President Uhuru Kenyatta has directed the Devolution ministry to finalise a policy on the formation of regional blocs in his latest endorsement of the county forums.
Speaking at the inaugural Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) investment conference on Monday, the President noted that county blocs are emerging as one of the key pillars for alternative dispute resolution, national harmony and economic growth, so they must be supported.
"It is for this reason that I direct the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and Arid and Semi-Arid Lands to spearhead and fast-track policy development to guide the formation, operation and funding of the county regional blocs," he said.
"I expect that with such guidelines in place, counties will be able to deal with common vices such as cattle rustling and inter-community conflicts in areas such as the Suguta Valley and Kapedo, through a joint approach of information-sharing and reciprocity, which will go a long way in achieving meaningful development for Kenyans," he said in Bomet.
President Kenyatta's call means the formation of the six regional economic blocs around the country could get the legal backing that had been missing.
The 47 counties have created blocs such as the LREB, North Rift Economic Bloc, the Frontier Counties Development Council, the South East Kenya Economic Bloc, the Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani and the Mt Kenya and Aberdare Economic Bloc. Lack of a law, however, means financing, participation, focus and duration depend on trust among members.
In LREB's case, for example, 14 counties in western region agreed in March to unite to expand their market and support smallholder enterprises through cheaper credit.
But the bank they agreed to form has been faced with challenges as county assemblies declined to endorse the formal entry of members.
So far, only Kisumu, Kisii and Kakamega have ratified the entry into LREB. On Monday, the President said that blocs, while important, require national policy guidance.
"It is important, as we go forward, to provide clear guidelines, a robust policy, legal and institutional frameworks for regional county integration; as well as form and operationalise county regional blocs that are able to support and deliver upon the regional integration goals, objectives and outcomes."
He added that the legal foundation would optimise management of cross-boundary economic resources and infrastructure and establish dispute settlement mechanisms at the inter-county platforms.