The defunct Voi Municipality has been officially upgraded into a town making it the second area to attain such a status in Taita-Taveta County.
Governor John Mruttu said the town is now officially recognised and gazetted after meeting the conditions stipulated in Urban Areas and Cities Act 2012.
Speaking in Voi during the official ceremony to confer the town status to the region on Monday, the governor said Voi remained a vibrant commercial hub.He added that Voi’s potential for growth is being evidenced by development projects in the region.
He said that the process of upgrading the town started in 2014 and all due diligence has been done to ensure that Voi joins the class of other constitutionally recognised towns in Kenya.
This is an opportunity for Voi to grow and attract investors by devising its own strategies including making strategic alliances with other towns elsewhere, he said.
He urged the locals to brace themselves for massive growth from the mega projects in the region including the SGR station which he said was the third largest in Kenya, after Nairobi and Mombasa.
A fortnight ago, Taveta was also upgraded into a town paving way for the residents in Taveta town to directly manage their own affairs.
The upgrading of the two hubs into towns will be followed by appointment of town management boards that will be sorely responsible for enhancing the delivery of essential services to the residents, town cleanliness, repairs of drainage systems, approvals of construction plans and town planning.
The boards are also allowed to form alliances and cooperation agreements with other towns from across the world.
The area considered as Voi town will now include Miasenyi River, Ndii, Voi Safari Lodge, Ngutuni, Sagalla Lodge, Gimba and Voi River. This means that thousands of residents in those regions are entitled to the same services as are accorded to people who live in the Voi town centre.
According to Urban Areas and Cities Act 2012, an area will be eligible to become a town if it has a population of at least 10,000 people, has demonstrated economic and financial viability, has space for expansion and has an existing integrated development plan.
The event was attended by senior county government officials including Gifton Mkaya, County Executive Member for Health; Peter Njenga; CECM for Works and Infrastructure amongst others.
The news was received with jubilation by a section of residents who felt that the county government has not accorded Voi the status it requires.
Ms. Isabella Sato, the chairperson of Voi market traders and a member of Voi town management committee, said Voi residents would now have a stronger input in deciding on how they want their town managed.
She noted that the traders, residents, youth and other categories of people will be represented in the committee that will oversee the implementation of plans to make Voi a commercial hub.
We now have the liberty to make decisions concerning our town and make it into a city, she said.
Other residents however expressed concerns over the fate of the county revenues owing to the fact that Taveta and Voi; the two main sources of income for the county, will have town boards that will manage revenue collection and usage.
Mr. Alex Njae, a trader, said the county needed to find other sources of local revenue from Mwatate and Wundanyi to supplement the revenue that will be handled at the town level.
When you give Voi and Taveta the autonomy to manage their affairs, the county revenue coffers will take a hit. New revenue streams must be found, he said.
Source: Kenya News Agency