January 2016

Over the weekend I bounced into a very heated debate relating to the alleged proposal by the County Government of Kiambu to renew the county government houses in Ofafa, Starehe and Jamuhuri.  The tenants in these county houses live in fear of inevitable evictions as the Kiambu government is said to be planning to demolish and build new modern structures that can accommodate more people.

The county government has denied harboring such plans and dismissed such as mere propaganda.

The debate in question here centered on whether or not it was right for the government of Kiambu to come up with a housing upgrade programme that would ease the housing challenge that faces the residents of Thika Town.

Those for the idea argued that domestic shelter was an important basic need in all societies saying that the demand for housing was one aspect of the problems that had given rise to illegal makeshift houses in urban areas. They reasoned that of late, there was a severe housing shortage in Thika with demand – supply gap increasing day-by-day. They stated that trends in housing since independence had marginalized low-income earners housing needs with the limited choices never matching the ever increasing demand for housing.

Thus despite the efforts at building more houses, the low-income earners still face housing problems. They were also of the opinion that the scarcity of housing was the key reason urban landlords took advantage of the residents to overcharge and mistreat their tenants. To this school of thought, the most affected were those who have least resources as providing housing nowadays is a profit-oriented industry. Housing has become very costly in the town, spurring an affordability crisis. One the men told us that some of the homeless people we saw around were so because they were running from the existing housing problems.

These people cannot purchase houses nor afford high rent, so they end up living in unfit accommodation such as in Kiandutu, Gacagi and Matharao, as the rents demanded for such an accommodation is much lower. Some very poor people prefer to squat rather than even rent an accommodation, thus leading to the growth of slums,” he said.

He further argued that the government was confronted with keeping pace with the demands for low income housing and one way of coming up with a lasting solution was to introduce low income urban housing project similars to the Mathare 4A or the Kibera Housing Slum Upgrade. He was convinced that the potential for progress of any town could be fully exploited only if lasting solutions were found to the serious problems caused by the shortage of housing and the inadequate nature of some existing housing especially those near the town centre.

He argued that the housing plan in these area had been done without anticipating population growth in Thika Town thus resulting to poor land use. They were of the opinion that there was too much wasted space that if well utilized could help accommodate so many people without having to displace those already occupying these houses.

The Kibera site has 900 housing units, 230 business stalls and a nursery school. The project is enclosed by a wall and comprises one-, two- and three-roomed units, each complete with a bathroom, kitchen and balcony. Apart from being connected to the main water supply, it also has a borehole. The project also boasts a two-storied youth centre, a social hall, office space, toilets and gigantic waste disposal bins.

To achieve such a great objective, his partner said that the county government could start by dividing JAMOFASTAR residents into zones for systematic re-development. They should then start by building the apartments in phases on the open spaces where those living in the nearest older county houses could eventually shift to allow the old houses be demolished.

Those living in these houses may not be fully opposed to this idea but fear the county government will cut deals to allow non-bona fide residents to benefit from such housing; people who really do not need government help for housing. They prefer the Kiambu Government having to make the beneficiaries sign contracts with them that will make it hard for the Kiambu Government to shortchange them with other people.

The Kiambu authorities should therefore address this by way of community participation. Community participation, being the key drive here, must service the residents with all the relevant information to allow them enjoy direct participation in the decision-making process as well as having the freedom to develop their own options to some of their needs and solutions. They should be allowed to fully participate in the formulation of the whole programme and concept.

The core consideration in the conceptualization of such a massive programme must be the improvement of living conditions all Thika residents with minimal displacement of the already existing residents. Thus emphasis must be given to the prevailing socio-economic status of the residents including affordability of improved housing, infrastructure constraints and other social constraints.

What is your Take on this whole debate?



To start with, starting any kind of business demands money, and the bigger your concept, the more money you need. It is even more challenging if you don’t have the money thus the need for some excellent advise on how you can start something small.

It also calls on you to keep your costs as low as possible, sticking to a very focused approach, then slowly grow into something bigger. In a world that is dominated by so many big fish trading probably in the same field as you plan to, wanting to start your small business probably feels a bit like ‘David battling Goliath’.

There is a certain mindset that’s required for success. Passion, determination, and sheer will-whether it stems from a burning desire to be your own boss, realize your dream, or simply out of economic necessity – are the requisite traits. Then there is a huge swath of territory between your ‘idea’ and actually turning it into a business. 

This is why planning is so critical for your success, regardless of the type of business that you’re going to start. Planning runs the gamut from getting the right experience, writing a plan, pitching investors, setting up the business, hiring staff (if any) and implementing a marketing strategy to attract customers.

