Economy, Leadership

Why The Time is Ripe for A New Develop Strategy for Our Counties

Kenya is cur­rent­ly grap­pling with a prob­lem so sig­nif­i­cant that it should be declared a nation­al dis­as­ter- our coun­ties are under­per­form­ing. The 2023 Gross Coun­ty Prod­uct Report has exposed two major chal­lenges fac­ing our coun­ties, which we can poten­tial­ly trans­form into unmatched opportunities.

The first chal­lenge resides in coun­ty pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. Our nation­al cake is half-baked, pro­duc­ing far below our capa­bil­i­ties. Nairobi’s con­tri­bu­tion of 27.5% to the econ­o­my is the only one in dou­ble dig­its, fol­lowed by Kiambu’s 5.9%. Shock­ing­ly, the ten coun­ties con­tribut­ing the least to the econ­o­my have col­lec­tive­ly added only 4.6%, even less than Nakuru’s 4.9%.

The eco­nom­ic pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of these bot­tom ten coun­ties is undoubt­ed­ly below par, yet they are brim­ming with eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties. Among them are Lamu, Tana Riv­er, and Tai­ta Tave­ta, three coastal coun­ties abun­dant with blue econ­o­my oppor­tu­ni­ties and sur­round­ed by a Nation­al game Parks. Accord­ing to a study by the UN Inter­na­tion­al Orga­ni­za­tion for Migra­tion (IOM), the blue econ­o­my could con­tribute USD 4.8 bil­lion to the Kenyan econ­o­my from 2020–2030. Thus, it is imper­a­tive that these coun­ties expe­dite the imple­men­ta­tion of exist­ing blue econ­o­my strate­gies. I pro­pose that the Gov­er­nors of these coun­ties annu­al­ly report progress in har­ness­ing the blue econ­o­my to their residents.

This approach should be uni­ver­sal­ly adopt­ed. Every coun­ty in Kenya has a devel­op­ment strat­e­gy, but the obsta­cle lies in their imple­men­ta­tion. While mil­lions have been spent on plan­ning and bench­mark­ing, bil­lions should now be gar­nered through exe­cu­tion. For enhanced effi­cien­cy, focus, and account­abil­i­ty, I humbly sug­gest that each Coun­ty spe­cial­izes in a flag­ship prod­uct and ser­vice. This suc­cess­ful approach, ini­ti­at­ed by Gov­er­nor Hira­mat­su in Oita Pre­fec­ture (Coun­ty), Japan, in the 1970s, has also tan­gi­bly ben­e­fit­ed Thai­land, Malaysia, and Indone­sia by pro­mot­ing region­al devel­op­ment. Why not Kenya?

This leads me to the sec­ond chal­lenge that can be con­vert­ed into oppor­tu­ni­ty — chron­ic devel­op­ment defi­cien­cies in forty coun­ties, as unveiled by the 2023 Gross Coun­ty Prod­uct Report. The Pub­lic Finance Man­age­ment Act man­dates that a min­i­mum of 30% of Coun­ty funds be allo­cat­ed to devel­op­ment. Regret­tably, only sev­en coun­ties have com­plied. Forty coun­ties are bla­tant­ly con­tra­ven­ing this law.

Take Nairo­bi, which expend­ed mere­ly fif­teen per­cent on devel­op­ment, and Kiambu, which spent only 10.2%. On aver­age, the 47 coun­ties allo­cate only 22.8% to devel­op­ment, while dou­bling that on salaries. Isn’t this equa­tion crit­i­cal­ly flawed?

Gov­er­nors can only be part­ly blamed as there appear to be inher­ent struc­tur­al and sys­temic issues in the way coun­ties oper­ate. I sug­gest that Pres­i­dent Ruto pas­sion­ate­ly ini­ti­ates a well-coor­di­nat­ed can­did inter­coun­ty con­ver­sa­tion to spear­head res­o­lu­tions on this extreme­ly urgent mat­ter. The basic essence of devo­lu­tion was to ensure a cas­cade, not mere­ly a trick­le, of nation­al and Coun­ty resources reach­ing Kenyans at the grass­roots level.

To effec­tive­ly trans­form these chal­lenges into oppor­tu­ni­ties, coun­ties must reju­ve­nate and max­i­mize the util­i­ty of region­al eco­nom­ic blocs.

The Bomas draft con­sti­tu­tion had pro­posed four­teen coun­ties to erad­i­cate the colo­nial eth­nic demar­ca­tion of Dis­tricts. While that pro­pos­al is in the past, we can­not seem to allow coun­ties to func­tion as eth­nic blocs, which has evi­dent­ly com­pro­mised their pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. They must, there­fore, delib­er­ate­ly unite through region­al eco­nom­ic blocs in a com­ple­men­tary fashion.

Con­sid­er these sta­tis­tics — forty of our coun­ties are con­tribut­ing an aver­age of below 2.1 per­cent to the nation­al econ­o­my; thir­ty coun­ties con­tribute an aver­age of below 1 per­cent to man­u­fac­tur­ing. To change this nar­ra­tive, we must act deci­sive­ly through one more sta­tis­tic – sev­en­ty-five per­cent of Kenya’s pop­u­la­tion is under 30 years of age.

Our youth are our great­est asset, embody­ing the entre­pre­neur­ial spir­it of the era. Con­se­quent­ly, they must be entrenched at the very heart of both Coun­ty and Nation­al Devel­op­ment. Indeed, I sug­gest that we bold­ly embark on a com­pre­hen­sive audit of youth-respon­sive­ness to our coun­ty devel­op­ment plans and the stag­ger­ing results, once actu­al­ized, will indeli­bly trans­form our nation. Just like a tree stead­fast­ly grows, life demands our dai­ly steps toward the right direc­tion; we must stop being cry­ing babies because our future gen­er­a­tions look up to us as their bea­con of hope. Think green, act green!


About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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