Leaders should quit complaining about census results and make Western a hub of cities for future growth

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Director General Zachary Mwangi
Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Director General Zachary Mwangi

On 04/11/2019 the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), released the Ist Volume of the 2019 Population and Housing Census. The Report sets out the distribution of the enumerated population by sex, number of households, average household size, land area and population density as per the administrative boundaries.

According to the report, the County of Kakamega has a population of 1,867,579, Bungoma 1,670,570, Busia 893,681, Vihiga 590,013 and Trans Nzoia County at 990,341.  The five Counties therefore have a population of 6,012,184.

Different leaders countrywide are challenging the accuracy of the census.  As usual, the complaints are coming too late, when the horse has long left the stable.  Before the census, those making noise, mostly politicians, were preoccupied with other matters more mundane, selfish like how to extort the maximum per diems and other personal allowances.  They were nowhere to interrogate the methods, the questionnaire that the KNBS was going to use to capture the data and quality of manpower to do the exercise. They treated the exercise causally without evaluating its ramifications. Now they are wailing more than the bereaved Counties.

Yes, population is everything in present Kenya’s politics and economics (access to the opportunities for wealth making).  But who has stopped each MCA, each MP, each County from collating its areas population figures except for laziness, and a lack of vision? What is so difficult for them to accurately compile the number of people they govern? In this age of technology, millions of unemployed youth, an MCA, an MP etc can count the people in his ward or constituency and then challenge the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics’ figures. Empty rhetoric won’t do. KNBS will not repeat the exercise, this is not an election.

The next census will be in 10 years’ time in 2029.  As things stand, Kenyans will have to live with the results.  The elected leaders, the Senators, MPs, Governors, Members of County Assembly (MCAs) will have to contend with the reality that by them having failed to create robust economic opportunities in their respective Counties,  by having failed to work to establishing one or two cities in the Counties of the former Western Province (yes cities–are towns with a minimum of 500,000 people) since 2013 when devolution was inaugurated, the region continues to export a significant number of its young people, working force, people looking for work in big cities like Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret and by that default the regions’ people are helping swell the populations in Counties like Nairobi, Kiambu, Kajiado, Machokos, Nakuru as the home Counties record nominal population growth.

Make no mistake many people from Western are living in Nairobi, Nakuru, Kiambu, Kajiado, Machakos and the like.  When the national resources are distributed to those Counties, the dominant indigenous populations get all the benefits as those from other regions who have helped filled the population stats are ignored, except maybe Nairobi, which is a dominant metropolitan County.

So Western, as a region, continues to be on the losing side when it comes to the share of budgetary allocation and yet its people are boosting the rapid population growth in the Counties.

We have to rethink and rethink very hard the future of Western.  We must create cities in the region that will attract interests and keep us grounded, coupled with generating more opportunities for employment, wealth creation than rural or semi-rural economies.  It is a waste of time and foolishness to just complain about the census results without understanding the dynamics at play and how to divert the same to our advantage.  As things stand come 2029 our population will be boosting other Counties as we wallow in marginal, population growth. Globally, the future points towards cities, we must engineer and exponentially grow cities in Western or we are headed to even worse marginalization come 2029.