BY MACHEL WAIKENDA
Renowned Author Walter Van Kirk once said; “By helping one another in times of disaster, nations are strengthening the bonds of goodwill that will yet bring the peoples of earth together”
It is the level, and number of development programmes that the Jubilee Alliance administration shall be audited on at the end of their first five-year term in office. The extent to which the county governors allied to the ruling party will have executed the Jubilee Manifesto will be the main scorecard for consideration for re-election.
This, however, is also true for the governors of the areas that fall under Opposition-allied governors, since central government has a largely policy directional role and sharing out much-needed Exchequer cash to power devolution. So it is really a race against time for the county CEOs before their next date with the ballot box.
As the top managers of their counties, they will realise that fiscal jurisprudence, general and specific managerial expertise are invaluable in delivering on this mandate. And given the varied and unequal development levels of counties they were bequeathed, it is only through encouraging home-grown solutions and creating synergies with other counties that they can stretch the reach of the shillings they receive from the National Treasury.
One such initiative is the proposed Coast economic bloc that brings together Mombasa, Lamu, Taita Taveta, Kilifi and Kwale. Separately, they are struggling to make ends meet but as a block they can find a more efficient way to manage the “Gateway To East Africa” that comprises of the ports of Mombasa and Lamu and the Kenya Ports Authority (warehousing, taxes from imports and exports).
They can better harness the agricultural (irrigation schemes, coconuts, cashew nuts, beef), maritime (fisheries), hospitality industry (hotels, beach/conference tourism and water sports), mineral (titanium, salt), wildlife (marine and national parks) and human resources known to exist in these jurisdictions. The opportunity is sitting there begging to be taken up.
In Kerio Valley up North, the search for commercially viable oil reserves is ongoing. However, the quantities and quality in Turkana has already been ascertained. I can immediately think up areas of co-operation. There is confirmed cement-producing rock and the likelihood of dirt cheap power from Ethiopia’s Lake Gibe dam in a year or so that could mean the availability of raw building material to literally build northern Kenya from the wilderness it finds itself in now.
This group of counties are home to the Cradle of Mankind, being the home of the pre-historic Turkana Boy, who heralded humanity’s humble beginnings. It is also known for its vast expanse suitable for large scale animal husbandry through which they could wean their peoples from the anachronistic cattle rustling. Need I say more?
Garissa, Wajir and Kajiado counties started talks last year to collaborate to make them more secure, make travel easier through better roads infrastructure and enhance trade in live animals, abattoirs and tanneries. One could also add irrigation agriculture and water sharing to sort out the water shortage in the drier cousin counties.
In the same line, instead of Counties around Eldoret each seeking to have a referral hospital, they can collaborate to improve and expand the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital to cater for all the counties.
Nandi, Narok, Nakuru, Kisii, Kericho, Kiambu all practice intensive agriculture and often have a glut of green produce harvest and dairy products. Why then should there be famine in neighbouring areas when there is a ready market for all these products?
Why should hawkers’ tomatoes, greens or cabbages rot in one area when they can easily be absorbed in Nairobi? Why should fish be more expensive in Kisumu City than in Nairobi 600 km away from where it is caught? What stops the various governors from encouraging their governments to explore ways to better exploit and market the various resources/riches under their disposal?
Late last year saw a very fine example when Makueni and Kajiado counties signed an MoU to collaborate on a range of programmes. They even agreed on how sand harvesting can be conducted sustainably while conserving the environment and saving roads infrastructure.
It is no secret that Kenyans have put all their hopes and eggs in one basket called Devolution. As a consequence, it is imperative that it not only succeed, but do so spectacularly in a way that benefits each and every Kenyan.
Counties must therefore come up with strategies on how to ensure Devolution pays a just dividend to its Kenyan shareholder. Elective and administrative borders should not be a hindrance for collaboration and cooperation between Counties.
All these competent managers elected to head county units have the intellectual and financial muscle it takes to make counties centers of excellence and production units for the betterment of their people.
The Devolution dream is more than having independent units and all Counties must come up with ways of ensuring that they seek ways of enhancing development individually and collectively.
(The writer is a political and communications consultant. Twitter @MachelWaikenda)