Devolution and Arid and Semi-Arid Areas Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa on Thursday joined senior United Nations, IGAD, and European Union officials in Lodwar during the launch of the Africa borderlands centre that aims at providing research, policy analysis and programming dedicated to Africa’s borderlands.
The centre which is an initiative led by UNDP seeks to improve the wellbeing of communities living along the borders by averting conflicts and improving their socio-economic status.
There are 270 million Africans living in borderland regions whose combined population is larger than any single state on the continent.
UNDP administrator Achim Steiner who addressed the forum virtually noted that people living along borders have suffered from underdevelopment, saying the borderland centre will help unlock the economic creativity of the communities living in these areas.
“The borderland communities face challenges like climate change and conflict. The centre will help the communities access basic services such as healthcare,” he said.
Wamalwa hailed the initiative adding the government is committed to improve the infrastructure and avail water especially in arid areas to address insecurity.
“The cross border peace initiative have begun producing dividends in Marsabit, Turkana and West Pokot counties where water projects have been launched,” he said.
He noted that water shortage was a main cause of conflict along the borders adding that the water projects have helped restore peace.
He cited a water reticulation project in Urum near the Kenya- Uganda border which will help reduce conflict over water. The project was birthed after President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni signed an MOU to promote peace in 2019.
Speaking at the same event, Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Regional director for Africa Ahunna Eziakonwa said the Africa borderlands centre will establish a new paradigm for borderland development, representing the most promising chance to achieve the 2030 agenda in Africa.
Eziakonwa who addressed the Lodwar meeting virtually said the UNDP will strive to elevate borderland communities, majority of whom are women and youth to increase their access to jobs and social protection, thereby supporting them through post covid19 socio-economic recovery.
IGAD Executive Secretary Dr Wokhneh Gebeyehu said trade is one of the best deterrents of conflict. “When goods do not cross borders, soldiers will,” Gebeyehu said.
He said the borderland centre is a critical addition to the ongoing efforts and initiatives in the IGAD region for a more inclusive approach that pulls borderlands to the center of policy and development.
“For us at IGAD and the communities we work with in cross border areas, we firmly believe that sustainable state building must fully and deliberately account for and accommodate borderland areas,” he said.
Female cross border traders constitute more than 75 percent of the trading population in Africa, according to UNDP. Meanwhile, Wamalwa said devolution has helped ensure a more equitable and developed country.
“Yesterday we marked a new threshold when we agreed to add more resources to counties and we have been able to double resources to counties from Sh 200 billion ten years ago to Sh 400 billion,” he said.
He dismissed those saying the Government would not deliver 35 percent allocation to counties as proposed by the building bridges initiative saying yesterday’s move has shown the government willingness and commitment.
by Peter Gitonga