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February 18, 2019

MACHEL WAIKENDA: Central Bloc: It’s a welcome idea


Once upon a time, there lived an honest cart driver. He had faith in God, and prayed every day. One day, his cart’s wheel got stuck in the mud.

He started praying loudly. “Oh God! Please help me.” God did not reply. The cart driver, looking at the sky, prayed even louder, “God, are not you listening? Please help me.”

God liked the cart driver a lot. He spoke to him and said, “Put your shoulder to wheels. Never pray to me until you have done your best to help yourself.”

The cart driver tried to take his cart out of mud. He succeeded.

There are many times that we seek help from outside when we have it in us to get solutions. Looking to others to sort out our issues often rarely helps us achieve our potential as we focus more on where we are seeking aid.

Every other day, governors cry out to the national government for help to grow their counties’ economies. Maybe it is time the county governments got out of the box and found a way to help themselves.

Last week, governors from Mt Kenya region met to discuss the creation of a Central Kenya economic bloc. Residents from the 10 counties that constitute Central Kenya have welcomed this news. One wonders why this had not been executed sooner.

The bloc’s blueprint focuses on economic transformation through agriculture and agri-business, industrialisation, healthcare, tourism, water and resource management, infrastructure and ICT.

There are many joint assets and programmes that can benefit with the goal to synergise productivity from the Mt Kenya counties. The idea of a joint railway line is commendable and should be executed immediately.

Mt Kenya region can feed the entire country as it has enough fertile land and favorable weather to grow most food crops. By working together, the counties can identify their strong points in food production.

This will also tie in with the creation of common markets, nationally and internationally, to sell the agricultural products. There will be no reason for each county to seek markets when they can all do it together and get more in return.

In the same strength, the counties can come together and jointly establish processing plants – a key component of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda on food security. They can thus negotiate with the national government as a bloc instead of each county trying to seek funding as a single unit.

There is no reason why millions of tonnes of coffee and tea should be transported all the way to Mombasa for auctions when coming together can mean processing and packaging within the region.

Some of the best milk in the country comes from Mt Kenya region. The counties can come together and set up state-of-the-art processing plants. The same should be done for fruits, which grow in plenty in the region.

Mt Kenya and the Aberdares are valuable assets. The mountains are a resource that the regional bloc can tap into jointly and ensure that tourism becomes a boon to residents.

Every year, tourists flock to Mombasa to enjoy the ocean and beaches but it is time for Mt Kenya region to market itself as a destination. Increase of tourists is possible by, for instance, forming a Mt Kenya Tourism Board with a clear mandate to market the region’s destinations.

These include the Thomson Falls, Sagana Rapid Falls, Thika Falls, The Treetops, ranches, national parks and conservancies such as Ol Pejeta. You cannot exhaust the list of attractions.

Focusing on growing the region’s economic pillars will help the bloc become self-reliant and this will aid other areas such as health, education and infrastructure.

Political and communications consultant


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