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How MKU Taken Over Thika's Economy.

Thika Town has over the years been establishing an economy of its own that included an element of competition, level of ambition and innovation. Previously trademarked as an industrial hub and rightfully referred to as the Birmingham of Kenya, small, medium and large-sized businesses have over time made the most of the area’s entrepreneurial spirit, driving jobs creation and attracting inward investment.

One area that Thika Town is beating all odds is in the education sector. The town boasts of numerous and very successful learning institutions right from the kindergarten to the tertiary level. The growth of a simple venture such as Thika Institute of Technology (TIT) into a multi-billion investment package that is now Mount Kenya University (MKU) has inspired so many people into this sector.

MKU can be rightfully described as the heart that pumped new life into this town. Any resident will tell you of the numerous new hotels, restaurants, bars, and so on that have literally brought back this town to life. A few years ago so many people were considering pulling out of the region because business was never promising.

Areas around the institution’s main campus and its subsidiaries have evolved into major economic hubs with financial benefits being felt on the ground within households and businesses surrounding them. The university’s investment in the local community has gone deeper than stimulating economic growth.

They seem to have studied and understood that a thriving community environments positively impact the marketability of their institutions as places to work, study and invest. By this, they have made great efforts in infrastructure development projects, civic service outreach, participating community education initiatives and creating incentive programs that have encouraged local spending and investment by the thousands of people that universities employ.

Developers have rushed to create commercial, residential and mixed-use developments on all the empty sites especially in areas surrounding MKU. The value of land has consequently appreciated. Due to the effect of the infrastructural developments by the institution, security around has been enhanced, attracting commercial developments such as hostels and residential houses. Landlords have seen income increase in terms of student and houses for the employees of the institution. Currently MKU has a student population of about 9000 and a workforce of 3000 people.

Small and medium-sized businesses in this locality have flourished and created numerous new jobs. MKU has been able to attract numerous banks and other financial institutions who have taken advantage of the large number of people being served by this institution, coming out as a great source of economic power more important than heretofore credited. 

Take for instance, life in the once quiet Ziwani Estate, the dormant Ofafa, Starehe and Jamuhuri Estates, the once forgotten Pilot Estate and YMCA area has really experienced some massive transformation and evolution. The once poorly stocked kiosks are now well stocked due to availability or ready and guaranteed clientele. Roadside fruits and juice vendors, mtumba sellers, food & snacks joints, cyber cafes, M-PESA shops etcetera have become the landmark feature within these areas.

New flats and hostels have sprouted especially between Thika High School and Thika Medical Training Institute (Formerly Trikha Girls) and near YMCA, creating a great source of income to the landlords, the construction industry as well as the mama mbogas.

The transport business has strived with PSV matatu, bodaboda, tuktuk and taxi operators reaping the sweet fruits of the boom. The students have also livened up the entertainment industry in the town since they are regulars at entertainment joints every other day.

The university has also partnered with various institutions, commercial entities and government entities to provide the much needed services that support the economic growth of this region. MKU partnered with Thika Level 5 Hospital in upgrading the hospital’s Human Anatomy facility and assisted in offering impressive service delivery to the people of Thika and the greater Kiambu-Murang’a region through public-private partnership.

Another important role that MKU have played in stimulating the economy is by providing support for local employers as they learn and grow. They have also partnered with companies like Bidco Africa through their industrial academic linkages programme where, together, they develop a curriculum that ensures that manufacturers get enough and all-round workforce. This partnership also entails doing research on market trends, innovations as well as having students work as interns in the relevant fields. As a result, they have managed to create job opportunities to so many young people in the area.

There is a persistent correlation between educational attainment and economic growth on both local and national level. Individuals with degrees have greater earning power and, perhaps more significantly, income levels overall are higher in populations with higher education levels. Their school-based and e-learning programmes has seen over 70,000 graduates into the job market. This has seen MKU graduates saturate almost all sectors of the region’s economy.

Their corporate social investments has played a crucial role in supporting the populace through continuing and adult education. New delivery methods such as online learning have made it easier for the local people to go back to school to get the degree they never earned, or pursue more education in order to advance in their present careers. These programs have opened up extraordinary economic opportunities for countless individuals.

Business clinics and free public lectures have also equipped the locals to adapt to the market treads. Through business incubation programmes, exposing the general public to innovations through lectures as well as linkages to financial institutions to start-ups, MKU has played their part in transforming the lives of individuals and shape the society for the better by bringing innovative technologies into the market.

All in all, the general contribution of MKU to the local and national economy can never be underestimated.

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