Noreb governors target multibillion-shilling projects in revamp plans

Stanley Kimuge | Nation Media Group

North Rift Economic Bloc governors led by interim chair Nandi Governor Stephen Sang addressing the press at their recent meeting. Next to him is Trans Nzoia governor George Natembeya and West Pokot Deputy Governor Robert Achaule.

Photo credit: North Rift Economic Bloc governors led by interim chair Nandi Governor Stephen Sang addressing the press

What you need to know:

  • Noreb counties are seeking to give the bloc legal foundation, resume its activities
  • Noreb brings together the counties of Uasin Gishu, Samburu, Baringo, Turkana, Nandi, West Pokot, Trans-Nzoia and Elgeyo Marakwet
  • Kericho, Bomet, Nakuru, Kajiado, Laikipia and Narok have expressed interest in joining the bloc, according to Governor Sang, the Noreb interim chairperson

Governors of counties under the North Rift Economic Bloc (Noreb) are considering implementing multibillion-shilling joint projects with the support of the national government.

On Friday, governors Jonathan Bii (Uasin Gishu), George Natembeya (Trans Nzoia), Stephen Sang (Nandi), Wesly Rotich (Elgeyo Marakwet) and Jeremiah Lomorukai (Turkana) and deputy governors Felix Kipngok (Baringo) and Robert Achaule (West Pokot) called for the revamping of the bloc to focus on development projects.

To make this a reality, they have pledged to fast-track ratification of the legal framework in the respective county assemblies within the next one month.

“We have checked the legal and project status and we have agreed that we need to fast-track it in terms of anchoring this bloc with a legal framework,” said Mr Sang, picked as the bloc’s interim chairperson.

“We will be reaching out to respective county assemblies to execute this legal framework within the next one month.” 

Noreb brings together the counties of Uasin Gishu, Samburu, Baringo, Turkana, Nandi, West Pokot, Trans-Nzoia and Elgeyo Marakwet.

Past efforts

There have been efforts in the past by the bloc to ratify the Noreb Community Bill, 2016 in respective county assemblies, which seeks to to anchor the bloc on a legal framework.

Since its inception in 2015, the bloc’s operations have faced cash flows challenges due to an unclear legal framework that could compel member counties to make financial contributions. Currently, members only make voluntary financial contributions.

The Bill proposed the creation of the Noreb county committee to be in charge of trade and finance as well as financial contributions. 

Part of the proposed law requires county governments to contribute grants as shall be sanctioned by the bloc Summit and approved by county assemblies, to facilitate the operations of the bloc.

Last week, the governors attended an inaugural meeting in Eldoret that brought together members of the bloc’s summit, county secretaries and the secretariat, led by Noreb CEO Godfrey Chesang.

Want to join

It happened amid revelations that several counties in the former Rift Valley province had expressed interest in joining the economic bloc and were expected to formally announce the move by the end of November.

Officials from Kericho, Bomet, Nakuru, Kajiado, Laikipia and Narok had expressed interest in joining the bloc, Governor Sang. “Going forward, you will be hearing a major announcement around this discussion so that we can take advantage of the opportunities in the region.”

The second-term governor observed that the devolved units are working to revamp the agriculture sector and tackle insecurity linked to banditry, among other issues that bedevil the region.

“We have agreed that Noreb is presented with a unique opportunity, being a region that President William Ruto comes from, and we want this to be an anchor for economic transformation,” he said.

He added: “The country is currently facing a drought crisis yet this region has [the] potential to feed the nation. We want to look at how we can increase food to feed this nation and also transform this region from a valley of insecurity to a valley of peace.”  

Key projects

When Noreb was established in 2015, the pioneer governors pushed for joint implementation of key projects as they set their sights on agriculture, tourism and mining, among other sectors, to benefit residents.

Each county in the bloc was to implement a single project and be supported by member counties. 

For instance, West Pokot was to set up a meat processing plant, Nandi a milk processor, Trans Nzoia a maize milling plant and Uasin Gishu an industrial and economic hub. 

Governor Bii said the bloc was critical in achieving development projects that would benefit the region.

“We are a serious team and we want to bring cohesiveness in undertaking projects and programmes. We want to have structures so that our people [can] benefit from this unity,” Mr Bii said.

Unmet expectations

Residents from the eight counties have expressed concerns about slow implementation of joint projects.

“The bloc lacked a clear investment policy from inception. This bloc has not yet fully impacted the livelihoods of the residents,” said David Too, a microfinance operator in Eldoret.

Business lobby groups in the region have also been pushing for regulations and tariffs in the eight counties to be harmonised so as to spur inter-county trade.

Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) Uasin Gishu chapter chairperson Willy Kenei said recently that each county imposes its own tariffs and this hinders progress.

“One county imposed Sh10,000 and another Sh45,000 on branding or tariffs. We want this to be harmonised to facilitate trade,” Mr Kenei said.