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North Rift Governors vow to make new trade bloc gateway to regional market

By MICHAEL OLLINGA and SILAH KOSKEI | November 20th 2015 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Governors, local and international investors led by Senate Speaker Ekwe Ethuro (right), stand for the opening prayer during the second day of the North Rift Economic Block and Investment Conference at Eldoret Club. Investors from various countries attended the historic event. PHOTO: PETER OCHIENG

ELDORET: Eight governors have reiterated their commitment to provideing leadership that will transform the recently formed North Rift Economic Bloc (Noreb) into a gateway to the East and Central African market.

Speaking during the official opening of the three-day Noreb investment conference in Eldoret, the county chiefs unanimously stated that proper implementation of devolution was the best avenue for development and not politics.

Eight counties - Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Trans Nzoia, Baringo, Turkana, West Pokot, Nandi and Samburu - last month signed a pact to work collaboratively towards exploiting common resources and investment opportunities for Kenya's income-generation and economic development.

"We have been highlighting investment opportunities and the potential we have in agriculture, energy and tourism sector, and decided to work together to fast track wealth-generation. The prospective will be successfully achieved if we provide solid leadership which we are ready to," said Baringo Governor Benjamin Cheboi.

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos expressed optimism in working as a unit rather than individual counties because it gave them the muscle to use shared and unique resources for the benefit of the over six million people in the region.

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Governor Patrick Khaemba of Trans Nzoia underscored the strategic location of Noreb, which could be accessed through an international airport in Eldoret, the Great Northern Highway and the standard gauge railway, giving it a vantage point to access the East African market and beyond.

"There are immense opportunities in agricultural production that haven't been fully exploited," he said.

HIDDEN TREASURES

West Pokot Governor Simon Kachapin lauded devolution, saying his area had been locked up during the pre-colonial times and marginalised after independence, thus devaluing its hidden treasures.

"It is important to bring these opportunities to light to allow potential investors and the bloc to utilise them for development. We have plenty of limestone for cement manufacturing, huge herds of cattle for beef production and tourism attraction features that need to be tapped," said Mr Kachapin.

Governor Cleophas Lagat of Nandi said his county was determined to expand its tea, dairy, sugarcane and horticultural production capacity by working collaboratively with other members in getting high-end products instead of only producing raw materials.

Noreb Chairperson Jackson Mandago, who hosted the event, mentioned the unit would massively engage private sector players to facilitate formation of favourable regulations to allow small and medium entrepreneurs come on board.

"World-beating Kenyan athletes have positively branded the country in the global sphere, but we have not engaged them locally. We are setting up frameworks that will facilitate their input in wealth creation. Together with the human skills - from technical to graduate level - available, success is inevitable," he said.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie lauded Noreb counties for prioritising the harmonisation of trading policies, saying tariff barriers complicate investment processes.

"The national government is also keen to support such noble ideas and the Chamber of Commerce is vital because it fully embraces devolution.

"We are harmonising taxation and other regulations by signing bilateral agreements and protocols to expand the East African market to help make such blocs prosperous," Ms Kandie said.

East African Community Secretary General Richard Sezibera, who was the chief guest, lauded the establishment of a trade bloc and harmonisation of policies, citing bureaucracy as a major impediment to investment.

"The success of North Rift is also a success for the East African region and we are determined to support the initiative.

"Noreb will be strategic to the region because it is rich in resources and manpower," he explained.

Others present were Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro, Turkana Deputy Governor Peter Lokoel and Samburu Trade Executive Jonathan Leisen.


North Rift Economic Bloc (Noreb) devolution East African
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