Regional economic blocs will yield greater potential

It’s encouraging that governors from the Lake Basin region have seen the importance of forming a regional bloc as a way of maximizing utilization of existing opportunities and advantages that come from opportunities of scale for development.

Similar initiatives have been tried at the Coast, parts of the Rift Valley and in the Northern Frontier regions and in the past few years, several counties have hosted investment forums to showcase their investment potential. This is an acknowledgment by the counties that investments will play a key role in the realization of Vision 2030.

While the specifics in the regional arrangements and why their establishments – which start off with pomp and fare seem to lose steam as soon as they are started – are scanty, the move is very welcome for the region, which has vast resources that seem not to be helping the residents.

The Lake Victoria region seems to host most of the counties that are at the apex of the poverty index in Kenya.

A report by Deloitte East Africa done few years ago entitled ‘Lake Victoria Basin Economic Blueprint’ noted that the longer-term economic transformation of the Lake Basin region depends on the extent to which the counties and their leadership develop and implement a shared vision for regional transformation and development.

The governors, who have so far met in Kakamega, Kisumu and Busia, seem determined, and I hope, politics and competition will not kill the dream of uplifting the lives of the residents from the region.

Hopefully also, constituencies in the region should start exploiting the economies of scale by implementing projects that have a regional outlook, especially in infrastructure.

The Lake Basin region is strategically placed as a gateway to Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and the Great Lakes region which are potential markets for goods and services produced here.

The Lake Basin region also has access to all developed transportation routes into the COMESA and SADC regions. In addition, the Lake Basin shares natural resources like Lake Victoria, rivers, tourist destination sites, environmental and climatic conditions among others.

The agricultural potential is very good and rainfall levels are relatively high and stable while the Lake Victoria Kenya Tourism Circuit (LVKTC) has enormous potential as a tourist destination.

Key areas of potential include nature and wildlife; agro-tourism; water sports among other cultural heritage activities. A number of financial institutions including banks, microfinance, Saccos and lending institutions have set up base in the region, and what is only needed to spur economic growth and investments is to enhance access to appropriate business advisory services. This is an area the regional bloc should prioritise by investing in establishing a joint facility or centre of excellence for the region.

Another area that requires urgent attention, which will greatly spur investment in the region, is developing the infrastructure. Working with national institutions such as KENHA, KURA, KETRACO, LBDA, KAA among others, they must address the issue of fewer paved and tarmacked roads, inconsistent energy and electricity provision, inadequate clean water for drinking and cooking and a dead manufacturing sector.

Working with the National Government, the leaders must exploit the vast opportunities available for water and air transport including landing facilities and airfields are essential factors for investors.

Hopefully, the county leaders will ensure that they work jointly to create an enabling environment for investors, by providing leadership, conducive regulatory regime and invest in improving infrastructures that investors require.

The regional thinking should be alive to the fact that without political goodwill, proper legal, administrative and policy mechanisms to sustain or allow business people to invest in the counties, nothing much will be achieved. We need laws and policies to regulate and or attract investment in the region and prioritise an audit or feasibilities/viability reports on the region before rushing to start projects.

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