A 2016 Habitat seminal report dubbed, “Regional Development Authorities Engagement Framework for Kenya: Towards a New Regional Planning Model” outlines a raft of ideas worth a second look. This eye-opening publication contains propositions from which we can glean progressive ideas that could guide the re-engineering of these authorities. That regional authorities traverse county and other administrative jurisdictions and ate guided by crosscutting mandate means that they are well placed to oversee integrated socio-economic development from a bird’s eye view.

For the record, Kenya has a total of six regional development authorities. They are, Tana and Athi Rivers Development Authority (TARDA), Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA), Lake Basin Development Authority (LBDA), Ewaso Ng’iro South Development Authority (ENSDA), Ewaso Ng’iro North Development Authority (ENNDA) and Coast Development Authority (DCA). These six authorities virtually cover every inch of Kenya. Each of them traverses vast spaces that portend numerous socio-economic benefits that, in turn, hold the key to enormous fortunes for local residents and indeed all Kenyans.

Coincidentally, Kenya’s regional authorities are home to the greater share of the land mass designated as Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs), making it easier for the docket I am responsible for to design joint programmes.

Counties, as distinct devolved units are mandated to act upon issues restricted to their dominions. However, many social and economic interventions that neighbouring counties seek to fulfill are oftentimes one and the same. Therefore, outfits such as regional authorities are strategic in that they can prioritise universal opportunities and tackle bottlenecks that hinder the achievement of common goals. In this respect, there is need to evolve a fresh and dynamic working relationship between my ministry and the Council of Governors (CoG) for the pursuit of mutual benefits.

In my opinion, four areas of collaboration flagged in the Habitat report quoted above hold the key to a brighter future and more productive regional authorities. One is systematic sharing of knowledge and experiences, which would aid the process of identifying feasible pathways of implementing endeavours of shared interests. With concerted efforts among counties that fall under one sphere served by a single regional authority, a more vibrant cross-pollination of ideas will become possible. Sharing ideas will bolster the quality and impact of desired outcomes in an array of convergences.

Secondly, leveraging on the benefits of joint capacity building to multiply the gains possible from convergent ventures and efforts. Once counties under one regional authority are appropriately enabled they will read from the same script on several areas of common interest. Capacity building for various joint undertakings across counties would ease cross-border implementation of entwined mandates besides enhancing conformity of purpose among them. Moreover, this would cut costs when accomplished collectively as opposed to the far more costly and time-consuming silo approach.

Thirdly, we stand to expand the range of benefits possible exponentially in a combined deployment of technical assistance and advisory services to regional authorities. Enhancing the technical know-how and crafting an advisory regimen from a combined effort will strengthen collaboration and bring unity of purpose to many areas of collaborative programming. The outcomes from such a concerted approach will ultimately manifest in the multiplication of rewards possible from working in concert.

Fourthly, it is easier to secure financial support and related linkages from funding institutions when counties collaborate under one orb buoyed by conjoined objectives. This is possible through regional authorities since their mandate allows them to crisscross devolved or semi-autonomous enclaves. Again, with a regional authority becoming a brooding point with a number of devolved domains under its wings, we can go for bigger ventures that would benefit from economies of scale. This would happen with more expansive hinterlands capable of, say, supplying more raw materials. Such a move can enable the government’s resolve to make manufacturing and value addition a bigger significant contributor to our national GDP.

Ewaso Ng’iro South Development Authority is already engaged in leather processing enterprise that can grow in leaps and bounds if the counties under its realm are empowered to direct their hides and skins to a single a more efficient and well equipped factory running on modern technology. The same goes for Kerio Valley Development Authority with regard to the production of organic honey and other possible high value derivatives from apiculture.

To maximize outcomes from the four areas outlined above, it would help to forge a common approach to publicity and marketing efforts as proposed in the Habitat report in reference for the entire range of products from Kenya’s six regional authorities.

There certainly will be a more rewarding future in a well-coordinated collaboration between my ministry and the Council of Governors.

Rebecca Miano is the cabinet secretary for the East African Community, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development.