• Wants to change the narrative that arid and pastoral areas are only consumers, not contributors
• Proposes several economic initiatives to turn around the economy
Isiolo Governor Mohammed Kuti has urged investors to explore the huge potential in the county as he seeks to reverse the tag of non-productivity.
Kuti wants to change the narrative that arid and pastoral areas are only consumers of the national and county wealth, not contributors.
The county chief said the proximity of the fast-growing town to the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) has influenced a new focus for investment. Others are the Isiolo-Marsabit-Moyale highway and the newly built Isiolo International Airport.
Isiolo, located at the edge of Meru, is the epicentre of the multi-billion-shilling effort to open up northern Kenya, landlocked Ethiopia and South Sudan.
The governor has proposed several economic initiatives to turn around the economy of the county and transform dry areas into productive entities.
These initiatives will help to close the development gap between Isiolo and the rest of the country, protect and promote pastoralism and livestock keeping, and ensure food security.
Kuti said the county government has gone beyond the meagre resources it receives from the exchequer by promoting a vibrant market in tourism, livestock, fisheries and trade. The devolved unit has huge potential in the livestock industry. It attracts traders from Nairobi, Nyeri and Nanyuki who buy camels, cattle and goats.
Modern buildings are coming up in Isiolo town, which recently attained municipal status. There is a board tasked with streamlining operations in the town, conduct spatial planning, boost trade and adequately deal with waste.
An ultra-modern market is also under construction and is expected to benefit thousands of small-scale traders.
The facility is yet to be officially commissioned. It will host an open-air market for fresh agricultural produce, cereals, textiles, stalls for small-scale businesses and a parking bay.
On completion, the market will accommodate 5,000 traders.
Another key investment would be in livestock production, which will create 400,000 jobs once the arid and semi-arid areas are linked to the growing meat-deficit areas. Arid and semi-arid areas comprise 70 per cent of the country’s livestock.
The market will also offer farmers and traders a ready market as demand for commodities soars because of increased population.
Additionally, the county intends to diversify livelihood and reduce over-reliance on livestock. There is a growing interest in production and marketing of natural resources such as renewable energy from solar and wind.
The Kuti-led administration has said that opening up the north, through Isiolo, will generate more demand for Kenyan goods and services.
The governor said his regime will supplement the financing of development projects in ASALs, which also includes the national government, development partners, private sector and the civil society.
The devolved government also targets to raise local revenue by more than 50 per cent to receive increased funding and a reward from the Commission of Revenue Authority (CRA) under the new criteria of distributing tax revenue among the 47 counties.
This will be achieved through sealing all revenue collection loopholes, increasing revenue channels and effectively monitoring revenue collection to achieve the Sh150 million target.
The rapid growth has been attributed to good investment environment through installation of street lights and Cabro pavements in Isiolo town.
Licensing and issuance of business permits have been fast-tracked through an integrated system.
So far, the county has set up about 10 livestock markets in partnership with USAID. Livestock contributes to 80 per cent of the region’s economic base.
To enhance entrepreneurial capacity, the devolved government has trained youth's and women's groups on business development and management.
The trade department has seven new saccos which link women and youths to financial institutions.
The administration's other development agenda is the expansion and securing of existing markets.