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Lake region hungry for a new start as governors take office

I have closely followed the politics of the Lake Victoria region both before and after the elections.

I watched the suppressed anger when it became clear that President Uhuru Kenyatta was headed for a re-election.

I read the disappointment of the many voters who had hoped that Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga would win. I came to one conclusion.

POVERTY
The residents of the lake region, like their counterparts elsewhere, are hungry for a new beginning.

The cry over the election results was not just an expression of pain at Mr Odinga’s loss.

It was much deeper than that. It is about the region’s untapped potential.

It is about the growing poverty despite enviable resources and favourable soils and climatic conditions.

It is about the high maternal and child mortality rate.

It is also about the falling education standards, poor health care and the collapsing sugar industry.

RESOURCES
There is a reason why the presidency is so highly prized.

For 50 years, it has been associated with punishment and reward.

Regions seen to be anti-establishment were denied jobs and development projects.

Those that supported the President received a disproportionate share of State resources and got most of the jobs in the civil service.

DEVOLUTION

This is how the presidency became a matter of life and death, with many communities literally fighting to have their own in State House.

Interestingly, even with the adoption of the 2010 Constitution and the onset of county governments in 2013, the interest in the presidency has not diminished one bit.

Granted, the national government still retains most of the revenues raised nationally.

During the 2017/2018 financial year, county governments have been allocated Sh341 billion of the revenues raised nationally.

The county governments in the lake region have to stem the tide of discontent by unleashing the potential of the people and championing the principles of hard work, enterprise and innovation.

LEADERSHIP

Kisii, Nyamira, Homa Bay, Migori, Busia, Kisumu, Siaya, Vihiga and Kakamega are potentially rich counties.

They have raw materials and human resources.

They will very easily be the wealthiest counties, not just in Kenya but in East and Central Africa over the next 10 years.

But on one condition: the availability of extraordinary leadership.

With the exception of Kisumu and Vihiga, the other seven counties re-elected their governors.

Mistakes were made during the past five years.

CORRUPTION

The re-elected governors as well as the two new ones have an incredible opportunity to make a break with the past and turn their counties into economic and cultural giants.

Governors need to move from merely complaining and politicking to making a difference.

They must deal decisively with corruption. It takes away resources from the many it is meant for.

Make money through enterprise and innovation, not corruption. Hire qualified people only.

MERIT

There is a tendency to reward clan, campaign financiers, friends and old-school ties with jobs and tenders.

I say, unless they are qualified, find some other way to do so. Focus on low-hanging fruits.

Focus on two or three flagship projects and do them well.

Looking at this region, my priority list for resource allocation would be a) agriculture, b) fishing c) small and medium enterprises d) tourism e) access roads f) health care.

INVESTMENT
Through cooperatives, people in similar economic activities can work together to develop the value chain, identifying markets and negotiating better prices for their products.

The governors invest heavily in small and medium enterprises.

No region can develop without a strong entrepreneurial spirit.

Finally, fix Lake Victoria. It is a lifeline to many and can support an active water transport system and tourism besides fishing.

The hyacinth must be dealt with. Stop the inflow of raw sewage into the lake. Make those who pollute it pay heavily for it.

Mr Gori, a communications practitioner, is the chairman of the Kiserian and Ongata Rongai Residents Association. [email protected]

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