Reviving key industries in lake region tops agenda

Kisii Governor James Ongwae (centre) his Kakamega counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya (left) and Anyang' Nyong'o (Kisumu) addresses the press during the 5th Lake Region Economic Bloc Summit at Siaya Medical Training College on January 15, 2020. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Governors from the lake region have resolved to focus on the revival of cotton and sugar industries as well as fast-tracking the formation of a regional bank to spur economic growth in the area.

Speaking during the fifth Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) in Siaya County yesterday, the governors said they had signed key partnership deals with foreign investors expected to change economic fortunes of member counties.

The economic bloc brings together 14 counties, namely Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori, Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia, Vihiga, Trans Nzoia, Kisii, Nyamira, Bomet, Nandi, Kisumu, and Kericho.

The objective of the bloc is to leverage the economies of scale and shared resources such as Lake Victoria to grow the region’s economy and improve the livelihood of the people in the member counties.

At yesterday’s meeting, attended by nine of the 14 governors, the county bosses said they have partnered with investors from Russia and China to improve the agriculture and health sectors in the region.

“We have collaborated with investors from Russia to start a telemedicine system that will link all the 14 counties,” said LREB chairman Wycliffe Oparanya, who is also Kakamega governor.

The governors said the Chinese Government had trained LREB agricultural officers - five from each member county - and that China would soon start a model farm of 200 hectares in one of the 14 counties to educate members on best farming practices.

“Some governors went to Russia and China and signed an agreement for LREB. China has agreed to promote our products as LREB counties,” said Oparanya.

To strengthen the partnership, the county bosses said LREB and the Chinese Government will hold a joint investment conference in November. China will fund the meeting, they said.

They decried the sorry state of the sugar factories in the region and called for President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene.

In the textile industry, the governors resolved to partner with agencies, national government, and academic institutions to fast-track the revival of the sub-sector.

They also resolved to form a sub-committee in counties that border the lake to explore the possibility of having an industrial park along Lake Victoria.

They also agreed to put in place a robust climate change framework to deal with the adverse effects of climate change in the region. They said they would form a climate secretariat at the LREB headquarters in Kisumu.

The governors said they plan for their flagship projects such as the formation of a regional bank was on course but decried lack of national government policy on regional blocs as a major obstacle to their ambitions.

They said they were finalising the instutionalisation of the bloc, with 10 counties having already passed the LREB Bill, 2019, which seeks to make the institution a legally binding entity.

The governors said the formation of the regional bank was on course.

Each of the counties is required to remit Sh200 million for the formation of the bank. A total of Sh2.6 billion is required for the formation of the bank.

During the summit, Kisii Governor James Ongwae was elected LREB vice-chairman, a position previously held by former Bomet Governor the late Joyce Laboso.

Those in attendance were Cornel Rasanga (Siaya), Anyang’ Nyong’o (Kisumu), James Ongwae (Kisii), Cyprian Awiti (Homa Bay), Wilberforce Otitchilo (Vihiga), Sospeter Ojamoong (Busia), Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Hillary Barchok (Bomet) and John Nyagarama (Nyamira).