Kitengela AKA Kite Town is located about 30 km south of Nairobi city and sits in a strategic location dominating parts of Machakos and Kajiado counties and hinges with Athi River industrial town. The Nairobi –Namanga highway clinically divides the town in almost two halves before meandering to the Tanzania border 100 KM yonder.
Origin of Kitengela town
The name Kitengela is originated from the Maa dialect the most dominant ethnic community in the county of Kajiado; although Kitengela town itself is cosmopolitan areas housing a sizeable number of all ethnic communities in the Country and across from Tanzania 100 Kilometres away to the East.
According to a local politician and a former councilor of Oloosirkon Sholinke ward Marush Rais arap Kisemei, the present urban center where the Kitengela town sprawls was originally known as Noonkopir which in the Maa dialect means a place of many flying birds.
“…When I was growing up in the 70s the old Maasai elders had named the place as Noonkopir due to the high number of birds that inhabit the area” Marush added
Growth and development
Many theories abound as to what actually triggered the development of the vibrant town. The most plausible one was that the town grew as an upshot of the neighboring Athi river industrial town.
According to Marush, in the Seventies, Kitengela town was then an open expanse full of grazing wild animals and not uncommonly the Savanna Lion. Athi River town was then a more vibrant center completely dominating as most government services were present in Athi river town. The vivacious presence of the old Mombasa road together with the then East African railways service with the firewood powered and hooting daily train runs further added to the lure of Athi River.
It was not until the mid-80s that an influx of people who were looking for land started settling in present Kitengela led by the Kitengela group ranch – a land buying company.
According to Alex Kang’ethe the Kitengela town chief, Kitengela town grew in leaps and bounds mainly due to as a result of the juicy Nyama Choma that was being prepared by the few establishments that were then operating at that time.
“when I came here in 1987 and started work at a company known as Kivian Engineering one of the earliest heavy metal manufacturing companies to set base in Kitengela town there were very few people and in fact it was just a bushy and wild place but we endured and worked as we stayed huddled in work camps” Kang’ethe said.
Kang’ethe adds that soon after a few joints started selling meat the way that the “Nyama Choma” was prepared in the traditional Maasai by native tribesmen made the meat very popular and famous and many residents who resided in Nairobi city would drive to Kitengela to enjoy the meat admire the wild scenery.”
Soon the many people who visited the town developed an interest in the vast lands and soon after the subdivision of the land among the Kitengela group ranch and consequently emergence of land buying companies.
A construction boom thereafter followed as many land owners built houses to rent and also to live in” Kang’ethe said. Today, a conservative estimate would put the total residents of the town to be about 200,000. A quarter of this number could be termed as night time residents considering that they work mainly in Nairobi CBD and the adjoining centers only coming to Kitengela in the evenings where they have homes.
Kitengela town is largely a residential town as opposed to an industrial town although the town is in immediate proximity to the export processing zone authority (EPZA) that has over 50,000 workers who work at the many companies located at the zone.
The presence of the EPZA occasioned a subsequent and exponential high demand for residential quarters, with time, education institutions sprang up and with them worship centers, entertainment locations.
Consequently many more industries were established in Kitengela town as other land owners set up huge flower farms and whom they planted flowers for export considering that the Jomo Kenyatta international airport is just about 20 kilometers from Kitengela town. Three of the most dominant flower farms with a big number of employees are Saitoti flower farm, Maasai roses and Isinya roses. This flower farms employ over 10,000 workers who also live with the precincts of the town.
Today, Kitengela town boasts of a dozen major banks, 9 microfinance institutions,14 SACCOS including 5 transport Saccos,6 major retails stores, 6 private hospitals, several private owned clinics, a hoist of entertainment joints. Several worship centers including a mosque which sits right in the center of the town. Apart from the public schools, Kitengela town and its environs has 24 private high cost schools with several of the school transport buses ( Soon to be painted yellow) criss crossing the town. The hospitality industry has also not been left behind with over a dozen high class eating and leisure places supplementing the many Nyama Choma eating localities.
Advocates offices abound, so are the many land buying companies, surveyors and so too the ubiquitous M-Pesa and Airtel money shops.
Ironically, Kite’s challenges are tied to her rapid technological growth and a swelling human population. Piped water cannot therefore reach all the taps in the town hence the very visible presence of yellow water containers supplying water in several parts of the town. There have been concerns on airborne diseases most likely attributed to the waste from the surrounding industries in the vicinity.
Sewer and waste disposal mechanisms are also a challenge but this is probably attributed to the sizzling Nyama Choma meals. For a visitor in town, the zig zagging of the Boda Boda cycles may cause a mild case of Heart attack. But then the Motor cycles remain the most popular and efficient means of cross town transportation.
What is the future of Kitengela town?
With Devolution being the catch phrase for development, the empty land spaces, the vibrant business climate, a secure environment and the constantly improving infrastructure. The future of the town is bright and with proper planning the town will lay claim as one of the fastest growing towns in e Country.
Credits: Julius Musungu