The Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) has come up with ten areas it intends to work on in a bid to lift the fourteen member Counties. The LREB chairperson and Kakamega County Governor Wycliffe Oparanya said this during his address to the Busia county assembly on Thursday. Oparanya who was accompanied by his Kisumu counterpart Prof. Peter Anyang Nyong, Governor James Ongwae of Kisii County and Governor Sospeter Ojaamong of Busia, named the revival of the sugar industry, maritime transport in Lake Victoria, promotion of ecotourism among others as key areas they will major on,
“2.5 million people are impacted by the sugar cane farming. We managed to draw the national government’s attention towards the issues affecting the sector and part of the achievement from that effort is the partial payment of sugarcane farmers by the national government. We have a lot to do in improving agriculture in this region,” he said, “We are also working as a block to combat climate change, which is now becoming a reality, through the restoration of catchment areas including the Mau forest.”
Oparanya hinted that they will work with the private sector to promote trade and create employment for women, youth and disabled, noting that the bloc has the potential of transforming the lives of its people, “If we can work together as bloc I can assure you this region will change completely in the next ten years.”
Prof. Nyong on his part stressed the importance and urgency of restoring the collapsed maritime transport in Lake Victoria, while hailing the ongoing efforts by the national government towards that course, “First we have to remove the silt one hundred meters wide and sixty-five kilometres long towards Mbita so that big vessels can be able to land at Kisumu Gulf. Secondly is the removal of water hyacinth from the lake which has hindered free movement and as we are talking right now bigger machines have been brought to clear the weed and that will pave way for the restoration of maritime transport in the Lake.”
Governor Ojaamong noted that Busia county stands to benefit more from the bloc which will provide a platform to address issues that have been affecting it negatively occasioned by its geographical location at the Kenya-Uganda border,
“Busia County is mostly affected negatively by treaties the president signs especially those that touch on the East African community. There is unfair competition along the border where you find most commodities are cheaper in Busia-Uganda than in Busia-Kenya thus creating a trade imbalance. But when it comes to services, most Ugandans cross over to Kenya to get services such as medication yet they are not factored in our budget. And it has always been hard for our voice to be heard by the national government but now because we are in this block, we shall be able to raise the concerns and get solutions.”
Six County assemblies including Busia have already passed a bill to ratify the bloc making it a legal entity whose other flagship project is to set up a regional bank that will provide financial services including loans to member Counties.