Coast region’s development prospects got a much-needed boost after leaders from across the political divide joined hands to launch the implementation of the Blue Economy and Agribusiness Blueprint.
The region will harness its resources to approach tourism, culture and heritage collectively, and not as individual counties. Plans are also under way to invest in marine transport, logistics and trade, and industry.
According to the Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani (JKP) secretariat, the pillars of the plan are: unlocking agricultural potential through investment in value chains, tapping strengths to enhance regional competitiveness, product diversification, pricing and incentives attraction, investing in health and education through innovation, and building an entrepreneurial culture through supporting SMEs.
Other key activities include investing in urbanisation, natural resources and the environment, as well as optimising land use, planning and catalysing green and blue investment growth.
On Tuesday, Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi, who hosted the second JKP conference in Malindi, told delegates their main goal is to implement the resolutions of the first conference.
“As individual counties, we may not have a great impact out there but when we come together as one economic bloc we shall be able to achieve a lot,” he said.
But he added that, to succeed, they must access capital and ensure that the locals obtain title deeds for their land t to enable them to invest and spur the economic growth.
“For meaningful development, the problem of squatters must end, so that the land can be used as collateral for other benefits,” he said, adding that they would not allow n people to invade others’ land in the name of investment.
Mombasa Governor Ali Joho also emphasised the need to work together as a region.
“The economic bloc will enable us to address contingent issues affecting investments in the Coast region and attract investors,” he said, adding, “When the port of Mombasa was built, the focus was manufacturing and export, but we later became more dependent on imports.”
Kwale Governor and JPK Chairman Salim Mvurya said the JKP is in consultation with the county governments of Kwale, Kilifi, Lamu, Taita-Taveta and Tana River in order to come up with up with one policy to attract investors in the agribusiness and blue economy sectors.
“The aim is to harness the integrated plans of the six counties and identify the flagship projects to attract investors,” he said.
“We also have to partner with the Technical University of Mombasa, Pwani University and Taita-Taveta University by tapping their skills and innovations,” he said.
Mr Mvurya echoed Mr Kingi’s plea for a solution to the squatter problem to enable the locals to get title deeds for meaningful investment and poverty alleviation.
Lamu Governor Farhim Twaha, for his part, appealed to investors to take advantage of the Lamu Port project, saying it has created lot of opportunities in real estate, tourism and manufacturing.
“In Lamu, we produce a lot of cotton, which can be used in value addition for the modelling industry, fashion and even to make uniforms for schoolchildren and the police,” he said.
He added that the region also produces milk, and that in the spirit of JKP they should allow livestock from neighbouring Garissa and Tana River counties to feed on their pasture during the dry season.
“Lamu is the only county where you can enjoy beach tourism and watch wildlife, including the big five,” he said.
Devolution Chief Administrative Secretary Hussein Dado assured the governors of government support in attracting investors.
In the past, political differences between ODM’s Joho and Mr Mvurya of the Jubilee Party were said to be among the main reasons delaying the implementation of the JKP goals proposed by the secretariat.
But on Tuesday, when the leaders from the six coast counties met at the Ocean Beach Resort in Malindi for the second Blue Economy and Agribusiness Conference, they preached unity, peace and prosperity.
Other leaders present were Taita-Taveta Deputy Governor Majala Mlaghui, while Tana River Governor Dhadho Godhana, who was abroad on official duties was represented by county officials.
During the last JKP conference held at the same venue in July this year, only Mr Kingi, Mr Godhana, Mr Twaha and Mr Mlaghui attended, while Mr Mvurya and Mr Joho skipped the event.