Kitui County has scored a first in the country after it launched a state-of-art garment factory that will manufacture school uniforms and other fabrics for local and export market.
Excitement was palpable as the first batch of fabrics rolled off the machines at Kitui County Textiles Centre (Kicotec) on Saturday as Governor Charity Ngilu hosted secondary and primary school head teachers on a tour of the new factory.
With the label 'Made in Kitui', the high quality fabrics -- mainly for school uniforms and retailing at 20 per cent below the prevailing market rates -- impressed the teachers who pledged to support the factory.
Governor Ngilu said the aim of establishing the factory was not only to create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs but also to retain the millions of shillings that parents in the county use to buy school uniforms from manufacturers in Nairobi and other counties.
"At full capacity, our fabrics factory will run 24 hours, employing more than 600 young people who were jobless.
"Each of the 600 young people will earn their living here and build the Kitui economy" Ms Ngilu told the school heads.
The factory -- situated at Syongila market, about 4km from Kitui town along the Kitui-Nairobi highway -- is modelled on the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) garment industrial unit, where it will run 24 hours on different working shifts.
Ms Ngilu said 145 electric sewing machines have been installed together with other embroidery and pressing machinery to ensure the fabrics meet the highest quality standards.
She said with the estimated 486,000 students in both primary and secondary schools in the county, the factory has a ready market, and is expected to stimulate the local economy.
"Over 90% of this money leaves Kitui to Nairobi, Thika and Kiambu counties since we lack a uniform-making factory here. Kicotec seeks to cure this situation," she said.
The factory, which is expected to be launched mid next month by President Uhuru Kenyatta, is a joint project of three county ministries -- Trade and Co-operatives, Education and Skills Development and Infrastructure.
As the construction of the factory was ongoing, the county government sponsored the training of hundreds of youths at the South Eastern Kenya University, who have now secured jobs at the facility.