Thirteen counties in the lake region have resolved to form an economic bloc as a means of pursuing stronger trade agreements.
In a meeting held in Kisumu, it was agreed that the legal framework for the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) will be presented to respective county assemblies for enactment into law by the end of 2017.
On Thursday, Kisumu Governor Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o said the lakeside city will establish a secretariat for LREB at the premise of the county government, with staff seconded from the constituent counties as will be determined by the summit.
“The secretariat will disseminate the LREB agreement for signature by governors of the member counties while at the same time following up on financial contributions by the counties,” said Prof Nyong’o.
The members of the summit present at the meeting also renewed their commitment to build up on the projects in progress, including the establishment of a regional bank, he said.
Speaking at the Grand Royal Swiss Hotel, Governor Nyong’o said that the forum will conclude all discussions during a stakeholders’ forum to be held on November 16 and 17, 2017.
Other people who were present during the Thursday meeting included Migori Governor Okoth Obado, Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay), Kericho Deputy Governor Susan Kikwai and her counterpart from Siaya James Okumbe.
Kisii and Nandi counties were also represented by senior officials.
LREB is also comprised of Nyamira, Busia, Kakamega, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia, Vihiga and Bomet counties.
The summit further condemned the unwarranted importation of sugar by some millers and called on all them to respect contractual agreements with farmers regarding the prices paid for cane delivered.
“We are well aware of the challenges facing the sugar industry in the region including outstanding salary arrears at the milling factories, cane availability and poaching, factory inefficiencies and cane transportation infrastructures among others,” said Prof Nyong’o.
As a way of addressing key problems in the industry, the county heads and their representatives agreed to institute rapid response initiatives like writing off taxes and re-engineering managements of the factories.
“We are also going to look at the payment of arrears to farmers and staff at sugar factories as well as achieving sustainable cane production,” he said.