While the quest by many of the 47 county governments to form economic blocs is a good idea, there is need for setting up viable and entrenched structures that will propel the respective devolved units to their desired growth goals. Under a proposed legal framework tabled before Parliament, county governments inside a bloc will be required to avoid competition amongst themselves and instead expand free trade and develop their resources.
The Bill’s goal, if passed, will ensure that the county economic blocs prepare deeds that encourage intra-regional trade while prioritising the use of local resources. Spurring economic growth is critical in ensuring that the counties develop and trickle down the benefits to their respective residents.
The six current blocs include Frontier Counties Development Council comprising seven counties of Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, Isiolo, Marsabit, Tana River and Lamu, the North Rift Economic Bloc that consists of seven counties of Uasin Gishu, Trans-Nzoia, Nandi, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Baringo, Samburu and Turkana and the Lake Region Economic Bloc that brings together 13 counties of Migori, Nyamira, Siaya, Vihiga, Bomet, Bungoma, Busia, Homa Bay, Kakamega, Kisii, Kisumu, Nandi, Trans Nzoia and Kericho. Tana River, Taita Taveta, Lamu, Kilifi, Kwale and Mombasa have the Jumuia ya Kaunti za Pwani economic bloc while South Eastern Kenya Economic Bloc comprises Kitui, Machakos and Makueni. Mt. Kenya and Aberdares Region Economic Bloc brings together ten counties of Nyeri, Nyandarua, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Embu, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Laikipia, Nakuru and Kiambu.
We concur with the Bill’s principal objective, which is to ensure that the county governments make maximum use of the resources within their location, is the way to go.
Section 8 of the County Resource Development Bill, 2020 states: “County governments may enter into an agreement for the establishment of an economic bloc where they have a shared geographical region and for the enhancement of trade and economic development.”
But in order for the blocs to succeed there must be co-ordination in ensuring that they have harmonised policies and resource mobilisation targets. And while the current blocs were largely formed due to their historical, political and economic similarities the partnerships have been without legal backing. We support the Bill’s goal that there must be clear goals aimed at propelling service delivery at the grassroots.
Facilitation of development at the local level should be at the core of any economic initiatives in line with the tenets of the devolved system of governance that was adopted in 2013.