Inter-County Trade and Investment Project

In this interview Mary Muyonga Ochieng- Project Manager at SID (Kenya)- expounds more on a project she is currently running dubbed Regional County Forum on Trade and Investment in Western Kenya region to facilitate dialogue between three counties : Kisumu, Siaya and Busia on matters of trade and investment. The Project is funded by The Government of Canada through its Department of Foreign Trade and Development (DFTAD).

Background Information

Society for International Development (SID) Nairobi Office is implementing a project dubbed Regional County Forum on Trade and Investment in Western Kenya region to facilitate dialogue between three counties : Kisumu, Siaya and Busia on matters of trade and investment. The project has been generously funded by the Government of Canada through the Department of Foreign Trade and Investment (DFATD), under the Democratic Governance Fund (DGF).

The counties of Kisumu, Siaya and Busia are unique in the sense that they all lie on the Lake Victoria basin and share boundaries.  The main objective of the project is to catalyze the development of a regional trade and investment plan for the counties through identification of areas of synergy within the counties to spur economic trade and development.

Approaching investment from a regional perspective will allow the three counties to take advantage of economies of scale that arise when one combines their total populations, the availability of resources therein, and combined financial contributions from both the County governments and the local investors.

The project was organized around County trade and development forums providing the local citizens an opportunity to identify their priority areas for cross border trade with neighbouring counties. Meetings have been held in the three counties at Sub county levels with women groups, informal traders, community leaders, Members of Parliament, Members of the County Assemblies (sub national legislative forums) and County top leadership – the Governors and Deputy Governors.
The approach adopted by SID was a consultative multi-stakeholder engagement to ensure the needs of the local people and business community are reflected in the outputs proposed for the regional plan of action to promote trade within these counties.  Community members discussed the top priorities within the forums and later on joined their elected political leaders in the county priority setting meetings.

County Level Dialogues on Cross Border Trade

SID Nairobi Office convened county level dialogues in Siaya, Busia and Kisumu counties and collected a wealth of information on the challenges the local citizens felt the County governments should tackle, as the country moves to the tail end of the second year of devolution.

  • Some of the proposed priorities include:
  • Revamping of collapsed regional industries including the sugar, cotton, fish and general horticultural sectors within the three counties;
  • Rehabilitation of the poor state of roads and railway sector so as to promote trade and business travel.;
  • Maximum utilization of The Kisumu International Airport to spur trade and investment potential as it serves the entire Western Circuit including the three counties amongst others;
  • These are the issues that were escalated to the Inter county meetings, that were to bring together the three county stakeholders for a joint meeting.

Inter County Meetings

SID Nairobi adopted a rotational mechanism for the joint meetings between the three counties. The first regional meeting was held in June 2014 in Busia County at the border of Kenya and Uganda.

The meeting was graced by the presence of the Her Excellency the Deputy Governor of Kisumu County, Madam Ruth Odinga. In this meeting, the three counties agreed to work together and support the initiative to its full course.

Key proposals from the meeting include:

  • Development of a grain and cereal handling and processing plant and revamping the Cotton industry for Busia County – to serve the entire region;
  • Kisumu County proposed the development of a major Fish Handling plant that maximizes the entire value chain including fish by products processing and export;
  • Siaya County proposed the specialization in sorghum and cotton industries. 
  • Other investment options highlighted include the revamping of the Sugarcane sector, setting up a regional bank , developing legislation to govern the inter-county trade and lastly, development of lake transport system such as ferries to provide an alternate means of travel for the region.

In August 2014, the second regional meeting between the three counties was held, in Kisumu County. The meeting was graced by the presence of the three Deputy Governors namely H.E. Kizito Wangalwa (Busia County), Her Excellency Ruth Odinga Busia (Kisumu County) and H.E. Ouma Onyango (Siaya County). The leaders pledged their full support to the initiative and challenged their County Executive to put in the framework to make the initiative work.

The participants at the meeting included the County Executive Committee Members for Trade, Tourism, Enterprise Development, Agriculture, Infrastructure, Lands, amongst others. There were also the Chief Officers within the County Executive, and Members of the County Legislative Assemblies (MCAs) who are important for the legislative oversight on county government matters. Various business associations also attended the meeting including the County Level Chambers of Commerce and Industry; the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), the Business and Investment Associations, as well as key Technical Advisors to the Governors of the respective counties on matters of trade and investment. Women and Youth groups were also present at the meeting, as well as local civil society organizations working in the region. 

While the three county administrations are yet to sign a memorandum of understanding and establish a secretariat that will form the basis of their working together.

Way Forward:

An action plan has been established which includes resource mobilization based on each county’s competitive advantage and endowment with natural resources. These will be streamlined by legislation jointly developed by the county assemblies.

Interview by Maureen Bwisa

Read also: Busia, Kisumu, Siaya join hands to boost farming authored by Moses Odhiambo of Daily Nation; and Kisumu Busia, Siaya counties form regional economic bloc authored by Dennis Onyango of The Standard Newspaper.

Photo: Delegate's attending Second Regional Forum in Kisumu County.