Kitui is generally a quiet County. Few things may be going on there, but those few contribute significantly to the development of the County. And it wasn’t different with the Investor conference that ran from September 25 -26 at the Kitui Show Grounds.
The large hall was packed with serious local and international investors and businessmen and women. Even on the final day, serious discussion and displays were going on. Businessmen and women doing business in Kitui were given a chance to tell investors what doing business in Kitui was like. And I watched with excitement as both old and young businessmen and women candidly told their stories.
One man explained the investors what working in horticulture was like. A grafted tree of mangoes could bring you Shs60,000/- a season and you could rely on that tree for over 30 years (a traditional plant could stay for longer than 50 years).
Kitui County is known as one of the leading producers of mangoes in Kenya. And even in neighboring counties such Machakos where mangoes also grow, consumers eagerly await mangoes from Kitui County because they have more sugar and better quality.
In the exhibition tents, you could confirm the quality and taste of Kitui mangoes with well package, inexpensive and natural mango juice.
The farmer told us that that among other fruits that grow in his farm were also watermelons which were easily sold in Nairobi.
A woman investor narrated the beauty investing in a bakery in Kitui. She had always loved baking, she said. And she had always wanted to invest in Kitui. For that reason, she returned to Kitui after some 15 years in the United States where she had established a school business. Now her bakery was thriving, selling some 9,000 pieces of bread daily.
There were vegetable businessmen, traders in construction industry and many more. They all were doing good business in Kitui County.
No visitor to the investor conference would have failed to be thrilled by the freedom, excitement and enthusiasm of the local investors during the question time. They told the county officials what they believe should be done to make the county a leading investment destination in Kenya. A man told of te waste of vegetables that goes on in Tzombe area because of lack of markets. It was surprising to hear that there were areas were food was thrown away in a county generally regarded as dry.
One enthusiast official told me that contrary to what many people think, high potential agricultural areas if put together formed larger areas that than the whole of former Central Province. Traditional food crops such as millet and cassava do very well in Kitui County. And millet was now a cash crop, with a large market among beer brewers such as Kenya Breweries who are ready to support farmers to increase acreage under the crop.
The atmosphere was so free and friendly that even when Makueni County Governor, Prof. Kivutha Kibwana, stood to ask his question, few people were aware that he was actually the Governor of Makueni County. His question had apparently been provoked by the narratives of the local investors. He wanted to know whether the County of Kitui had developed a system of ensuring that traditional skills and trades were preserved with lasting succession system.
Although the answers seemed to me to answer a different question, many people of te local investors were able to examine their inheritance and continuity plans. That is important because we need to encourage business people to think and plan ahead of themselves. It is a known fact that many businesses in Kenya die with the owner.
Because of that most business people do not strive to grow their businesses beyond subsistence level even when they have the ability and the potential. Encouraging such people to think and plan beyond themselves would create more enthusiasm for business among parents and children.
The exhibitors included small cottage industries such as Mumoni and Kyuso Organization for Rural Development and Active Participation (Muky-Ordap) bringing together makers of juices, pottery and carvings among others.
Among the big exhibitors, the Registrar of Trade Marks pulled many visitors who were anxious to know how they could protect their trade marks.