Picture courtesy: Makueni County makuenicounty.go.ke
The promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 was the beginning of the much-needed transformation in the country. The Constitution introduced, among other things, the devolved system of governance whose main aim was to bring services closer to the people. Kenya now has two levels of government: The National and the County governments. We have 47 county governments who draw their powers and responsibilities from the Constitution and other anchored laws like the County Governments Act 2012 and the Public Finance Management Act 2012. The operationalization of devolution was largely based on ensuring there would be equitable development in each of the regions. The Schedule 4 of the Constitution defines the functions of the two levels of government, and among the devolved functions are: agriculture, trade, development & regulations, and county public works- which includes water and sanitation.
Devolution presented an opportunity for business people to not only concentrate on developing business in the main cities but also opened up opportunity in the rural areas. As indicated, the devolved functions gave powers to the County governments to create trade and a healthy trading environment. Entrepreneurs need to be aware of the developments in governance and be keen to understand how they can benefit from such changes. Devolution is one of the developments in governance that entrepreneurs could benefit immensely from. Looking into devolution and, specifically, the devolved functions, there are opportunities enterprises both from KCIC and elsewhere could leverage on:
It is a fully devolved function. Since the inception of devolution, County Governments have put forth efforts and programs geared towards improvement of agriculture in the regions. Implementation of agricultural projects has been based on the strengths of the regions in regard to production. Muranga county has been in the books for the Muranga Milk processor, which was an avenue for value addition. The setting up of the processing plant has contributed significantly to the increased earnings from dairy farming in Muranga. The success of Muranga dairy farming has been attributed to the county being able to come in to buy milk at better prices and process the milk with the county. Besides processing, there are many opportunities the dairy farming value chain presents as the county works towards improving the level and quality of production. There are opportunities in provision of cooling facilities, improved fodder quality for the animals, and value addition for the meat, among others. Muranga is just one of the examples where there are opportunities devolution has presented and also showing that there is business in the counties.
Another ideal case would be mango processing in Makueni County. Post-harvest loss has been one of the challenges farmers have grappled with for decades, especially for seasonal fruits. Makueni County invested in a mango processing plant which buys mangoes from the residence, processes the mangoes, and sells to consumers. Makueni County is among the regions in Kenya defined as arid and semi-arid areas. There are fruits that thrive in the dry regions like Makueni, and mangoes are among them. From 2011 the County government of Makueni has been keen to improve the returns from mangoes. This has been done through value addition and also modernization of mango farming. The government has introduced improved seedlings to the farmers and encouraged them to increase the number of mango trees they have. The main objective is to improve the returns to the farmers, which they have done successfully. Makueni and Muranga are examples in agriculture projects that have been successful as a result of devolution. What this indicates is there are many opportunities in devolution, and it is possible to tap into the opportunities devolution is presenting.
Trade development and regulation
Another function of the devolved units is trade and development. The county governments are expected to raise local revenue and have thus been given a mandate to control trade. Entrepreneurs have an opportunity to lobby and influence the county governments to create a suitable environment in which they can operate. This could be done through looking into the businesses and the priorities of the county governments and proposing trade mechanisms that would be beneficial to the county and the the entrepreneurs. It calls for a collaborative relationship with the county government- one that allows the people to thrive in business while, at the same time, the county is able to raise local revenue. Some of the issues could be on taxes, which entrepreneurs should be working with the county government to ensure the taxes are progressive both for the taxpayers and the governments.
Ways to get involved with the county government
One of the most progressive policies introduced by the Constitution of Kenya 2010 is public participation. In the development of any policy or law, the government is required to seek the opinion of the people. An entrepreneur that is looking to develop a business in a given county has to be interested in the laws and policies. Send a memo or participate in the process of policy and regulation development. It is while engaging with the government that you can present issues beneficial to your business.
Get involved and interested
The devolved units have presented opportunities through forums to showcase your business. Each county government wants to be in the books as supporting innovation and entrepreneurship. Whenever there are opportunities during conferences like the Devolution Conference, engage with your county government to represent them as an innovation from the county. Opportunities such as the Devolution Conference allow you to associate your brand with people that could be instrumental in growing it. An endorsement from the county government is one that could even help to attract investors to your business. Another avenue to plug into the counties is through the Council of Governors (COG). The Council of Governors also has programs and committees that an entrepreneur should know about and get interested in the work they do. COG is the intersection point of the National and the County governments, which means involving yourself with the COG gives you an opportunity to not only have a space in the county government but also at the national government.
Devolution presents opportunities for those who run with it. We have to change with the times to ensure our businesses survive. The idea of having a business that is based at the capital is long gone. Ignoring the government is suicidal. They make the laws they can kill your business by just one law. Sitting at the table ensures you are heard, you know what is happening, and you jump onto the opportunities that present.
By Sarah Makena