The once much-hyped North Rift Economic Bloc (Noreb) is almost dead, four years after it was formed to woo local and international investors to tap business opportunities in the agriculturally rich region.
Almost all the seven counties that formed the regional grouping have abandoned it for new alliances. Uasin Gishu is the only county that is yet to find a new home.
Governors have traded blame over failure to come up with guidelines to steer it and lack of public participation to enable it realise investment dreams in agriculture, mining, tourism and sports sectors after it rolled out multi-billion projects to transform the region’s economy.
The bloc brought together Uasin Gishu, Samburu, Baringo, Turkana, Nandi, West Pokot, Trans-Nzoia and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties.
They were focusing on high profile local and international investors to generate revenue to unlock investments in the region that is a gateway to the East and Central African countries.
Nandi Governor Stephen Sang has admitted that Noreb is facing challenges in some of its flagship projects. He, however, maintained that the county has not pulled out of the economic bloc despite having joined the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) launched three years ago.
“We are still in Noreb because of the common investments in terms of agriculture and dairy production but LREB is our main market for such products,” Mr Sang said.
Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos has refuted claims that Noreb is moribund.
“The Noreb constitution does not limit any county from joining any other economic bloc, neither does it mean the group is dead nor we have completely pulled out of it,” Mr Tolgos said through his director of communications, Kibiwott Koros.
Elgeyo Marakwet county has joined the Frontier Development Council (FDC) that brings together marginalised counties.
Governor Mandago, who has been the Noreb chairman since its inception, has come under criticism from North Rift residents over his failure to effectively steer the group to realise its investment dreams.
“We fail to understand why he has not convened any Noreb meeting since new governors were elected to office. This might have forced some of the counties to join other economic blocs,” said Mr Wilson Too, from Eldoret town.
“The body lacked a clear investment policy from the start. All they did is finance luxurious investment conferences which attracted little returns,” said Mr Joseph Kosgey, a micro-finance operator in Eldoret town.
However, Mr Mandago says counties are free to join more than one economic bloc.