Politics and policy
Investors call for land banks to ease expansion
Posted Tuesday, July 17 2012 at 19:48
Investors are calling for the creation of land banks at national and county levels as the country moves to reform the land tenure system ahead of next year’s elections.
The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) said residential premises were encroaching on land reserved for industries while the prohibitive market rates for obtaining land were slowing down the bid to decentralise from Nairobi.
“It is critical for counties and national government to build land banks for industrial investment because access to land remains one of the gravest hindrances to new investments in industry,” KAM said in its Industrial Business Agenda released at a luncheon attended by President Kibaki last week.
At the moment, the industrialists said, their path to acquiring land is through purchase of agricultural land which they convert through change of use.
A land bank would mean every urban centre creates specific locations for firms to lease at relatively lower rates.
The National Land Commission (NLC), whose nine commissioners President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga nominated last week to be vetted by Parliament, has powers to compulsorily acquire land for building land banks on behalf of county and national governments.
Under the new land Act, NLC can acquire parcels of private land in instances where the government’s focus is to increase local industries for the growth of the country’s economy.
“The enactment of National Land Commission Act introduces a paradigm shift in the administration and management of public land in the country,” Mr Mwenda Makathimo, executive director of Land Development and Governance Institute said on Tuesday.
The industrialists are specifically targeting Thika, where the government recently rehabilitated the highway at Sh27 billion to improve connectivity with Nairobi.
Instead of more industries coming up to take advantage of the improved infrastructure, private landowners have raised land prices beyond the reach of most firms, shifting economic activity to real estate.
“Thika Town was planned to be an industrial town from the start… Such land should be prioritised to be for private investors who intend to set up industries,” KAM said, adding that a similar exercise should be extended to other counties.
Last week, the President and Prime Minister nominated Muhammad Swazuri as NCL chairman and Tomiik Konyimbih, Silas Muriithi, Rose Musyoka, Samuel Torerei, Abigael Mbagaya, Emma Njogu, Clement Lenachuru and Abdulkadir Khalif as commissioners.
Once Parliament approves the list of commissioners, they are expected to assume office and receive full detail of public land — owned at the moment by public central and local government institutions — from National Transition Authority.
The commission, an institution recommended under national land reforms to replace Commissioner of Land’s office, was meant to be in place by end of March but delay in setting it up has since forced the government to freeze leases for public land.