school holidays when many young girls are at home,” said Wangeshi.

But it is the coming of the SGR station, the Dry Port which is about 10kms down the road towards Nairobi at Kedong ranch and an on-going road project by Ketraco that has boosted the economy of the region.

“The SGR project employed almost 3,000 people when it was under construction, most of them outsiders but they have now left the town after it was completed and launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta,” said Koilel.

Both the Dry Port and the Kentraco projects are under construction, the former employing over 1,000 people and the latter about 500, who are fuelling the town’s consumer economy.

But it is the livestock market located about 2kms on a hill overlooking the town that is always teeming with traders and farmers selling their livestock on market days.

It is estimated that close to 500 cows and over 1,000 sheep and goats are sold at the market every Thursday, most of them ending in Nairobi and Nakuru butcheries.

It is cheaper to buy livestock at the market during the low season, especially when schools open because a mature he goat with carcass weighing over 20kgs, goes for as little as Sh8,000 while a cow ranges from Sh20,000 to 25,000.

“Prices are very high now, because of the approaching holiday season.  A fat ram is now selling at Sh15,000 but you will get the same for Sh8,000 in January and February when schools open because many people will be looking for money to pay school fees,” said Joseph Mbugua , a trader from Nairobi.

Most traders from Nairobi and Nakuru use pool transport by hiring either lorries or pick-up trucks to ferry the livestock from Suswa.

It also emerged that Maasai livestock sellers prefer being paid in cash than mobile phone Mpesa transfer service because of fear that the buyers can reverse the money.

“Some carry even as much as Sh1 million in cash but the good thing is that apart from small cases of pick pocketing no robberies have happened here because all locals here are always armed with machetes and clubs,” said Koilel.

Public service vehicles, most of them Toyota Probox and Sienta cars ply the Narok, Suswa route, making it convenient for traders from the County headquarters to reach Suswa and back within a very short period at Sh250 per trip.

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