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Governors renew bid to form Central Kenya economic bloc

By Wainaina Ndung’u and Jacinta Mutura | Published Wed, September 5th 2018 at 09:33, Updated September 5th 2018 at 09:36 GMT +3
From left: Governors Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) and Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia)

In summary

  • Ten counties plan to build a Sh100 billion trade empire complete with uniform trade licences and shared revenue

Ten governors from Mt Kenya region have revived a plan to form an economic bloc.

The Sh100 billion plan brings together Embu, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Laikipia, Meru, Murang’a, Nakuru, Nyandarua, Nyeri and Tharaka Nithi counties. 

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The bloc was first proposed two years ago, when then Laikipia governor Joshua Irungu hosted a meeting attended by the other county leaders.

The meeting resulted in the formation of the Mt Kenya and Aberdares Counties Economic Bloc. 

Before his death last year, Nyeri Governor Wahome Gakuru, Governor Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu) and former Nairobi Deputy Governor Polycarp Igathe were hosted by Laikipia’s Ndiritu Muriithi in Nanyuki.

Revive railway

This meeting resulted in a pledge to contribute Sh100 million to start a Sh25 billion project to revive the Nairobi-Nanyuki railway.

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On Monday, six governors from the region met at Panafric Hotel in Nairobi. Top on the agenda was the economic bloc, which has been renamed Central Kenya Economic Bloc (Cekeb).

Those who attended Monday’s meeting were Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Francis Kimemia (Nyandarua), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Nakuru’s Lee Kinyanjui, Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi) and Mr Muriithi.

Speaking to The Standard, Muriithi said the process of forming the bloc had already begun. 

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“In the coming weeks, we shall be unveiling structures and how they will work,” he said, adding that the governors were in the initial stages of setting up a secretariat to spearhead the plan.

“The bloc is alive and picking well. We are making progress and will soon be revealing how it will achieve its goals,” he said.

Mr Kimemia is said to have taken over as chairman of the bloc during Monday’s meeting.

The six governors are understood to have discussed the bloc’s blueprint, which focuses on economic transformation through agriculture and agri-business, industrialisation, healthcare, tourism, water and resource management, infrastructure and ICT.

One of the proposals floated was the establishment of a team of eminent local leaders to give direction.

Similar to the National Economic and Social Council (NESC), the think tank is being pushed mostly by Meru County, which has a similar organ called the Meru Economic and Social Council comprising 70 elite members from the region.

The proposal appeared to be one of the unresolved issues of Monday’s meeting.

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“Do we need a think tank (NESC model)?” read the agenda.

The agenda named the presentation of a Cekeb concept paper, identification of values, objectives and priorities for the bloc and establishment of a secretariat and delivery structure as some of the priority areas.

Strategic plan

Others were development of a strategic plan, identification of immediate priorities and harmonisation of taxes.

Listed as immediate priorities were identification of development partners to offer immediate financing and how to leverage with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four development agenda comprising food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and universal healthcare.

The governors proposed a meeting with Uhuru as well as Cabinet and principal secretaries to share the Cekeb brief.

The county chiefs were also keen to listen to presentations on a revenue-sharing formula, the 2019 census and electoral boundaries review.

According to Muriithi, they agreed that their respective county executives for finance and planning should ensure that finance bills were aligned.

“We agreed that our finance ministers should meet this week and next week so that they can work on this,” he said.

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The alignment will, among other things, see uniform licence fees across all member counties. 

“We want to ensure economic harmony so that a boda boda operator in Nanyuki can be licensed in Nyeri, Meru or Laikipia,” said Muriithi.

The governors were also set to analyse the March handshake between Uhuru and Opposition leader Raila Odinga.  

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