Kenya recently concluded its first general election with county governments in existence. Previously, when the national government was centralized, it was only through political lobbying that an area got developed.
Inequitable distribution of resources meant that some areas, mostly backyards communities of the ruling party, were prioritized claiming a huge chunk of development programs and carrying most investors with it.
The 2010 constitution introduced to us 47 county governments with a grand idea of bringing services closer to the people.
The county governments became in charge of overseeing functions such as provision of health care, pre-primary education and maintenance of local roads.
The primary objective of devolution was to delegate power, transfer resources and provide extensive representation down to the local level.
This translated to great expectations in the heart and minds of Kenyans to cure regional inequalities that were a result of past social injustices.
The promise of faster development and access to basic amenities and services rests squarely on the shoulders of the governors.
We have already seen various flagship projects being launched all with the aim of improving the living conditions of county residents.
However, there are key areas that should be of the utmost priority to any governor in order to ensure high standards of living and equally high quality of life in their area.
These are the irreducible minimums that county bosses should be held accountable for and they mostly revolve around sustainability and accessibility of basic services.
A large percentage of residents in emerging market cities live in slums. This is a direct consequence of a faster growth rate in urban populations than can be absorbed and managed, causing demands on services and infrastructure that massively outstrip supply.
Escalating land prices and the capital intensive nature of the housing sector has made owning a house an elusive dream for low income earners.
Education And Health Infrastructure
Most of our learning institutions were used as polling stations during the August Polls and as Kenyans queued waiting to cast their votes, they couldn’t help noticing and raising the alarm over the deplorable learning conditions that students are subjected to. The loos were unsanitary and most classrooms were in bad shape.
Then came the school fires that exposed the overpopulated dorms that serves as accommodation to the boarders.
The fires brought to the fore the urgent need for the Government and parents to ask themselves how safe Kenya’s educational institutions, especially boarding schools, are. Most schools lack basic needs such as accessibility, durability, functionality, safety and sanitation.
As education is not a fully devolved function, county governments need to work hand in hand with the ministry of education to ensure education sector policies are adhered to to the latter.
Plans should always select a safe site for a school, adhere to building codes and performance standards and ensure buildings are designed to withstand disasters.
Above all, school buildings that include dormitories and classrooms should have adequate escape routes, such as wide doors and windows that can be opened easily.
This will go a long way in promoting the physical and emotional health of students as well as teachers.
Achieving inclusivity and equitable growth for various regions will be achieved only by investing in a road network and public transit system that caters for the masses. History is ripe with many towns that started off as headquarters of the rail network.
This just proves that whenever we build infrastructure, investors will indeed follow. Strong planning and funding should be geared towards sustainable transport system that is universal, efficient, safe and at the same time capable of connecting residents to job markets and social services.
Noting that transport accounts for about 64 percent of global oil consumption, out of the box initiatives that focus on reducing loses arising from costly, high-carbon transport systems based on private motor vehicles should be considered.
This may be as simple as providing ample walking and cycling options, encouraging and investing in public transit with an aim of reducing use of private vehicles.
You’d be surprised at how the traffic menace solves itself when such initiatives are implemented.