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Living by the Rhythm of Pan African Paper Mills: The Rise and Decline of Webuye Town, Western Kenya

Abstract : This article is about the rise and fall of Pan African Paper Mills, the paper factory that was central to the rapid development of Webuye town in the 1970s as well as to its decline in the 2010s. Since the establishment of this giant factory in 1972, the development of Webuye was so rapid that it could not be compared to any other small towns in Western Kenya. It created employment opportunities for Kenyan workers who flocked the town in search for jobs. Webuye then transformed from a frontier town into an industrial town, displaying many signs of prosperity. Yet, in the 1990s, the Structural Adjustments Programmes resulted in collapse of Pan African Paper Mills in 2009. This was the genesis of unceasing urban challenges that almost brought the town down on its knees. The vandalized and rusting machines at the mills now resemble a ruined monument that is a stark reminder of the better past whichmay never return. If local memories display rosy depictions of Webuye’s industrial past, the factory had a dramatically negative impact on the environment and on people’s health, which it tried to mitigate through afforestation programmes. In 2016, the national government privatized Pan African Paper Mills as a way of reviving the factory. The private Rai Group inherited the factory and is now investing massively to rehabilitate the factory.
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Contributor : Bastien Miraucourt <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, December 16, 2020 - 6:05:18 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, December 31, 2020 - 3:03:21 AM


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  • HAL Id : halshs-03078620, version 1



Dennis Ochieng Otieno, Reuben M. Matheka, Dorothy Nyakwaka. Living by the Rhythm of Pan African Paper Mills: The Rise and Decline of Webuye Town, Western Kenya. 2020, ⟨halshs-03078620⟩



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