Position the lake basin as regional investors’ hub

All Kenya’s large water bodies, especially those found in major towns, offer the allure of the blue economy. From the Indian Ocean in Mombasa, to the global second largest freshwater Lake Victoria in Kisumu, where the entire East Africa is connected via water, there is huge potential for the blue economy.

However, Kenya’s water resources remain largely underutilised. By the end of it, East African region loses nearly Sh440 billion annually for failing to fully exploit the blue economy. 

But what is blue economy, you may ask? It is the sustainable use of water resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of water ecosystem, according to the World Bank.

Last year, Kenya co-hosted the blue economy conference in Nairobi alongside Canada and Japan to deliberate the nitty gritty of the sector and its increasingly dynamic interaction with the world.

So far, the lake region is on the road map to fulfill the world’s ambition of becoming a blue economy. Kisumu County has for years positioned itself as an economic hub with little developments in cog sectors of the economy.

Until recently, the narrative seems to change with foreign investors showing interests to capitalise on the lake side city’s potential.

Sharing resources

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Whereas Kisumu is not exceptional, water bodies such as Lake Victoria protect biodiversity, provide jobs, food, drive economic growth, keep the planet cool and absorbs 30 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

With its huge population of around 1.1 million according to the 2019 population and household census, Kisumu has been experiencing severe water problems for decades now with big short falls.

Until today, and with the advent of devolution, progress towards clean and piped water has received a major boost.

However, key industry players need to be brought on board to address the issue in a bid to make Kisumu a world class city.

Practically, water deficits will continue to grow going beyond the present demand. 

To compare, the most successful countries such as South Korea and Singapore, evolved into innovation economies now ranking among the world wealthiest nations.

Kisumu has opened up its wings to being an epitome of blue economy.

Innovation – led Tom Mboya Labour College has nurtured, developed and transformed students with skills that both the national and county governments are keen to tap. 

There’s an opportunity for counties to participate fully in a cycle of innovation, investment and wealth creation in the generations to come of improving socio-economic development, thanks to the enormous scale, where counties are already fully-fledged players.

Evidently, this consolidation of counties will spur up economic growth by sharing resources and through community correlation in activities that support livelihoods, opening up the region to the East Africa and beyond.

Additionally, the lake region environment and catchment conservation is vital towards the region’s ecosystem while embracing sustainable agriculture, fishing and manufacturing with a focus on value addition to improve the socio-economic livelihood for the communities.

This becomes a safety net in managing conflict that would arise from shared resources.

At a time when Africa is enthusiastic about free trade with a population of 1.2 billion and an output of about USD 3 trillion, the region is already on the continental map to achieve this noble task.

More trade will help the region reverse damaging deindustrialisation, bringing an end to the collapse of companies like Mumias Sugar and Webuye paper mills.

A proper functioning trade hub could help fix that by giving impetus to efforts and attract investors with prospects of an available market. 

- Dr Raymond Omollo is the Managing Director, Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA). [email protected]

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Regional trade blocLake basin development authorityInvestment