October 24, 2020

Time to Rethink Shared Prosperity in Kenya

Khamisi Mwaguya. Image: (Courtesy)

By KHAMIS MWAGUYA

(Advisor on urban planning and development-Mombasa County)

A number of weeks ago, during the “flagging off” of the maiden shipment of the Turkana Oil to the world market at the Port of Mombasa leaders who stood to speak told President Uhuru Kenyatta to retain a piece of the goat (oil) in their counties as a way of acknowledging their communities as custodians of the inherited natural resources.

The Turkana County deputy governor, who was representing Governor Josphat Nanok, started off by saying that in their tradition, when one gives out a goat to be slaughtered for meat, he or she usually retains the leg and eats it with their family. 

West Pokot Governor Prof Lonyangapuo asked the President for goat ribs, since the oil reserve spreads into the county which is about to be drilled soon.

This drew a huge laughter from the President and the crowd as the jolly professor went on to explain how peace in the region is important in harnessing the opportunities that come with the oil resource. 

These sentiments were echoed by Governor Salim Mvurya (Kwale) whose County is endowed with abundant minerals that, his people, as the custodians of this inherited natural resource deserve the liver of the goat.

Governor Hassan Joho (Mombasa) talked of retaining a piece of the goat’s neck and even went ahead to urge the President to look at setting up a petro-chemical industry in Mombasa.

Just before this the Taita-Taveta Governor Granton Samboja had requested for a share of the goat that is Tsavo National Game Parks and Reserves.

This conversation though deemed trivial and selfish speaks to the hearts of the communities that host these natural resources.

GOD GIVEN

The attachment of the communities to their “God given” natural resources cannot be gainsaid and discussions of whom and how the benefits are shared is usually an emotive subject.

So, when the President stood to speak and respond, the anxious guests went silent as he told the leaders that there are close to 50 million people and he would wish that the goat be cut into smaller pieces so that all Kenyans can get a share of the national cake. Well, for all intents and purpose, the President made a lot of sense but in reality, no Kenyan will ever get to the smell of this goat, leave alone the taste.

The shared prosperity discourse ought to be open, honest and inclusive. The fact of the matter is that Turkana, Kwale, Taita-Taveta, Narok and Mombasa residents deserve a slightly bigger potion of “their goats”.

President Uhuru Kenyatta. Image: (Courtesy)

When communities see and feel the benefits of their natural resources, there shall be inclusive prosperity and ownership.

The people will protect and contribute immensely to the fattening of “their goats” knowing very well that at dinner time, they shall have something to eat on their plates.

CONSTITUTION 

Article 174 (g) of the Constitution states that the object of devolution inter alia is to ensure EQUITABLE sharing of national and local resources throughout Kenya.

Equity has been captured under Article 10 (2) (b) among other national values and principles of government. The resources in question are natural and therefore fall under the aegis of the National Government.

It is therefore the duty of the State to ensure (proactively) proper management of natural resources and ensure the EQUITABLE sharing of the accruing benefits as per Article 69 (1) (a).

Besides, the state is mandated to create (encourage) avenues for public participation in the management, conservation and protection of natural resources as per Article 69(1) (d).

The relations between national and county governments are governed by the Intergovernmental Relations Act. One of the objects of the Intergovernmental structure is facilitating co-operation and consultation between both governments as per Section 5(b).

This Act establishes the Summit and enumerates its functions under Section 8 as amongst others consultation and co-operation of both levels of government and promotion of national values and principles of government – Article 10.

As such, this request by members of the Council of Governors to the Chair of the Summit who is the President should be seized off by the joint Committee on Devolution as established by Section 23 (a) of the Intergovernmental Relations Act.

The Joint Committee should hold public participation fora in the affected counties and draft a report.

This report should be presented to the Council of Governors for debate after which it shall be tabled before the summit for discussion.

Depending on the final decision from the report, there will be an agreement to be signed as per Section 26 of this Act that shall stipulate the terms of shared competencies regarding the sharing, preservation and protection of these resources.

The agreement must establish a forum for dispute resolution.

As such, this can be a proper avenue by the county governments to generate their own revenue streams as provided under Article 175 (b) and reduce dependency on the Exchequer.

Shared prosperity is a function of shared responsibility and productivity. The county and national governments have a mutual and interdependent responsibility to grow and fatten “the goats”.

Empirically, the prosperity of our nation is an amalgamation of the prosperity of our counties.

Subsequently, when Kisumu, Kisii, Nyeri and Lamu Counties prosper, it is the country that prospers.

So, if Turkana remains with the leg of the goat, at least we can all point out to the people of Turkana and ask “you stayed with the leg what did you do with it?”

The same can be asked of all the other counties in Kenya because each one of them has rich potential and key comparative advantages in harnessing these natural resources. 

The essence of devolution is to devolve economic power and resources to the counties.

DEVOLUTION

As a nation, Kenya has never been deliberate in developing counties as hubs for economic transformation instead the counties are viewed as centers for consumption. The wisdom behind the creation of counties was to improve and enhance productivity at the grassroots level and for this to happen there has to be coherence and coordination in the running of our country.

The two spheres of government that’s the county and the national must be in consistent consultation and communication as provided for by the intergovernmental coordination’s Act and our constitution.

The Asian ‘tigers’ were economically at par with their African counterparts some decades ago, but have since managed to pull their nations out of abject and vicious POVERTY. Africa and more specifically Kenya demonstrate a lack in the sense of urgency and unity of purpose to consistently execute socio-economic development programs.

This sad state of affairs can largely be attributed to the growing disconnect between the two arms of governments that have deviated from the original intent and design of devolution.

Treasury Briefcase. Image: (Courtesy)

By allowing counties to retain a percentage of what is perceived as natural resources, Kenya can create real growth hubs across the country.

The retainer can be used to dedicatedly build supporting infrastructure and quality social amenities to create more value from these natural resources.

Counties can transform into hubs that offer high quality of life and living standards thus attracting more talent and investments.

It is therefore time to rethink the principle of shared prosperity, it’s time to break and further demystify Government at the National level.

We must all realize that the national level is made up of all counties. It is time to allow Kwale to have its liver, Mombasa to retain its neck and Turkana to remain with its leg so that these parts of Kenya can create sustainable and conducive environments to produce more goats.

Let’s apply the 80/20 Principle and watch our nation prosper.

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