Governors in Central Kenya have agreed on an economic game plan intended to create hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs, through an industrial revolution driven by processing of the massive agriculture wealth, in a move expected to increase the region’s national economic contribution beyond the current 26 percent.
The 10 counties have now ratified the plan under the Central Region Economic Bloc (CEREB), which also seeks to monetise non-mainstream and neglected economic sectors as a diversification strategy outside agriculture.
The plan involves setting up different industries in different counties, processing different commodities in a move aimed at avoiding duplication and ensure maximum use of resources.
“We have come up with projects that are very major and that are specifi c to counties, and which can be shared with other counties,” said Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia.
He gave an example of the potato-processing factory that is to be set up in Nyandarua, but which will process potatoes from all other counties.
“We have agreed that you cannot put the same factory in Embu, another in Nakuru and another in Meru even though they produce potatoes. We leverage with the one in Nyandarua as a bloc project. When it comes to each crop, we agree on where the factory will be established.”
Beyond agriculture, the bloc also intends to make massive investments in roads, water, the revival of lakes and conservancies for purposes of tourism, renewable energy to meet the expected power needs and revival and expansion of the railway among others.
The bloc will fundraise from the private sector, local and foreign, and is keen to tap to cheaper money in Europe and other Western nations.
“There is a lot of money lying idle in Europe that we intend to tap and invest in this bloc.”
“For instance, we have found that to revive the old railway and expand it, we just need Sh15 billion. We are already working on this with the Kenya Railways and other partners,” said Kimemia.
“We have cross-cutting programmes like fertilizer blending, an agricultural bank, animal feeds factory, solar power farms, and lime production in Tharaka Nithi”
“We have planned to have a common tariff within the bloc so that if one is transporting goods from Nakuru to Meru, the levy they pay in Nakuru is enough and do not have to pay the same in Nyandarua and Laikipia.”
The next stage, Kimemia said, it to share the blueprint with the private sector which is expected to come in with the money and assist in prioritisation.
“We want the private sector to lead this not the county governments.
Ready in two months
One of the low-hanging fruits that are to be plucked immediately is the potato processing plant. The seed money, of Sh254 million, has already been given by the World Bank in the form of a grant.
“In the next two months, we should be seeing the factory coming up,” said Kimemia.
He said in addition to the grant, the county government is investing an additional Sh200 million while the national government has pledged to put in more than Sh300million.
“So we already have about Sh1 billion. We have already done the feasibility studies supported by the State agency ICDC. We are now going to the media to advertise for the construction of the potato processing plant.
“After that, we estimate that it will cost about Sh1.5 billion to put up other supportive infrastructure like the cold storage within the county, the seeds, soil testing, the marketing structure, the stores for the finished products among others,” he said.
“So we expect that Kenya will stop importing potatoes from Egypt and South Africa. We shall grow potatoes that are most sustainable for chips not only for the local but also in foreign markets. We have done the experiments already and the outcome is very good.
We are working with the European Union and the State-owned Tumanini Seed Multiplication Plant for the purpose of clean seeds that are disease free, high yielding.”
He said for the plan to succeed, the marketing of potatoes has to be streamlined. The first measure to be implemented in the coming weeks is the enforcement of the 50-kilogramme bag rule which requires that potatoes are only packaged in bags of that weight and priced as such.
Currently, brokers buy potatoes in bags that are extended weighing as much as 110 kilogrammes, resulting in huge losses for the farmers.
“We have a meeting this week to enforce the 50-kilogram rule. We are meeting as governors of the 13 counties that produce potatoes. So governors will agree on the date that the implementation of this rule. We shall do it as soon as possible. This is also going to apply to other horticultural crops like tomatoes and bananas among others,” said Kimemia.
The World Bank grant awarded on Thursday was a result of Nyandarua emerging the top-rated county among 22 others in the best use of public resources under the Kenya Devolution Support Programme (KDSP).
Kimemia said the achievement is a result of governance modeling that he has implemented since being elected.
“We chose to run the county as an investment entity where everybody is focused on productivity and value for money to mwananchi. We spend our financial resources on the highest yielding areas that will benefit the majority of the people in the county,” he said.
Kimemia said this involves good financial management systems, planning and monitoring, evaluation, clear database and record keeping, civic education and public awareness.
“Our investment strategy is very clear. We are the only county with a team at the Kenya Investment Authority to tap all investments that need to roll down to Nyandarua County. That tells you were are not joking when it comes to the investment portfolio of the county,” said the former senior national government administrator.
“Our county now runs like a business unit, an investment company focused on creating surplus value, what people call profit but in our case, surplus value is not only profit but creating value like economic value, social value, political value, and ethical values.”
“We have a governance model that reduces waste, institutes austerity measures and focuses everybody on productivity. This what we have done in Nyandarua County. We have motivated people; we did not sack civil servants.”
“We are utilising the same chief officers that were employed by the previous county government and you can see they have delivered. The targets are very clear. We have agreed as a cabinet that those who do not deliver must go,” said Kimemia, a student of Kibaki Economics who served as the Secretary to the Cabinet in retired President Mwai Kibaki’s administration.
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