This Sunday it is matters land and I am very well aware that when it comes to land debate it is always an emotional one. When land issues are brought up before you even realise things can pretty go south quickly.
I am not going to discuss agricultural land it is even worse there but I will like to focus on beach plots. While the rest of the world have a road along the beach front for some reason ours is not the case save for a very small stretch a cliff which is current Mama Ngina Drive.
This week in my line of duty I was in Diani and as one of morning rituals was to jog along the beach. As the sun rose I could not fail to notice that good part of the magical Diani Beach is actually dead beach in the sense that former leading beach resorts lie desolate and abandoned. I mean the likes of Safari Beach Hotel The two in one Jadini Africana. Then Two fishes and next door Tradewinds.
Even when driving you cannot fail to notice the eerie feel once you get to the Two Fishes Hotel which is next to Jadini African and Tradewinds. These were all household names until the early 80’s.
There are also very many acres of ” idle ” beach fronting land .
Land fronting the beach is a prime beach plot and our beach in Kenya just like Zanzibar is pristine . This is God given and we should be utilising them to generate wealth by setting up world class resorts.
Let me raise a couple of points so that we are on the same page.
1. let me start with idle land where many were alloted by the state them days but simply refused to develop them . We also have the same issue even on North Coast .
2. Then we have secondary buyers who bought from an alottee but still chose not to develop the said plot.
3. We also have secondary buyers who bought collapsed resorts but over years also chose to do nothing with such plots but end up as speculators.
Some of the land in question can be as big as 50 acres right on the beach . To help you appreciate land size a resort like Southern Palms in Diani is on 10 acre land with 300+ rooms employing very many Kenyans directly and indirectly. Despite all the challenges in Diani they are busy renovating. A hotel like Leopard was razed by fire not once but twice but got back and even right now they are restoring the hotel after the last fire.
Resorts like Baobab and Neptune all in Diani have grown three fold in the last 20 years employing directly and indirectly thousands of Kenyans .
My major concern and please take time to look at this aerial images of idle and abandoned beach plots which means we are denying our country serious income not to mention all the jobs we would have created.
Fact is that the the best part of Diani Beach is currently lying abandoned where rickety bars on the beach are cropping up with a serious danger of turning this beatiful stretch into a slum.
In the last 4 years Diani is turning the corner and global operators are looking for quality hotel beds and there are none left. When potential investors come over they are met by these greedy absentee land owners.
Truth be told some of the people holding on to this chunks of land are not keen to develop anything . Some don’t bother while others when they get potential developers ask for obscene money and the suitor simply takes off never to return . Please keep in mind some of the land in question some of the owners paid nothing since it was allotted to them in good old days while others bought them cheap either from a bank or again the 70’s. Some have died still speculating, of what use is speculation .
1. Both County & National goverment MUST set up punitive laws to make it very expensive for anyone to hold onto idle prime land whether you bought or you were given . Such commercial plots are meant to be developed and they are not souvenirs.
2. Charge idle land more than developed land . This will force them to either develop or get a partners to develop. We have many international chains who want to come here but these chaps sitting on idle land are simply refusing to make it happen.
3.Dead hotels where a new owner is simply speculating must also face the heat.
4. No owner should be allowed to subdivide a prime beach plot into some useless residential homes. A residential home does NOT generate employment . It does NOT create wealth. It is like building your home on Mombasa road in Nbi. That should never be allowed to happen.
Pride Inn Hotels bought Paradise Hotel and it does not even have a huge beach but look what a serious investor like Hasnain Noorani has done . Giving us the biggest convention centre. He did not buy to speculate and wait . He has single handed brought dead Shanzu back to life.
Folks it is high time we lifted the veil on who are faceless onwers of all this undeveloped and abandoned prime beach plots. Swahili have a saying ” Usiwe Joka La Mdimu” . It means don’t be the snake on a fruiting lemon tree which coils on the tree ready to strike anyone who attempts to partake the juicy ripe lemon fruits . Snakes don’t eat lemons .
Well punitive laws and taxes will force the same owners to leave the tree so to speak . Mombasa. Kwale and Kilifi counties MUST raise the tax on idle and abandoned prime beach plots. Trust me you will see the owners waking up.
As always I choose to remain an optimist .
Kenya Tourism Federation