Cross-border wrangles between counties and funding have been cited as the main challenges threatening the survival of the six regional economic blocs in the country.
Speaking in Kisumu when the County Regional Bloc task force paid a courtesy call on the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB), Central Kenya Economic Block (Cekeb) CEO Ng’ang’a Munyu said the regional economic blocs can only work if counties look beyond their self-interests.
“Counties must agree to compromise. But if you stick to your own interests, I am sorry the blocs will not go anywhere,” said Mr Munyu.
There are six economic blocs established so far by counties.
These are the North Rift Economic Bloc (Noreb) (seven members), Cekeb (10 members), the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) (13 members), Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani (JKP) (six members), South Eastern Kenya Economic Bloc (Sekeb) (three members), and Frontier Counties Development Council (FCDC) (seven members).
Unsettled border conflicts among some counties have presented challenges to the peaceful cohesion of communities, resulting in divisions while trying to operationalise the regional blocs.
The most common border conflicts that have threatened the good relations of counties within the same regional blocs involve Kisumu and Nandi, Kisumu and Kericho, Vihiga and Kisumu and Nyandarua and Laikipia.
The boundary row between Kisumu and Nandi counties has been over the location of the seven areas namely Chemelil, Muhoroni, Miwani, Kibigori, Kibos, Koru and Kopere.
As for Nyandarua and Laikipia counties, the wrangle has been mainly over where Nyahururu town lies.
My Munyu said blocs can play a major role in the promotion of cohesion and the peaceful existence of the people living along boundaries.
“For example Nyandarua and Laikipia counties have been in conflict over the location Nyahururu town. Through the blocs, we can easily sort out these hitches without being magnified,” he said.
LREB CEO Abala Awanga said the fine-tuning of the national policy on regional blocs includes the funding aspect for the smooth running of the blocs.
“We had proposed that the funding for the secretariat comes from the both the national and county governments,” said Mr Awanga.
FCDC CEO Mohamed Guleid said that county regional economic blocs are the new engines of transformation that will accelerate development.
He said that the bloc aims at addressing the historic exclusion of northern Kenya for over 50 years.
The FCDC has secured a 1.2 billion dollar commitment from the World Bank which is aimed at improving infrastructure, availability of water, electricity, optic fibre internet lines and agriculture in the region.
Addressing participants at the inaugural investment conference of LREB in Bomet in October 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta assured regional blocs of his support and said that a national government policy framework would be required to institutionalise and manage them.
The policy would address the mode of cooperation, the powers and financing of the economic blocs, ownership and dispute resolution mechanisms.