North Rift counties sign accord to form economic bloc

By: DENNIS ODUNGA

Eight North Rift counties Tuesday launched the North Rift Economic Bloc. The bloc, they said, will harmonise taxation and legislation to woo investors.

The governors from Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Elgeyo-Marakwet, West Pokot, Baringo, Turkana and Samburu, said the move would also improve trade in the region.

They observed that emerging disparities amongst counties were posing major threats to trade and investment.

The leaders spoke at the Laico Regency in Nairobi where they signed the agreement that will actualise their cooperation.

Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago said they were committed to support business through harmonised legislation as opposed to cases where each county developed its own laws.

“This forum will give us an opportunity to look at trade policies and come up with a harmonised system of taxation to attract more investors,” said Mr Mandago, who is the forum’s interim chairman.

The governor said finance executives and members of the budget and appropriation committees from these counties will meet to agree on a harmonised way of doing business.

LEGAL FRAMEWORK

“We shall engage county assemblies to come up with a legal framework that will ensure our counties attract and retain both local and international investors,” Mr Mandago said.

The other governors who attended the function are Mr Simon Kachapin (West Pokot) Mr Josphat Nanok (Turkana), Mr Cleophas Lagat (Nandi) and Mr Benjamin Cheboi (Baringo).

Uasin Gishu Senator Isaac Melly and his nominated counterpart Zipporah Kittony were also present.

MPs Kangogo Bowen (Marakwet East), Jackson Kiptanui (Keiyo South) and Philip Rotino (Sigor) and West Pokot Woman Representative Regina Nyeris also attended.

Mr Mandago said the North Rift had a huge potential for tourism, including sports tourism, cultural diversity, agribusiness, minerals, and energy and appealed to investors to sample the many investment opportunities in the region.

Mr Cheboi said different legislation across counties were hurting trade.

ATTRACT MORE INVESTORS

He said the counties had a duty to create an enabling environment for the private sector to do business.

“This bloc is about working together to provide infrastructure to attract more investors,” Mr Cheboi said adding; “the private sector should be given an opportunity drive the economic agenda.”

County governments are not supposed to do business but to put in place appropriate infrastructure and common standards for business to thrive, he said.

The governors called for enhanced public-private sector partnerships saying such cooperation was critical to spur investment in the region which they said, had great investment options.

The leaders said they were already working together to end insecurity in some parts of the region which had scared away potential investors.

HIGH TOURISM POTENTIAL

Turkana Governor Josephat Nanok and Cleophas Lagat (Nandi) observed that there is high tourism potential in the region that remains untapped.

Mr Mandago also said the counties have partnered with the national government to tackle insecurity which has negatively affected the region.

However, Mr Mandago said that the few spontaneous cases of cattle rustling and banditry attacks in some parts of the region should not be used to demonise the region.

The governors also underscored the value of sharing natural resources such water across counties so as to improve service delivery.

Mr Kachapin said devolution had brought many opportunities to counties adding good coordination among the devolved units will enable them exploit the diverse opportunities in individual counties.

“Our counties have diverse potential that can be unlocked if leaders work together. There are many things taking place because of devolution,” Mr Kachapin said.