In order to be somehow guaranteed of success, it is advisable to venture on something that you love. It is really important that you truly deeply enjoy what you do considering the fact that you are going to devote a lot of time and energy to start a business and building it into a successful enterprise.

Well, to determine the best business to venture in you are advised to do a prior research on the rate at which your preferred products move in the places they sell the same. You can travel to an established shop that does the same trade, frequent the place for about a week to observe how well it does at the peak days and on the worse days, depending on the product you intend to sell.

You should also ask yourself what is the specialty product or line of products that you’re going to sell. May be there a particular product that you are just crazy about… one that you can see yourself selling 24/7. If so, then you have got yourself to the starting block.

The next question to consider: Is there is a market for your product? If you see similar products in other shops or in other parts of the country that are selling well, you might think there is a strong likelihood that you can make a solid business out of it. Finally, how are you going to make money from this product? Are you making the product yourself or buying it wholesale and then re-selling it? In either case, determine how much your costs are and then see how much you can sell it to a customer for.

For some products, it doesn't really matter how busy the shop is that day or period. Sales reps can stop a person who they think is a potential buyer based on their clothes, amount of shopping bags they are carrying, age, race and do the pitch and finalize the sale. At any given second, if there are 100 people on eye sight but if only 3 people are your assumed target, the headcount will have no sense.

Think about your practical experience in a retail environment. If you have worked retail, especially at a management level, then you have a sense of how business operates, from customer service to inventory management. Before you strike out on your own, get experience. One of the key reasons businesses fail is lack of experience. While you’re at it, find a mentor—someone who has significant experience in the business area that you’re entering. A mentor can share insights and experiences so you can apply them to your business.

Due to the risks involved, it is advisable too to start your business while you are still in paid employment probably due to the length of time you are going to live without money. Don't expect to start a business and then walk into a bank and get money. It may be a long time before your new business actually makes any profits. If you are out of money, work for your boss till you are sure that your new business is in a position to stand on its own for a few months.

You should also go out of your way to get clients or customers first before having to wait until you have officially started your business to line this up. If you currently work in a business similar to what you plan to start, it is advisable to keep a good customer rapour as you go on. Those are your potential clients and you got to be wise to devise ways to ‘poach’ them when you move ship. 

Finding an interesting and relatively unknown product too can give you more profit because your clients won't be able to have a ready alternative to compare prices. When there is none or too little competition, you can mark it up as high as you want if the product can carry that price.

Once you move to your new venture, it is wise to be ready for that challenging period where you now call the shots and every decision you make may break or make the entire venture. At the beginning, you may fail a few times and lose money on the products you thought would do well. I would say, for a startup, the most important thing would be the product itself. It is also recommendable to copy a few successful businesses you may have seen somewhere else and implementing that to your new venture.

As to where to get your products from, you will always find suppliers all over who would distribute the product for you. As much as possible try to eliminate the middle man. It is also very recommendable to be a ‘smart’ online researcher who finds suppliers for certain products on the net. You can search your products and information on Google and sites such as alibaba.com. Basically, the price is cheaper online. The extra amount your competitors pay becomes your cut for introducing the product to the consumer on a cheap.

Remember, impulse buy is a devil when personal finance is concerned. You should avoid it as plague.

Thinking of how you are going to brand your business is also very important. Branding is how you are going to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Think about your product’s value proposition. It is what you do that is unique, whether it’s the actual look of the product, the customer service, or a combination of both.

There are many other strong marketing strategies you can implement at low cost. If it is really worth it, create coupons and promotions that can be passed out to potential customers letting them know that you are open. 

You can also host an opening night party at a nearby venue or even at the store itself – just make sure to spend a little bit on refreshments for attendees. Use the social media forums such as Facebook and WhatsApp to let people know that you are open and make sure to invite them to the party. At the end of the day, if you provide a great product and service, customers will come back and they will tell their friends about you.

At first if the business is quite small, you need not hire staff to get started. However, when you feel it is time to expand or offer a wider variety, you will likely need one or two staff to serve customers and clean up the place. If you have to have any employees, it is wise to have them work commission basis. You can set reasonable target sales for each one of them whose percentage commission rate goes up as they do more sales. Based on this model, they will strive to do more sales to earn more from commission. This makes them very motivated and turns your shop into a big fun circus.

Another way to motivate your employees is by the way you treat them. All of your employees should have a vague idea of how much each of the products they sell costs. If they are interested in the product, they just pay the cost. Do at times take care of your employees, say the Saturday of every end month being the company’s meal day where you take them out for a bite. Each of them grabs a pen and paper and ask who wants to eat what and you pay for that meal.

If they need advance from their pay check, you hand them cash. Once you have their respect, they will not steal. 

