There is no doubt that the fate of one of the country’s oldest shopping malls in Homa Bay County was left to chance.
A visit to the town of Kendu Bay lifts the veil on the miserable turn of events as the abandoned and derelict structures of the Old Town tell the sad tale of the inner city that has become a mere relic of its illustrious past.
At the start of the 20th century, commercial activities were vibrant as Christian missionaries, Indians and Arabs rushed to part of the rural town whose port was located at the center of administrative units in the greater south of Nyanza and the port. from Kisumu.
However, fate seems to have deserted the lakeside town – locally called Kanyasoro – as the ruins of the port city stand as skeletal reminders of the colony’s history.
To add to its predicament, no traditional bank has considered establishing a physical branch in the city, despite it being a key administrative unit and one of the four main urban centers in Homa Bay County.
According to the county’s integrated development plan, Homa Bay, Mbita, Oyugis and Kendu Bay are recognized as municipalities due to their population of over 10,000 people.
“Of all this, only Kendu Bay has no major financial institution, although Ndhiwa boasts of having a Cooperative Bank outlet,” said Samson Koliech, a businessman. from the town of Kendu Bay.
Over the years, the number of people settling in Kendu Bay has increased and is expected to increase further as the number of people seeking services at the Rachuonyo North Sub-County Headquarters continues to increase.
The collapse of Kendu Bay harbor and shipping was the final nail in the coffin of the nascent urban center that saw economic activities shift from archaic Arab-owned shops to the busy Kisumu roads – Homa Bay and Kendu Bay – Oyugis.
Being a district headquarters, where a multitude of civil servants, security guards, teachers, businessmen and non-governmental institutions reside, not having a big bank is (arguably) one of the biggest setbacks for the city’s growth, said Mr. Robert Sangori. .
Among other professionals from the region, Sangori, who is also the former head of land, housing, land use planning and urban development in Homa County, said they had trained a committee whose role is to persuade a financial institution to set up a branch in the city.
“In partnership with the county government and other private sector actors, we have started to engage local financial institutions to set up a branch in Kendu Bay,” he said.
He said he was convinced that setting up a bank would be a viable way to revive the city’s prospects.
“We have nothing to smile about because people have to travel up to 100 km to get banking services. Indeed, we are also losing business opportunities,” Sangori said.
The nearest bank branches are located in Oyugis, Homa Bay Town, Kisii and Ahero.
In addition to mobile banking and branch banking, residents of Kendu Bay are served by the Kenya Women Microfinance Bank (KWFT) which also covers a large area of Rachuonyo North, Rachuonyo South and Rangwe sub-counties.
Working with the county government, Mr. Sangori said professionals have already sent a proposal to Kenya Commercial Bank, Faulu Kenya and Equity Bank.
Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers General Secretary Akello Misori, from Mawego region, stressed that opening a new branch will improve credit lines for local entrepreneurs who will be able to access affordable credit focused on the customer.
“To be loyal customers, banking institutions are more likely to provide loans to their customers and initiate corporate social responsibility programs in the region,” Mr. Misori added.
Mr Koliech, who operates a retail store in the city, says it can get frustrating when one wants to withdraw or deposit huge sums of money.
“Sometimes traders are forced to keep the money in their homes and this poses a security risk,” he said.
For businesses and organizations that collect large sums of money, owners are forced to visit the bank daily to deposit the funds in the towns of Homa Bay or Oyugis.
As most banks adopt alternative distribution channels such as mobile phone banking and internet banking in an effort to maintain profitability, the illiterate and the elderly in remote areas are at risk of suffering.
According to the 2019 Banking Supervision Report of the Central Bank of Kenya, the number of bank branches increased from 1,505 in 2018 to 1,490 in 2019.
Even as the trend persists, Sangori said he was convinced that establishing a physical bank branch by one of the major institutions would reverse Kendu Bay’s fortunes while harnessing the enormous potential it portends.
Notable institutions in and around the city include Gendia Adventist Mission Hospital and Medical College, Kendu Sub-County Hospital, Pikadili Hotel, a number of village polytechnics and vocational training centers such as the Mawego Technical Institute as well as hundreds of primary and secondary schools.
On the other hand, the main centers of tourist attraction include the legendary Simbi Nyaima, the hot springs of Homa Hills and Ondago Swamp. The city also boasts of being the birthplace of former US President Barack Obama’s father.
Before the collapse of cotton cultivation, the town of Kendu Bay had one of the largest ginning factories in the former cotton belt in southern Nyanza.
While residents await any attempt to revive the treasures of the fallen giant and unleash the city’s economic potential, the bushy pier, falling walls, rusting roofs and empty streets of the ghost town will remain spooky places for pose for Instagram photos while residents stay to remember the good old days.