Over the weekend, I got the opportunity to spend a night in the City of Champions, that is Eldoret Town as it is commonly known and realized that the town, despite being known both far and wide, it is a lion in slumber. Eldoret town is the capital to Uasin Gishu County.
I arrived in the town at around 9 pm on Saturday. I was accompanied with some other members of the Fourth Estate set to go and cover the 12th edition of Tuskys Wareng Cross Country race that was being held at Huruma Grounds the following day.
At around 9:30, almost all the businesses had already closed down within the town for the day except bars, clubs and few hotels that seemed to be willing to wait to catch the late-night customers. Most streets became empty apart from a few young people, most of them university students who were moving here and there to look for a place to party. Some were already drunk.
“Most businesses here close down as early as seven in the evening. Some people don’t like running their businesses into the night. Security is part of the reason but most of the time is the choice of the business owner,” said a hotel attendant who had served me with supper.
The next day was on Sunday. The time was 7:30 in the morning. My team and I wake up to prepare for the day’s event which was 15-minutes’ drive away from the town. We took a walk down the streets of Eldoret in search of a credit card before boarding a matatu. The reality hits us. The shops were still closed. We gave up and boarded a matatu to Huruma Grounds near Raiply Company. There are few shops at Huruma but by 8 that morning, almost all of them were still closed. We walked for several meters before we got the first shop open.
“At what time do business people here open their shops? By this time and there is almost no single shop?” David, my fellow journalist asked the shop attendant, a smiling heavy-built middle-aged lady. The lady just laughed.
As the event came to an end and as we bid Eldoret goodbye, I discovered several things about this town and its environs. Being the capital and the heart of Uasin Gishu County, the town has a great potential in terms of business but the people in it have let it down.
Uasin Gishu County, and so Eldoret, prides itself with an immense talent in athletics globally. Almost all the great athletes in the world come from this county and majority of them stay in Eldoret town. This has made the town and the county a renowned place both locally and internationally.
This alone has often attracted visitors from other countries as well as other athletes who come either to practice or just experience how it feels coming from a place that produces such champions. This should have been a motivation for a 24-hour economy or something related to that given the number of visitors visiting the town.
Eldoret is the fifth largest town in Kenya and its economic activities should be at par with other economically skyrocketing towns in the country. the leadership in the region should make sure that security is enhanced for businesses to be able to operate without any fear.