What you need to know:
- The first attempt was in Coast region when governors resolved to form ‘Jumuiya ya County za Pwani’ (Coast Counties Bloc).
- The Lake Region bloc appears to be set on a firmer foundation, with the governors seeking to entrench it in law.
Eight out of 14 governors from western region have resolved to drum up support for the Lake Region Economic Bloc, whose aim is to set up a bank by October.
The governors also resolved to focus on other cross-boundary flagship projects that include maritime transport and services, investment in the sugar sector and conservation of the Mau water catchment areas.
Speaking after a meeting in Busia County on Friday, the governors said they will lobby wananchi to support the bloc as well as their respective county assembly to pass the laws needed to turn the ambitious dream into a reality.
The assemblies will be asked to approve the contribution of Sh200 million by each member county to kick-start the establishment of the regional commercial and development bank set to be launched in Bomet.
They will be also required to approve an additional Sh10 million to run the secretariat.
The counties intend to inject Sh2.8 billion in the bank, and they have already started scouting for potential institutions where they can buy a controlling stake.
This is part of an agreement that the governors signed in Kakamega on March 26.
The eight governors were led by Kakamega’s Wycliffe Oparanya and Bomet’s Joyce Laboso, who are the group’s chairperson and deputy respectively.
The others in attendance were Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma), Wilber Ottichilo (Vihiga), Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Sospeter Ojaamong’ (Busia), Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu) and Nandi’s Stephen Sang’.
Mr Oparanya read the eight resolutions reached by the county bosses after the closed-door meeting that lasted four hours.
“We will undertake an intensive sensitisation campaign targeting our assemblies and citizens to educate them on the bloc’s legal agreement,” he said.
“We are positive that by working together with our county assemblies, we are going to be successful in establishing a strong legal and institutional framework for the bloc,” he added.
This is the second time counties have sought to create a regional bloc.
The first attempt was in Coast region when governors resolved to form ‘Jumuiya ya County za Pwani’ (Coast Counties Bloc).
However, the economic bloc ran into challenges, and it is yet to become a reality more than two years later.
Leaders from Coast have remained optimistic that the bloc will succeed despite the challenges.
The Lake Region bloc appears to be set on a firmer foundation, with the governors seeking to entrench it in law, and to work with regulatory bodies such as the Central Bank of Kenya.
“We reaffirm our commitment towards the establishment of a regional bank and counties have pledged to allocate resources for the bank in their plans and budgets for 2018/19 financial year,” Mr Oparanya said.
He noted that the bloc will work closely with statutory institutions such as the Controller of Budget, the Auditor-General and the National Treasury to implement the project.
“Our people have a challenge in accessing capital. With the regional bank, they will be able to access funds by providing a local purchase order from their respective counties,” Mr Oparanya said.
The bloc has already gained the support of development partners — Agricultural Society of Kenya, the Kenya Red Cross, the Ford Foundation, Oil Producing and Exporting Countries among others.
“We will strengthen the bloc and allocate both human and material resources to transform it into a world-class venture to better the livelihoods of our people,” he added.
The third summit meeting will held in Nandi in September.
In October, a regional investment conference will be held in Bomet, the same month the bank is expected to be unveiled.
Additional reporting by Justus Ochieng’