Counties in the Lake Victoria Basin have a huge potential to take advantage of the city status of Kisumu to maximize the utilization of existing opportunities to scale up development. The city status and associated infrastructural development including port, airport, hospitality and the manufacturing sector does not only open the basin to other countries to export goods, but also offer the region the chance to pull together the regional block thinking that was meant to unlock the region.
A number of people have already been using the improved airport in Kisumu to access the other counties both for business and related, the port to transport goods to the neighboring countries and will use the re-opened railway from Nakuru-Kisumu-Butere and later to Malaba for the movement that is critical for growth. The challenge lies in the County Government of Kisumu maintaining the status and providing leadership-not just using resources from the county, but engaging the national government and related public agencies to maintain the infrastructure that is required of a city.
The leadership of Kisumu City has to provide leadership on behalf of the 12 other counties in the region in reaching out to national institutions such as Kenya National Highways Authority, Kenya Urban Roads Authority, Ketraco, LBDA, KAA among others, to address the issue of fewer paved and tarmacked roads, inconsistent energy and electricity provision, inadequate clean water for drinking and cooking and a dead manufacturing sector.
For already, the leadership of Governor Prof Anyang Nyong'o is showing leadership by working with the National Government, to exploit the vast opportunities available for water and air transport including landing facilities and airfields are essential factors for investors. It is not surprising that counties like Busia, Vihiga, Bungoma, Nyamira, Siaya among others have no functional air transport facilities, manufacturing facilities yet they have vast opportunities for the production of foodstuffs and value addition that is critical for export.
The commissioning and launching of several infrastructure projects in Kisumu County by President Uhuru Kenyatta must be seen in the bigger scheme of things and is a continuation of government projects that go over many years. Many go beyond the handshake and lie into the realization of vision 2030 thinking and yearly government projects. In addition, some of the projects being done through the Public-Private Partnerships, where the leadership of the county has gone out to woe investors.
With our project-based budgeting process, where resources are given through the Parliamentary budget committee with support from relevant sector parliamentary committees, it was surprising to hear leaders from some sections of the country lament that there is favouritism or the projects are handshake-linked. Even if they were, the leaders ought to have detected such earlier.
It has been a concern over the years that while there is a huge potential in the region, that is endowed with several natural resources, the Lake Victoria region seems to host most of the counties that are at the bottom of the poverty index in Kenya. Poverty in that region stares at you all the time, yet the lake basin region is strategically placed as a gateway to Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region which are potential markets for goods and services produced here. The Lake Basin Region also has access to all developed transportation routes into the COMESA and SADC regions. In addition, the Lake basin shares natural resources like Lake Victoria, rivers, tourists' destination sites, environmental and climatic conditions among others.
An earlier report by Deloitte East Africa done a few years ago entitled Lake Victoria Basin Economic Blueprint noted that the longer-term economic transformation of the Lake Basin region depends on the extent to which the counties and their leaders develop and implement a shared vision for regional transformation and development. The agricultural potential is very good and rainfall levels are relatively high and stable while the Lake Victoria Kenya Tourism Circuit (LVKTC) has enormous potential as a tourist destination. Key areas of potential include nature and wildlife; agro-tourism; water sports among other cultural heritage activities. A number of financial institutions including banks, microfinance, Saccos and lending institutions have set up base in the region, and what is only needed to spur economic growth and investments is to enhance access to appropriate business advisory services.
Our leaders, especially those elected must monitor and engage in monitoring of use and allocation of national resources through Parliamentary processes. Leaders from the Luhya region, it is wrong and an admission of failure to provide that oversight, when after projects are allocated resources in Parliament and its various committees, then you shout out that some regions are being favoured, and show surprise when such are being launched. Presidential trips and visits have been canceled to many counties because there is nothing for the President to launch.
The writer is the Deputy CEO at the Media Council of Kenya (MCK).