DEATHBED?

Noreb falters as Sh200bn projects stall, pioneer bosses to exit

Regional economic bloc dormant, little to show after eight years, except Covid-19 cooperation

In Summary

• Eight governors had two years ago signed a fresh deal to save Noreb from collapse but since then no activities have been undertaken.

• The county bosses had also ago agreed on a six-point strategy to revive the bloc but so far non of the lined-up projects has taken off.

Governor Jackson Mandago, chairman of North Rift Regional Economic Bloc (Noreb).
MANDAGO: Governor Jackson Mandago, chairman of North Rift Regional Economic Bloc (Noreb).
Image: MATHEWS NDANYI

Is Noreb on its deathbed?

The North Rift Economic Bloc has been dormant more than eight years since its founding by the region's eight governors.

Projects and activities worth more than Sh200 billion have stalled and four of the eight founding governors are to exit after having served for two terms.

Politics, more than regional progress, is on their minds now.

Except for working together to enforce Covid-19 regulations, Noreb has no other known concrete achievement.

The exiting governors are Jackson Mandago of Uasin Gishu, who is the Noreb chairman; Josphat Nanok (vice chairman), Patrick Khaemba of Trans Nzoia and Moses Lenolkulal of Samburu.

Two years ago, the eight governors signed a fresh deal to save Noreb from collapse, but since then, no activities have been undertaken.

The county bosses had also agreed on a six-point strategy to revive the bloc but none of the lined-up projects has taken off.

The governors established a secretariat based at KVDA Plaza in Eldoret town to coordinate Noreb activities. 

Dominic Biwott was appointed acting CEO supported by staff seconded from the counties.

“We have our office at KVDA and [we're] operating very well to implement plans by our member counties," Biwott said.

The governors had planned to roll out programmes to strengthen the bloc with joint projects estimated to cost Sh200 billion. The projects were in the agriculture, energy, security, health and infrastructure sectors to promote growth.

Covid-19 caused some plans to collapse.

A Noreb summit also agreed county speakers would establish a forum for the assemblies to ensure representation and oversight of the bloc’s activities.

The governors had also promised a development blueprint aligned with President Uhuru Kenyatta's Big Four agenda.

They agreed to establish an Investment and Commercial Development Authority. It was to act as a legal entity to enter into agreements and partnerships with other agencies, such as regional development authorities.

County assemblies, however, have yet to pass enabling legislation and a framework for the operations of the economic bloc.

“We fully support Noreb but have a lot of work to do, even in legislation, to make it stronger,” Uasin Gishu Majority leader Josphat Lowoi said.

Some counties in the bloc, including Nandi and Trans Nzoia, have joined other groupings.

"Counties can operate through several regional blocs just as Kenya is a member of several groupings within and outside Africa," Nandi Governor Stephan Sang said.

The two counties joined the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB), which has been more active than Noreb.

Sang defended the move to join the Lake basin bloc, arguing his county has markets in that group for its products like milk.

(Edited by V. Graham)