Governors should have the region in mind

Going by the coverage he is getting in the local media, Governor Evans Kidero of Nairobi County is slowly becoming the face of governorship in Kenya’s newly devolved dispensation. But he and the other 46 governors should deliver, having the region in mind.
 Gitura Mwaura
Gitura Mwaura

Going by the coverage he is getting in the local media, Governor Evans Kidero of Nairobi County is slowly becoming the face of governorship in Kenya’s newly devolved dispensation. But he and the other 46 governors should deliver, having the region in mind.

I don’t recall whether he has visited Rwanda. I, however, would bet he has seen how the country has at times been held up as the yard-stick against which other countries in Africa have occasionally been challenged to measure themselves.

Take the high representation of women in governance, for instance; or the impressive economic growth—upwards of 7 per cent per annum. Take also, among others, the public health-care insurance scheme, mituelle de Santé, with over 90 per cent population coverage nationally.

Without delving into the efficacy or the pros and cons of the examples, of which there are several, what is key is appreciating the initiative the country is taking to have in place progressive policies, aiming to accomplish much for its people with comparatively little.

Note that Nairobi, contributing substantially to Kenya’s gross domestic product, is perhaps two or three times the size of the Rwandan economy.  And there lies Gov. Kidero’s challenge to deliver to the 3 million Nairobians. Rwanda’s population is just over 11 million.

The essence of devolution is to take services to the people, and especially enabling them make decisions and participate in all matters that affect their lives.

There are also obligations to the region. For instance, there are some concerns that the devolved units could hinder the free movement of goods and services across East Africa, as the new county governors are invested with the power to levy taxes on goods transiting through their counties.

Goods from Mombasa destined to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo have to traverse through many counties to get to get there. The implication of this is that decisions made by the counties will affect the flow of trade across the region.

Though some counties, such as Kajiado on the Kenya-Tanzania border and Busia on the Kenya-Uganda border, may have a more direct hand in determining how trade management between Kenya and the neighbours will be conducted, ultimately it will be upon the national government to ensure that  regional trade is conducted without any unnecessary hurdles.

Generally, this is how the county governments will work vis-à-vis the national government.

The national government will retain the overall role of policy formulation, international relations and providing national services. These will include education, security, foreign policy, and national economic policy and planning.

The governors with their respective county assemblies will be in charge of the new local administrations to oversee functions such as agriculture, health facilities, sanitation, transport and trade licences, among others.

Although the counties will get resources from the central government, which is pegged at a minimum of 15 per cent of the revenue generated every year, the governors will be expected to find sources of funds to run their programmes. They especially will be expected to make their counties economically viable.

The governors will therefore have to create a business environment that can attract both local and international investors, establish new businesses and create jobs.

The measure of their success will be on the ability of the devolved structure to stop the country’s widening inequalities across the counties as well as to fight poverty.

Success will also depend on laws and policies to be passed by the newly elected Senators. Laws on the operations of the 47 counties will determine if the benefits of devolution reach the grassroots.

The Senate will liaise between the national and county governments, of which each county will have a Senate representative. It thus will write legislations and policies that guide relations between the national government and county governments.

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