The slow pace of enacting laws to actualise the North Rift Economic Bloc (Noreb) has caused two counties to abandon the union.
Noreb brought together Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Elgeyo Marakwet, Trans Nzoia, Baringo, West Pokot, Turkana and Samburu counties.
However, due to what they have termed lack of progress in the establishement of the bloc, Nandi and Trans Nzoia has shifted gears and joined the newly-formed Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB), which has Kakamega, Bomet, Bungoma, Homa Bay and Kericho, Kisii, Kisumu, Nyamira, Busia and Vihiga counties.
Sources told The Standard that county assemblies within Noreb had not enacted enabling laws for the secretariat to implement programmes under the agreement signed in 2015.
"We lack laws to anchor Noreb, which has slowed our progress. This has led to frustration that has forced some counties to abandon the dream," said an official who sought anonymity.
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"Each county assembly was supposed to come up with an Act that would, among other things, define management of the economic bloc. This would ensure residents enjoy opportunities in the region. However, for three years, this has not happened," the official said.
The Rift economic bloc was formed to allow exploitation of common resources and investment opportunities in member counties.
Although there has been some investment, mainly in agriculture, the county assemblies are yet to conclude discussions on a legal framework to guide management and sharing of resources.
“The objective was to spur inter-county trade and resource mobilisation. The legislation to anchor Noreb's plans is supposed to be passed by county assemblies. This has not happened," said Philip Melly, former Uasin Gishu Trade executive.
The LREB was formed on Monday, with one objectives being the setting up of a financial institution to support economic activities in the region.
Jonathan Ng’etich, chairman of the Uasin Gishu County Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee, said they had not enacted laws Noreb needed to function due to time constraints.
"We should have worked on the framework last year but time did not allow us. We look forward to engaging the new MCAs on how we can drive the Noreb agenda,” he said.
Masibo Lumala, a lecturer at Moi University, said the decision by the two counties to join the lake region bloc may have been informed by geographical dynamics and historical ties.
"Trans Nzoia would feel more comfortable being in the same economic bloc as Bungoma and Kakamega. Nandi is more likely to benefit from the Western bloc because of its products. It make no sense for Nandi to remain in Noreb where it will compete with Uasin Gishu, which produces similar goods,” he said.
A Nandi county official said they joined the new alliance to "widen our economic net".
“We are not pulling out of Noreb because we can belong to more economic blocs. We want to position ourselves strategically and expand our trade,” said County Secretary Francis Sang.