The increased urbanisation brought about by devolution has necessitated a relook into how urban counties should be funded to cope up with increased demand for essential services. In all fairness, the unique challenges facing Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Uasin Gishu County are large and complex requiring a major shift in our approach to funding urban counties.
To put this into perspective, The united nations predict that two-thirds of the world's population will live in cities by 2050, posing unique infrastructural challenges for African and Asian countries, where 90percent of the growth is predicted to take place.
The urban centers play host to millions of working Kenyans who either work or reside within the urban limits. Increased rural urban movement, urban population boom and depreciating financial resources are stretching their ability to meet demand for service delivery.
Of particular concern is the need to allocate resources for the development of slum areas in major urban centers. Issues such as piped water, provision of sanitation, solid waste management and drainage are services which counties in these areas need additional assistance. Many policymakers now believe the challenge of managing urban centres has now become central in the success of devolution.
It has become obvious that additional investment and funding allocation to these major urban towns is imperative if they are to meet the resident’s expectations. Investment in addressing these challenges comes with huge outlay which the counties cannot adequately absorb.
For this reason, The Commission on Revenue allocation is currently working on a proposed report to support additional funding for cities in form of conditional grants.
The conditional grants will not only play a vital role in providing financial support for urban counties but equally improve on governance of these cities. The grant will place much emphasis on prudent financial management to expand the necessary infrastructure for water and sanitation, energy, transportation, ensure equal access to essential services and reduce the number of people living in slums.
It is, however, imperative that these urban counties increase their own source revenue. The commission has developed a scientific model that can assist counties factually and realistically set revenue targets according to their internal technical and financial capacity.
Gradually, as we continue to collaborate with counties, we will learn where capacity needs to be built and what systems really work in each urban county.
One of the unexplored avenue counties should now consider is how to bring private sector into these development plans. Public private partnerships provide a useful key in unlocking finances and technical expertise needed to tackle these challenges with focus on demonstrating environmental efficiency as well as integrating the socio economic needs that are borne out of rapid urbanisation.
Despite the critical importance of infrastructure for urban development, financing remains an immense challenge.
The writer is a lawyer and communications professional.