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Transform Northern Kenya through new WB partnership programme

By Mohamed Guleid | December 1st 2021

World Bank headquarters [Courtesy]

The new Country Partnership Framework (CPF) of the World Bank is expected to start soon.

This programme will run from 2022 to 2027. One of the most important investments in Kenya by the World Bank is the North Northeast Development Initiative (NEDI). In the current CPF cycle, the World Bank committed close to Sh200 billion and the purpose of this fund is to help the underserved region of Northern Kenya catch up with the rest of Kenya.

The two most important projects under the current North Northeast Development Initiative are the construction of the international trunk road from Isiolo to Mandera and the Kitale-Nandapal road that will link North West Kenya to South Sudan.

The initiative is a holistic approach to planning development for the 10 member counties of the Frontier Counties Development Council (FCDC). By the end of this NEDI cycle, it is expected the impact will change the face of Northern Kenya.

Despite being the most important project to be undertaken by the Kenya government in Northern Kenya, the civil servants entrusted with the implementation of the six basic NEDI projects are lacklustre. The only projects that seem to be moving are the roads. Both the Horn of Africa Gateway Development Project connecting Isiolo to Mandera and the East African Corridor improvement Project are progressing well. The World Bank has now started collecting views from various stakeholders on the new NEDI plans in the next cycle.

It is important to learn lessons from the first phase of the NEDI project. What is urgently required is the adoption of the NEDI project under a specific ministry that shall coordinate and ensure a quicker implementation framework. The current coordination arrangement lacks the synergy of increasing the impact of the projects.

Once the World Bank starts designing the second phase of NEDI, there are key sectors that need to be prioritised. The biggest challenge to the people of Northern Kenya is water. Not lack of water but lack of ways of harnessing both rainwater and extraction of underground water. As per hydrological surveys, Northern Kenya is endowed with an abundant deposit of water in several aquifers.

The Turkana and Merti Aquifers are the most prominent. These underground water sources can irrigate the whole of Kenya if extracted. If the water challenges are sorted out then people of this vast region will find it easy to tend to their livestock and this could lead to a reduction in conflicts. The second priority is connectivity both in terms of road networks but also links to mobile phone and internet services.

The design for the new North Northeast Development Initiative shall require the full involvement of the county governments. When such plans are left to the national government, the real needs of the people might not be identified.

The governors or their representatives must be given a prominent role in the implementation of the projects. In the current initiative, the county governments are always involved as an afterthought. The good thing is the World Bank appears to be in preview to these issues.

Mr Guleid is CEO, Frontier Counties Development Council. 

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