Railway network can speed up bloc's growth

Kenya Railway workers level a line at a stretch next to Kenya Pipeline in Kisumu. [Harold Odhiambo]

The Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) is planning to set up a railway network linking it to the national line. LREB comprises Kisumu, Siaya, Migori, Homa Bay, Kisii, Nyamira, Bungoma, Vihiga, Kakamega, Busia, Kericho, Nandi, Trans Nzoia and Bomet counties.  

Formation of economic blocs was mooted during the nascent stages of devolution but came to fruition in 2018. While devolution has worked wonders in improving and bringing services closer to the people, it has inherent shortcomings.

Thus, it became clear that were counties to operate as economic blocs, this would hasten development and further improve service delivery. Individual counties, no doubt, have unique challenges and the need to complement each other cannot be gainsaid. This necessitated the creation of not just LREB, but the North Rift Economic Bloc, South Eastern Kenya Economic Bloc and the Mt Kenya and Aberdares Counties Trade and Investment Bloc as well.

From the outset, LREB was committed to setting up a regional bank. However, the plan ran into headwinds due to the technicalities involved in setting up a bank. LREB also identified other initiatives, like Health Investment and Care System that sought to build world-class health facilities in each of the 14 counties and the Agro-Industrial project currently being put up in Nyamira County by the United Nations Industrial development Organisation at an initial cost of Sh3 billion. On the whole, the formation of regional economic blocs to enable inter-county trade and boost county revenues is a noble idea.

Should LREB’s plan to create a railway network become a reality, it would come with huge economic benefits for the agriculturally rich region. The role that good road and rail linkages play in boosting trade cannot be overemphasised. The revival of the old metre-gauge line currently serving the Central Kenya region attests to this.

Transportation costs for goods and merchandise have markedly come down and it is now much easier to ferry goods in good time.