WEBUYE, Kenya, Dec 15 – There was joy and celebration in Webuye town Thursday as President Uhuru Kenyatta oversaw the switching back to life of the PanAfrican Paper Mills, which has not been in operation for more than 11 years.
The factory, which has been the lifeline of the economy of the town, was dead until President Kenyatta started the initiative to privatize and revive the firm, so that the locals can continue benefiting.
Operating under the name Rai Paper, the factory has now started operations with a single phase employing 500 people. When fully operational, the factory will employ a minimum of 2000 people.
The factory has restarted with a production capacity of 80 tones of paper per day and this is expected to increase to 150 tones per day within the next three months.
Speaking at the Pan Paper Stadium after reopening the factory, President Kenyatta said the revival of the factory will ensure that Webuye town will once again return to its better days.
“Webuye was a town that for many Kenyans represented Kenya’s ambition and progress. I am proud that the Jubilee administration has played this part in ensuring that Webuye rises again and that its people have access to more decent jobs,” said President Kenyatta.
He also brought more good news for the people of Bungoma County when he announced that the government will pay a three-month ex gratia salary to former employees of the factory.
President Kenyatta said the revival of the factory is part of his policy to ensure Kenya returns to and surpasses it previous industrial levels.
The President said his Government has been working hard to turn around Kenya’s economy, which was neglected due to wrong priorities pursued by politicians who do not have the interest of Kenyans at heart.
He said the government will soon reopen Rivatex in Eldoret and this will create more jobs and eradicate poverty as well.
“We are building roads, expanding access to electricity and reopening factories to create jobs for Kenyans. Our people have been let down by previous governments,” said President Kenyatta.
He said one of the biggest reasons why Kenya has experienced slow growth and poverty is because of tribal politics.
“The politics of tribalism and propaganda is what has taken this country backwards,” said President Kenyatta.
He said that under the policies put in place by the Jubilee Government, Kenya is seen an increase in manufacturing output, signaling the return of Kenya’s dominance in manufacturing in the region.
The new investors are expected to inject Sh10 billion into the factory in the coming few years and has committed to giving priority to former employees in building their workforce.
“I am happy to note that at full capacity, this company will employ 2,000 people directly in the next 3 years. Today, 500 Kenyans who a few months ago had no source of income are actively employed in this company, with many others indirectly are supporting this business,” said President Kenyatta.
At this initial stage, the company will be producing craft paper, which refers to brown paper that is used in packaging, cartons and related uses.
“When fully operational we will be producing newsprint, tissue papers and many more forms of papers,” said Jaswant S Rai, the chairman of Rai Group, which is now operating Pan Paper.
Deputy President William Ruto criticized Opposition leaders who have spoken against the revival of the factory, describing their statements as worthless.
“There are many who are talking worthless things including claims of the sale value and delay in reopening of the factory. This factory was closed for 11 years and it is the Jubilee Government that has revived it. What delay are they taking about,” said the DP.
Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka said the reopening of the factory is the best thing that has happened to the people of Bungoma.
“This factory will change the face of Bungoma and this proves that you mean what you says and you say what you mean,” said Governor Lusaka.
Area MP Alfred Sambu said it was a nostalgic moment for the residents of Webuye who recall when Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta laid the foundation stone for Pan Paper in 1972
Local leaders including Dan Wanyama (Webuye West MP), John Welukhe (Sirisia MP), said the reopening of the mill is another milestone to add to the other big initiatives by the Jubilee administration in. Western Kenya.
Other initiatives by President Kenyatta in the region included the opening of Kibabii University, the construction of important roads in the region and revival of sugar factories.