After closing, they have an excel sheet printed to go through the inventory. Randomly, should go through their report once or twice a week and match up. Closing time is the most important part of the shift. Never trust a new employee doing the closing for bookkeeping, security and inventory purposes. He can very well empty out the store and leave or sell items in cash and still make the inventory look good without you knowing.

Remember, small business enterprises are ladders that need to be climbed to reach our ultimate goal. So, be patient and believe in your business. If you continue to put in hard work and have the desire and determination to succeed, you will.

Do you agree with us? 
Just drop your contributions on the comment box.

When area MP Alice Ng'ang'a announced that the National Government had this Fiscal year set aside cash to expand the road network within the town under the 10,000km annuity programme, the news came as music to the ears of the Thika residents. 

The announcement by Kiambu Governor William Kabogo that his government was initiating a programme to ease up traffic along Kenyatta Highway by expanding it into a dual-carriage way towards the Gatitu outlet, that too was some sweet melody to the residents of 'The Birmingham of Kenya'. The ink to the agreement between his government and the Prisons Department to open up Karatina Road has not yet dried up. Then there is also the proposed expansion of Haile Selassie Road that is scheduled to start soon after the completion of Kenyatta Highway.

All these developments mean one thing to the residents of Thika.. economic empowerment. More roads will directly translate into less traffic snarl-ups, less time wastage and eventually more economic output.

To understand this theory more clearly, we are going to evaluate the real economic impact that the marvelous Thika Superhighway brought to our lovely town of Thika. 

There can be no denying the fact that the Thika Superhighway has played a great part in the economic growth of Thika and the surrounding towns. Its reality emphasized  the fact that there were very strong positive correlation between an area's economic development and the quality of its road network. 

Apparently, road or infrastructural development brings multiple socio-economic benefits to an area. Benefits such as increased mobility, increased productivity and trade, savings in cost of transportation of goods and people and speedier flow of commodities besides changes in the lifestyle is quite evident in these areas since this mega infrastructure became a reality.

Prior to its construction, traffic jams along the former Thika Road that lasted the entire day especially on week days. Radio stations would always site it as a gauge to measure the intensity of traffic jams on other city roads. Mobility had become so expensive as well as time consuming to a point that most PSV vehicles avoided Thika Road especially past Safari Park area after 7:00am. At times commuters from Thika would pay as high as Sh.200 or more to Nairobi or back. 

So, when the Thika Superhighway became a reality, it came as a great relief for both Thika and Nairobi residents. Its impact accrued in numerous ways resulting in massive economic and social benefits quickly being visible and quantifiable.

First came the drastic drop in bus fare where commuters could now do the same journey for as little as Sh.40. This directly influenced the people's travel patterns. Mobility level increased as a result with more and more people getting lured to making social visits and recreational journeys to the city. 

Speedier movement of people and goods to and fro Nairobi encouraged more trade between these two urban centres due to convenience and a cheaper cost of transportation. As a result 'Thika became Nairobi', anything in the city being readily available in Thika.

The inhabitants of Thika started acquiring vehicles and motorcycles in their numbers. Traffic increased drastically not only on Thika Road but also on our town's roads. Traffic jams and lack of parking space became the order of the day, something that Thika residents only related to Nairobi City. 

The snarl ups along Kenyatta Highway near Gatitu or Haile Selassie Road towards the Chania Bridge near Blue Posts Hotel and the persistent parking space nightmare within the town's Central Business District (CBD) are good examples of the rise in the number of vehicles partly triggered by the completion of the Thika Superhighway.

This great highway also brought about a change in the living patterns or lifestyles among the inhabitants of Thika and its environs. There was some great infusion of new ideas regarding the latest technology, fashion, recreation patterns, eating habits, behavioral, mannerism as well as the way Thika people settled in homes.

Thika Superhighway was a great attraction to entrepreneurs who found a nice haven in Thika's serene environment to set up businesses, industrial units particularly the agro-industries which could easily access readily available raw materials from the surrounding centres. This in turn translated into more money and new employment avenues within Thika Town and its subsidiaries. The road generated employment within its own sector through road construction, in the road transport business as well in the industrial, agricultural and commercial opportunities that emerged.

Our commercial sector is now so vibrant. Nowadays it has become an uphill task to get commercial space to let. The Thika consumer is now spoilt of options for electronics stalls, beauty shops, boutiques, food joints; you name it. Banks and other financial institutions too have joined the fray. They are now scrabbling to 'partition the cake'.

Another outcome was reflected in the migration of inhabitants of Nairobi City to neighbouring towns, with Thika, Kiambu, Machakos and Kajiado being the biggest beneficiaries of the Nairobian exodus. This resulted into the fast growth of the real estate industry, within Thika Town. Thika currently boasts of playing host to among the most established real estate powerhouses in the entire country and regionally.

