Never before have Kenyans been able to witness the direct results of participating in governance, than with the passing of the new Constitution.
A devolved government is no longer a theoretical term, rather a real and tangible action which has already started to be felt on the ground. The formation of the counties puts the ability to achieve economic, social and political development directly into the hands of the people.
Once the funds are allocated (and the Constitution obliges the government to channel 15 percent of its budget directly to the counties), our local leadership will be held directly responsible for the development or lack thereof, of our counties.
In my view, this is one of the best things to have happened to Kenya and it is very possible for Kenyans to exploit wealth at their county level.
However, this will require collaborative effort in allocating funds to priority areas based both on need and the growth objectives of the county. Ideally, each county should establish an economic unit that understands the vision of its people. This unit can then be tasked with evaluating all needs, including those of special and marginalised groups, and balancing those needs with economic development goals so that neither party suffers.
Let me give you an example. The livestock sector contributes about three percent of the Gross Domestic Product and the majority of its produce is consumed within the country. About a year ago when Kenya was experiencing severe drought, we witnessed the death of numerous heads of cattle on their way to the livestock processing unit in Athi River.
Why should the Maasai have had to trek such long distance resulting in serious inefficiencies and loss of production? This is where the opportunity exists for some counties in Rift Valley. Here, the economic units can agree to improve access to water by putting up watering holes (both for livestock and domestic use) and in the same breath, set up abattoirs to cater to the same group.
Such plans can be very effective in that, they balance both social and economic needs, improve scales of production and consequently, hasten economic development as communities set up new economic trading centers or zones. It is a win-win situation and most importantly, development remains with the people at county level.
There are numerous other opportunities that can propel wealth creation at county level and all one has to do is to critically assess these opportunities. Perhaps the best place to start is by conducting feasibility studies on the projects that have the highest likelihood to generate the most gains for the community, bearing in mind all angles as mentioned earlier, before proceeding with investment.
Ideally also, there is no need to reinvent the wheel where such studies have already been conducted. Let us use allocated resources with efficiency and I see no reason why Vision 2030 should not be a reference point.
Obviously, some counties are way ahead of others and I can only expect their development will be more accelerated. Take for instance Isiolo County. It is probably one of the few counties that adopted the economic blueprint of the government with the gravity it deserved and if you look at their website, Isiolo already prides itself in being a resort city.
In doing so, they will not only benefit from the good will of the government and its structures, but will also be able to develop high-niche products targeting the eco-tourism market, thus opening up Isiolo to Kenya and to the World. Mark my words, if Isiolo can implement their vision with financial vigilance, their county will remain one of the fastest developing ones, to the benefit of the indigenous people.
Again, many of these ideas do not originate from a blue moon or a magician’s hat. They come from plans that have been made and shelved over time.
Remember a recent headline in one of the local newspapers, “Kenya strikes gold”? It stated that viable deposits of gold had been found in Narok and Migori counties. If your county surrounds either of them, it may be time to relook those Mines and Geological Surveys that were done in the past to see what potential your own county has.
It is time for each county to accelerate growth both at the local and the national level, by creating wealth using their already available natural and man-made resources.