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Why governors are not fully on board with regional economic blocs

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While governors have always displayed a united front at conferences organised by inter-county regional blocs, the challenges facing the entities tailored to pursue joint economic goals six years after the advent of devolution paints a picture of county chiefs struggling to balance the interests of the counties they lead and those of economic blocs.

This is captured in the 2018 Kenya Institute of Public Research (KIPPRA) policy monitor dubbed Opportunities and Challenges Under Devolved System of Government which questions the commitment of majority of the counties to the blocs and harmony between the interests of the individual counties and those of an economic bloc.

“It is important for counties to self-interrogate their needs and priority areas which may not necessarily be achieved through regional blocs but can be pursued through other alternative means by collaborating and partnering with the national government,” reads the report.

Kenya has six economic blocs including: the North Rift Economic Bloc (NOREB), Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB), Frontier Counties Development Council (FCDC), South Eastern Kenya Economic Bloc (SEKEB), Central Kenya Economic Bloc (CEKEB) and Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani (Coast Counties Bloc).

KIPPRA lists budget constraints, multiple memberships, lack of public participation and conflicting interests among member counties as some of the biggest challenges that the blocs are facing.

On November 1 2018, Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei and a section of Members of County Assembly (MCAs) opposed a proposal by the county’s governor Stephen Sang to contribute Sh200 million towards the construction of a regional development bank by the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREC) that comprises of all Nyanza and Western Region counties as well as Bomet, Kericho and Nandi.

The objection by the county’s leaders points at politics being another reason why the governors are not fully on board with the economic bloc idea.

READ: KENYA PASSPORT RANKS 8TH IN AFRICA POWER RANKINGS

As it stands some counties are yet to enact enabling legislation to operationalize these blocs and guide the management, distribution and sharing of resources meaning that some of the regional blocs are operating without a legal framework.

The LREB is the only regional bloc with an overarching legislative framework guided by the Lake Region Economic Bloc Bill which each member county is required to enact through their respective County Assemblies to implement joint projects such as the proposed regional development bank.

SEE ALSO: GROWTH IN KENYAN BANKING TO LAG BEHIND LARGER ECONOMY IN 2019

Kakamega, Kisumu and Kisii counties are the only counties in the LREB to have enacted the Bill.

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