More recently, the highway has been noted to stimulate and help to expand educational tourism with some rapid growth in learning institutions. It has helped to accelerate linkages within the concerned periphery areas, thus multiplying the intake of students. This has directly increased employment opportunities for our residents. Who can dispute the economic implication brought forth by the entry into Thika Town of institutions such as the Mount Kenya University, Amboseli Institute of Hospitality, Jodan Institute of Technology, Uzuri Institute and so on?

We cannot also fail to take note of the increase in the number of commercial sex workers, fraudsters and conmen/women, street beggars and so on. Their increase is a clear indication that Thika is indeed a fat hunting ground with abundance.

Indeed, the economic weight of the Thika Superhighway is considerable, not only in quantitative terms (tons transported), but also in economic terms such as source of wealth, employment and in terms of support given to other economic activities. It has benefited this region by providing access to territory and allowing poverty alleviation to take place. It has further created and stimulated positive synergy and enhanced social cohesion and integration by giving Thika residents access to the same opportunities as those in the city and other developed worlds. It has facilitated the entry of new enterprises into our market and helped to improve the productivity and the competitiveness of our small and medium sized enterprises.

It is for this reason Thika expects nothing short of the best bargain for money. Those entrusted to executing these new road expansions should diligently do so in the best interest of this town and that of the future generation. Greed and ego-centrism should never be the driving force towards fulfilling Kenya's and indeed Thika's dream of becoming a middle-income economy by the year 2030. 

It is time our leaders showed real patriotism and be part of the history. It is time they did ask themselves this questions as they venture into this very vital exercise;-
"What legacy will I leave behind after my term in office? "What will I be best remembered for when I am gone?" And "What social investment will my children and grandchildren inherit from my deeds when I was in power?"

The answers to those questions will either equate our current leaders to or differentiate them from the world's and the country's greatest icons.



It is everyone’s dream to one day own a house but the price of putting up a house in Kenya is on steep rise.  In Nairobi or Thika for instance, the price of a two bedroom house ranges averagely between Ksh. 4,000,000 and Ksh. 9,000,000 depending on the location of the houses, whether in low, middle or high income areas.

This is one factor that is leaving so many people without homes to call their own. In these tough economic times, every prospective homeowner is looking for ways to lower construction costs.
Ideally, anyone who wants to build a house would want to know, as close as possible, the expected expenditure for the project. Another aspect is the wish to see the project work finished at a minimum cost compatible with satisfactory materials, workmanship and time. Thus, the cost of the project will have to be designed in accordance to architectural design and technological innovations until the decision of final product is made.

New technologies such as the Prefab Technology is slowly taking shape in Kenya. Prefabricated or Modular building is now being considered as a crucial technology in addressing housing shortage in Kenya and reducing the time taken to build a house while lowering the costs by about 30%.

The Prefabs are usually constructed in factories in standard sections and then transported and assembled on-site. The prefabricated panel materials are usually made of fibre cement and galvanized steel that are mainly imported from abroad.

The innovative technology uses walls made of fibre cement boards which are bullet proof up to 9mm and fire proof up to 800 degrees Celsius. These walls are made of cement, stone and glue chemical for strength. The windows are double glass or glazing for high insulation. As the structure is fully protected and the material is not bio-degradable the life span is greater than conventional Construction.



 This technology significantly reduces construction time as it utilizes unwelded galvanized steel structures that act as the framework upon which covering fabric are made of fibre cement.

In 2014, a Malaysian company, Koto Housing Limited, built a high quality 3-bedroomed house in Kenya within 14 days. The firm has adopted the expandable polystyrene (EPS) technology with only eight workers on board.
Eliminating cost of transporting building materials which accounts to about 60% of the overall building costs, translates into huge savings.

In the Koto building system, the house construction project starts just like the traditional building but since the wall panels are usually light in weight, the foundation is not dug several metres deep. They use what they refer to ‘Raft Foundation’ where the house rests on a large base (raft) that prevents it from cracking due to shifting of the ground. The raft offers huge surface area which helps to distribute the weight evenly to avoid overstretching any particular area of the structure.

Once the foundation is laid, the columns are placed after which the prefab slabs measuring 1.2 X 1.8m are fixed into place. The slabs are made of foam and have holes that are filled with concrete for reinforcement. This is done after they are placed on the superstructure.

A bungalow will cost as little as Ksh 3 million for a 85sq metre 2-bedroom unit to about 6.3m for a 170sq metre 3-bedroom unit when you construct using this technology.

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