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Counties given 3 months to enforce economic bloc

Fourteen counties forming the Lake Region Economic Bloc have three months to ratify the formation of the trade and development outfit, its summit has said.

Following inauguration of the alliance by 14 governors in the larger Western region on Monday, the county assemblies are required to enact the formation of the bloc geared at integration, resource pooling and sharing as well as attracting investment.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya who chairs the bloc said they agreed that once the bill is passed in six counties (a third), the others will automatically be bound.

“We want to move fast to materialise the flagship projects but we know some county assemblies may be slow in passing the bill,” Oparanya said during a familiarisation tour of the bloc’s head office at Prosperity House in Kisumu.

Oparanya said the counties also have two years to raise Sh200 million each in capital shares towards starting a regional bank to help drive the bloc’s development agenda. He said the devolved units had been asked to factor the funds into their budgets so as not to derail ambitions and schedules of the bloc.

The governor said however that once Sh1 billion has been contributed into the special Central Bank of Kenya account, the bloc would proceed to buy shares from one of the four banks with which they are negotiating.

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“We have set August as the target for the first Sh1 billion and encouraged counties to put in what they can for now so that we can set off; we are behind schedule,” he said.

The bloc is seeking a Sh2.6 billion share capital which is the base capital reserve required to start a bank.

He said the bank would help supplement the Treasury remittance to the counties which often delays and is inadequate. To fast-track their development agenda, the counties have engaged former Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Chief Executive Officer Martin Oduor-Otieno as chief consultant for the initiative.

Oparanya said the World Bank, the United Nations, the US, the US and Lapfund were some of the partners that had already shown interest in collaborating with the counties to transform the region’s economy.

The initiatives to be implemented by the bloc include upgrade of airstrips in all the counties, establishment of a fruit processing plant and construction of a ring road to connect the counties.

Head of the secretariat Abala Wanga said the bloc has partnered with the Lake Basin Development Authority to help it roll out economic plans.

The authority had developed a masterplan to help spur growth in the region, but it had not been adopted.

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