The conventional view in Kenya has been that Garissa is Kenya's gateway to poverty. Well, what I'm about to tell you will most definitely induce some cognitive dissonance into your psyche.
Garissa has been genuinely a poor county. Many of its residents have not been in the good graces of Mother Nature and fate. Yet, midst this gloomy history is emerging a new Garissa. One that is setting the tone not just for NEP but for an entire republic.
When did Garissa become an economic blueprint for sucess? For anyone old enough to remember the 90s and before, the very adjective "Garissa" cries out penury and reliance on relief food.To some extent, this still rings true for many of our people who are now suffering under the debilitating effects of a once in a century drought. That said, Garissa has turned the tide in its favour...whether she will ride it to economic self sufficiency will rely on how we respond to the political landscape post 2012.
Figures released by "Kenya Open Data" shows that Garissa is one of the few counties in the country where less than one in two live below the poverty line. On volume and on average, Garissa is more prosperous than Baringo (former President Moi's constituency), Machakos , Kisumu, Kakamega and Uasin Gishu.
But this seems to make a contrast between Garissa and the less than vigorous economies of supposedly big cities in Western and Rift Valley. Also, these poverty rates are from 2005-2006 and do not reflect the cities boom years of 07, 08, 09 and 2010. Even though there are reliable figures available for the poverty rates post 2006, its obvious to even the casual observer or the sociological empiricist that our city has experienced tremendous growth.
There is no doubt the current drought is reversing some of our admirable gains but our improvement is none the less impressive. More-so when you can consider this was done without that help of a government or an aid group. In fact, it can be said the Government has been more of a hindrance than help.
Garissa proudly stands as a monument to self-empowerment. Our methods are the panacea to what ails this regressive country.
Our county government post 2012 should try to limit regulation and attract investment from Somalis in the diaspora. It should also work to make many of our unemployed youngsters get employed in the construction sector which has been taken over by labour imported from Ukambani.
I would say to whoever becomes the Governor of Garissa County; Go to Minneapolis, London, Toronto and Melbourne. Ask all Somalis in those places to come and invest in our county. The new Kenya will be ruled by those who invest early and invest smart.
Here is some of the raw data on Garissa:
Population of Dujis: 190,062
Population of Fafi: 95,212
Population of Ijara: 92,063
Population of Lagdera: 245,123
Percentage of Children between the ages of 6-17 attending school: 59.5
Number of Cattle: 266,878
Number of Goats: 1,000,856
Number of Camels: 101,548