Residents of Lamu County are living without experiencing the convenience of large supermarkets, commonly known as supermarkets, despite the area being populated by a community that enjoys a comfortable and hassle-free life.
In cities such as Malindi, Kilifi, Mombasa, Nairobi, and others, the landscape is dotted with familiar names like Naivas Supermarket, QuickMart Supermarket, Khetia’s Supermarket, Carrefour Supermarket, Chandarana Foodplus, and Eastmatt.
These supermarkets offer a variety of goods and services, providing residents with a one-stop-shop for their daily needs.
However, the story is different in Lamu. With over 35 islands, the region lacks a single supermarket, leaving residents to travel far and wide to access these essential services.
Even in the larger towns on the mainland, such as Mokowe, Hindi, Mpeketoni, Kibaoni, and Witu, the absence of supermarkets is keenly felt.
Lamu County, renowned for its diverse population, is home to the Swahili community of the Bajuni and other groups like the Kikuyu.
These communities are known for their preference for a high-quality and pleasurable lifestyle. Yet, the absence of supermarkets has created a unique challenge for the residents.
The inconvenience has pushed some Lamu residents to embark on long journeys to neighboring towns like Malindi, Kilifi, Mombasa, and even Nairobi, just to experience the convenience offered by large supermarkets.
The travel involves additional costs and time, making the quest for essential goods a laborious process.
Speaking to Taifa Leo, local residents expressed their frustration at the lack of attention from large supermarket chains. Abdallah Shekuwe, a resident, voiced his disappointment with how investors in these stores seem to overlook the entire Lamu region. He pointed out that while popular chains like Nakumatt and Tuskys were thriving across Kenya, Lamu was left out, with no branches established.
“We are also Kenyans. I am surprised by how owners of these large wholesale stores continue to ignore and neglect Lamu. Nakumatt and Tuskys were popular all over Kenya until they collapsed without any branches being opened here in Lamu. Currently, there is Naivas, QuickMart, Eastmatt, Carrefour, Chandarana Foodplus, and so on, but none of them has thought of opening branches here,” lamented Shekuwe.
The absence of supermarkets is not only a matter of inconvenience but also a significant economic setback for Lamu residents. The region is undergoing substantial development, with projects like the Lamu Port (Lapsset) in Kililana promising economic growth. Yet, the lack of large wholesale stores hampers the potential for local businesses to thrive.
Samuel Muchiri, a resident of Mpeketoni, emphasized that Lamu’s favorable business conditions, including hosting the second-largest port in the country after Mombasa, should attract the attention of large supermarket chains. He highlighted the paradox of a bustling town like Mpeketoni lacking even a single wholesale store, a stark contrast to the convenience enjoyed by residents in other parts of Kenya.