Businessmen and women in Makueni are counting losses following the cancellation of the devolution conference that was to be held in the county.
From boda boda operators in Wote and other towns, to hoteliers and suppliers who had anticipated a windfall, the outcry is loud. The traders gathered at a meeting in Wote earlier this week to commiserate with each other.
“We took Covid-19 jabs as advised, about 400 of us, we had standard requirements for the motorbikes because we expected to carry dignitaries. We took loans to service our motorbikes and we hoped to recoup the money during the conference,” said Albanus Mndaisy, a boda boda operator.
The boda boda Sacco had branded reflectors and numbered them to make it easy for visitors to identify who was carrying them.
“We had arranged with the police to only allow certain boda boda riders to operate within the confined region and adhere to rules. As the chair, I loaned some members, through the Sacco so they could acquire licences, service their bikes and get helmets,” said Ma-Wote Boda Boda Sacco chair James Sami.
A trader, who identified herself as Veronica, ordered mangoes, oranges and bananas from various farms, hoping to cash in on the conference.
“I am currently under pressure from the farmers to pay for the fruits because as I instructed them, they did not sell the fruits to anyone else,” she said.
Christine Mutuku, the chair of Marikiti Grocers Association in Wote, said the losses have caused them sleepless nights.
Cleaned public areas
“I asked the women who would be vending fruits to have their hair done and get clean or new aprons in order to look presentable during the conference,” Mutuku said.
And like the boda boda riders, taxi operators also took loans to service their cars.
The hotels and caterers society was not left behind. Anthony Ngunga, the chair of Lower Eastern Hotels and Caterers, said they have a 22-member consortium that was formed two years ago.
“The conference has been cancelled for the third time now, and every time we expected it to happen, stakeholders prepared for it,” said Ngunga.
“We blocked our rooms, restocked foods and beverages, bed sheets, got new beds, repainted and cleaned areas around our hotels. This was all done with money,” he said.
Ngunga said the Council of Governors was actively involved in the preparation because their representatives constantly visited the county to check how traders had prepared for the conference.
“As a consortium, we were to cater for 8,000 guests. The number went down to 4,500. We were given a contract for 2,000 people three weeks to the conference. We negotiated our prices based on the numbers and settled on Sh2,400 per plate and Sh500 for VIP tea breaks,” he said.
According to Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana, the county government itself incurred losses.
“We used a lot of money and we need compensation. We would have used that money on other things,” said Prof Kibwana.