Cluster the counties into economic zones

A trader offloads bananas at Riosiri market in Kisii County. [Sammy Omingo, Standard] 

For national progress and transformative change, it is important to recognise the diverse economic landscape within our borders.

From the fertile agricultural lands to the busy urban centres, every corner of our country holds a unique opportunity that, if leveraged can drive Kenya to prosperity. Embracing the bottom-up economic model tailored to the diverse economic potential of our counties will foster inclusive growth.

For too long, Kenya’s economic model has been a top-down approach and failed to address the needs of the majority especially those at the bottom of the pyramid. The top-down approach has been marked by centralised planning, excessive bureaucracies, corruption and inefficient use of resources to address our needs.

These factors have hampered the growth of critical sectors like agriculture, livestock, manufacturing, tourism, and ICT. This has widened the gap between the rich and the poor, and contributed to underdevelopment in urban and rural areas, resulting in social inequalities.

To tap the economic potential of each region, we must identify obstacles to economic growth in each region, followed by proposed policy interventions through a national economic blueprint between the respective county government and the national government. The growth diagnostic approach is a systematic and evidence-based methodology that identifies the most binding limitations to economic growth in a region or a country. The underlying idea is the removal of key constraints to economic growth rather than having a long list.

Recognising the opportunities across the regions, the government should cluster the 47 counties into economic zones based on their comparative advantages such as agricultural and dairy-producing areas, blue economic zones, livestock-producing areas, and digital and financial hubs. This approach seeks to unlock the economic potential of each region and create synergies across the 47 counties.

Kenya’s pastoral regions have immense untapped potential, especially in the livestock sector. These regions are often overlooked in economic discussions, but with the right investment and support, they can become a catalyst for economic development. Interventions such as establishing facilities for adding value to livestock products, improving veterinary services, and developing infrastructure to help harness the potential of the pastoral economy will drive Kenya towards inclusive development.

Similarly, the agricultural sector provides livelihoods for millions of Kenyans and contributes significantly to the GDP. However, it faces several challenges including limited access to inputs and inadequate infrastructure. Unleashing the full potential of this sector with targeted interventions such as investments in irrigation schemes, adopting modern farming techniques, providing access to credit facilities to farmers, and establishing market linkages will empower small farmers by transforming the rural economy through agribusinesses and enhancing food security.

Kenya’s blue and digital economy presents many opportunities for economic growth and development. Nairobi being recognised as the “Silicon Savannah”, Kenya has emerged as a significant player in the digital space joining the ranks of South Africa, Egypt, and Nigeria. Thanks to its continuous investment in digital infrastructure and innovation, the country has made significant progress in adopting digital technologies. With this, Kenya should lead the digital revolution in Africa.

The future of Kenya’s digital economy is expected to play a vital role in several areas of digital space such as e-government services, e-commerce, fintech innovations, and digital skills such as coding, data analytics, and cyber security.

Kenya’s journey towards economic prosperity lies in unlocking the potential of each region through a comprehensive growth diagnostic approach to address each region’s specific challenges and needs. The promise of a prosperous Kenya lies within regional empowerment.

-The writer is an internal auditor, [email protected]