There are 1,450 Administrative Wards in Kenya. Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) are the elected political leaders of these Wards. Previously they were referred to as Councilors.
Politicians often used the Councilor seat as a steppingstone into the Member of Parliament (MPs) seat. Among politicians who started off as Councilors are Hon Ferdinard Waititu, who commenced his political journey in 2002 as Councilor of Njiru Ward. He later served as Embakasi Member of Parliament before being elected as Kiambu’s second Governor. Simba Arati, the current Governor of Kisii also started off as nominated Councilor for Nairobi City Council in 2007.
I suggest that we radically change our perception of this seemingly lowly MCA Position. It’s not just a stepping stone into higher office. Our elected MCAs have the potential of becoming the most consequential leaders in the country. I have previously written in this column why they are like Ward Presidents and today, I will focus on how they can deliver transformative leadership.
Between 2013 and 2017, I was honored to be one of the lead organizers of County Investment Forums in several Counties. Through these forums, we were able to unwrap the immense investment potential in Counties like Nandi, Kisii and Baringo. We realized that Kisii had the potential of following in the wine producing footsteps of French regions like Bordeaux and Champagne. Similarly, we explained how Baringo’s potential of becoming a world class honey producer was unlimited.
Unfortunately, such investment forums either died altogether or were expanded into regional forums. In this new electoral cycle, we need to refocus investment opportunities to our Wards. Indeed, Wards must become like companies that must return value to their shareholders. Here are three reasons why this approach may change the country in a powerful, lasting manner.
Firstly, we must unlock the human resources that are locked within Ward demographics. For instance, Upper Savannah Ward in Embakasi East Constituency has a population of almost 40,000 people. This constitutes nearly half of all the people in Seychelles! As such, this population must be regarded as a powerful human resource.
However, it is incumbent on them to contribute significantly in Ward affairs. The most direct way for them to do so is through public participation that ensures efficient, accountable utilization of Ward funds. But more than this, they should also contribute their skills to transform their Wards.
There is need to ascertain the depth of skills possessed by constituents in any given Ward. That will enable a systematic utilization of relevant skills towards Ward development. To illustrate, it could be, that some constituents of Kasighau Ward in Taita Taveta County have ecotourism skills that can help the Ward to earn revenue from ecotourism. The same applies to every Ward in Kenya.
Secondly, Wards will be transformed through the sustainable utilization of their natural resources. Every Ward in Kenya is endowed with natural resources that can greatly enhance sustainable development and job creation. A vast Ward like Mutha in Kitui County is home to South Kitui National Reserve. With intentional investment, this natural resource can boost ecotourism in the area, and in the process create thousands of sustainable livelihoods.
Thirdly, financial resources must flood into Wards through Ward-specific investments. Just like we experienced County Investment Conferences, time is ripe for targeted Ward Investment Fora. Through such conferences, Wards will be able to take a private approach to public sector development. This will compel MCAs to act increasingly like visionary CEOs and less like short-sighted politicians.
I nudge the President to deploy the power at his disposal in emboldening MCAs. After all it is the MCAs who determine resource allocations for the Counties currently at Kshs. 370 billion. Think green, act green!