East African Community, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands Regional Development Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Miano Thursday urged stakeholders from the public, private and development sectors to zero in on practical solutions with transformative impact alongside those that hold the greatest promise for job creation for the youth.
She noted that on its part, the Government will continue improving the investment environment for accelerated prosperity of the ASALs which includes reviewing existing laws and regulations as well as practices that hinder ease of doing business for private sector players and public-private sector partnerships.
Speaking during a one-day conference hosted by USAID Kuza and partners, themed “Why Northern Kenya, Why Now?” that was discussing status and opportunities for investment in the Northern region, the CS said the region is endowed with unparalleled natural resources but is caught in a cycle of underdevelopment.
“Northern Kenya is endowed with big rivers but has constant water shortage and no water for irrigation. It is home to some of the country’s most substantial river systems, including the Tana, Ewaso Ng’iro, and Turkwel rivers. However, despite these many rivers, the region faces severe water shortage.
The government is working towards enabling the people to have water supply throughout the year.
The CS further said the region has vast resources for green renewable energy but inadequate electricity connection due to insufficient investments in energy infrastructure leaving the residents disconnected from the very renewable energy sources that could drive development and improve their quality of life.
“To resolve the region, economic marginalization, agriculture, tourism, and natural resource extraction are avenues that should be exploited. Northern Kenya has a lot of untapped potential. The area has many resources that are yet to be explored. Arid and semi-arid regions have a lot to offer despite the climate,” Miano said.
During the meeting, Financiers and investors pledged their support for impact investments aimed at contributing to sustainable development of the Northern region
Over USD14 million has been disbursed to over 9000 small and micro enterprises in the Northern Kenya region through the Impact for Northern Kenya Fund targeting various sectors such as agriculture, livestock, energy, climate and tourism.
The Fund, an impact investment wholesale financing to financial institutions for on-lending to micro, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) under the USAID Kuza project has seen the creation of over 16,500 jobs in the arid and semi-arid counties of Garissa, Isiolo, Lamu, Mandera, Marsabit, Samburu, Tana River, Turkana, Wajir and West Pokot.
USAID Kuza, Chief of Party, Wyanie Bright hand this to say: “The missing middle, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) struggle to access appropriate financing to support their growth and development. By addressing the financing needs of the missing middle, stakeholders can empower SMEs in Northern Kenya to grow, innovate, and create jobs, ultimately driving economic development and social progress in the region’s growth and sustainable development of the region.
While there is a concerted effort by the government, the development sector, and the private sector to grow the number of enterprises operating in Northern Kenya, there is a need to match their demand for financing through financing the financiers. 59 percent of the lending has been to women-owned enterprises and women groups,” she added.
Other discussions delved around efforts in greening the north, considering the vital connection between environmental factors and the agricultural sector in Northern Kenya, as well as sustainable job creation in counties where the dominant economic activity is pastoralism providing between 90 percent of jobs and 95 percent of household income.
The region also boasts a diverse range of landscapes, wildlife, and cultural heritage, which offer significant potential for tourism development and the stakeholders discussed ways of promoting a thriving tourism industry to create jobs, preserve local culture, and contribute to sustainable development.
The 2023 Northern Kenya Impact Investment Conference was supported by USAID Feed the Future, ACDI/VOCA, USAID Kuza, USAID Livestock Market Systems, AV Ventures, Impact for Northern Kenya Fund, GIZ, KCB Foundation, East Africa Seed, Middle East Bank, Kenya Union of Savings and Credit Co-Operatives Ltd. (KUSCCO) and Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC).
Other supporters are Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC), Solargen Technologies Ltd., County Government of West Pokot, WePesa SACCO, Lelan Farmers SACCO, Fadhili Micro Enterprise Ltd., Incredo Access Solutions Ltd., First Capital Ltd and Smart Regional Consultants.
By Wangari Ndirangu