Western Counties need to be smart in their urbanization plans

Bungoma town
Bungoma town

The County Government of Bungoma is In the process of trying to create municipalities in Chwele centred on Chwele Market, Webuye on Webuye Town and Kimilili centred on Kimilili Town and has in the recent days been holding public meetings for public participation.

The urban Areas and Cities Act of 2011 delineates the legal statutory thresholds that an urban area must meet to be classified as a city. The population threshold of at least 250,000 residents according to the last population census is the first one. (2)The area must have an integrated urban area development plan. (3)It must have demonstrate capacity to generate sufficient revenue to sustain its operations. (4)It must have a demonstrable good system and records of management(s), have the capacity to effectively and efficiently deliver services to the resident as specified by the Act, (5) Must have institutionalized active participation by its residents in the management of its affairs, (6)Have infrastructural facilities including roads street lighting, markets, and fire station and (7)adequate capacity for disaster management and (8) have capacity functional and effective waste management.

At the moment the Counties of the former Western Province and Trans Nzoia have no city. It is only Governor Wycliffe Oparanya who has set a target to ensure Kakamega Town (urban area) meets the thresholds to be conferred city status by 2022.

The thresholds for a town to be eligible for the conferment of a Municipal status under the Urban Areas and Cities Act are the same as those of conferment of a city status except for the 1st threshold of population of residents that set at the minimum of 70,000 and maximum of 249,000. The challenge for the Counties of the former Western Province and neighbourng Trans Nzoia County is that the County governments have not come out to clearly explain the benefits and disadvantages or rather burdens of a municipality to the population across the region that is rural in orientation and mindset. The majority of the population of the region think, have the misconception that they can continue rural, agrarian practices in a municipality or a city. They want to farm, rear livestock, chicken, pigs, in cities and municipalities. They do not know that in cities and municipalities one has to pay “rates” for the land they own every year.

Because the Urban Centres that ought to qualify to be called urban areas have few people the Counties are extending boundaries of those urban areas to what are clearly rural agricultural areas to achieve the population thresholds but without telling the agricultural landholders that municipality status comes with benefits and burdens and the burdens are being hidden as the benefits are amplified.

West Media states that the Counties of the former Wester Province and Trans Nzoia County should aim at creating at least three cities in the region rather than many municipalities that will simply eat into agricultural land and bring no tangible benefits where those municipalities are simply glorified rural areas.

World over the economic dynamos, centres of rapid economic growth are cities, not municipalities. We need to get the urbanization model right, for example, setting up three cities with over 500,000 people and get them to be the drivers of the transformation of the region rather than dozens of municipalities.