Report on counties wealth should help governors improve their lot

For the first time since devolution was conceived slightly over five years ago, we know the richest and poorest counties. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) yesterday unveiled the 2019 Gross County Product (GCP), which sought to measure the economic activities of different counties.

As expected, Nairobi is the richest county, but not with a contribution of 60 per cent to the overall economy as has been repeatedly suggested. Nakuru County is a surprise second in a report that is likely to open a can of worms as far as sharing of resources is concerned.

The last thing we expect is for garrulous county governors to pounce on the report, pushing for increased allocation of funds from the national treasury. Instead, the county chiefs should use the landmark report to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses; threats and opportunities.

Generally, counties with a strong agricultural base performed well, but they can do even better with value addition- turning fish into fish fillets, for example. Value-addition will go a long way in unlocking potential in most of the counties, especially job creation. This is in line with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ambition to create jobs by revamping agriculture.

Indeed, very few counties did well in manufacturing, reflecting poor value-addition, which is critical for industrialisation. It is also not surprising that the most fertile areas, with adequate rainfall performed well, speaking to continued dependence on rain-fed agriculture.

Bounty harvests in Nyandarua and Elgeyo Marakwet have put them at the pole position as the most productive counties in Kenya.Nyandarua’s average spending per individual, or GCP per capita, more than doubled from Sh135,315 in 2013 to Sh350,321, the highest among the 47 devolved units. Nyandaru is famous for production of fresh produce, including Irish potatoes, cabbages, dairy products, and horticulture.

Agricultural productivity also lifted the productivity of Elgeyo Marakwet whose GCP per capita also increased by 151 per cent to Sh197,923 in 2017. At Sh34.7 billion, Marakwet’s agricultural output was more than Uasin Gishu, the other of Kenya’s food basket from the North Rift.

There are other areas that would have done even better with irrigation, improved seeds, fertilizer or extension services. Both county and national government must move with haste to address that which is contributing to the increased chasm between counties and people.

Both National and County governments have to work together to achieve this.