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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Daily Nation: Garissa's Blueprint for Success; Livestock, Railway & Mideast Loans

Garissa’s future is based on three tightly interwoven strands — livestock, a railway and the prospect of Middle East loans.
To start with, an organised livestock economy is sure to bring in wealth.
It will be given a boost by the proposed Lamu-Juba railway line as a gateway to South Sudan and Ethiopia and the potential for exports that are sure to spur growth.
And then the Government’s decision to allow counties to negotiate for loans directly with foreign governments has enormous potential to create new roads, sewers and power lines for Garissa.
Both President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga overruled technocrats who had wanted to include a clause that would bar counties from sourcing money directly from overseas.
Those who, like Mr Kibaki, were there at Independence during the disastrous majimbo (federal system) experiment, know such a ban was one of the things which made it fail.
The law enacted then made it illegal for a jimbo to negotiate a loan without seeking a guarantee from the National Assembly.
The North Eastern jimbo was among those which suffered as Nairobi was suspicious of the Arabs fearing they and the Soviet Union would fund the Shifta rebellion.
But with Kenyans not wanting to be a part of chaotic Somalia, plus the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fear of a separate state is no longer there, and the counties will be free to negotiate their own loans as they see fit.
Here is how it will favour Garissa county and other Muslim counties in the North East.
They have good relations with all governments in the Middle East.
The tycoons of Garissa are in constant touch with their counterparts in the Arab states and they fly to the Middle East as frequently as Nairobians visit Mombasa.
Already, Saudi Arabia is funding a Sh900 million sewerage system in Garissa Town – an indication that even better things are on the way when the county is free to source its own loans from overseas.
Such a liberal law on borrowing is likely to make Garissa, Wajir and Mandera counties negotiate loans singly or jointly with the Arab world.
They would create infrastructure, build industries, and help to lobby for investors, thereby creating wealth.
The livestock economy is based on the huge numbers of cattle and camels that might help to transform the county.

Will the future technocrats embark on building the required abattoirs, tanneries and dairies, as well as wine and fruit processing plants, and an international airport for flying the products to markets?
Garissa is one of the rare counties where the old and the young are thinking in tandem, when it comes to the economy and administration of the county.
“The proposed railway and road from Lamu to Juba should have come yesterday,” said Defence Minister Yusuf Haji.
“The proposed gateway to Sudan is an appetising prospect and we can’t wait,” he said. “It will transform us into an overnight producing and exporting county.”
Mr Haji’s excitement is shared by Gen (Rtd) Mahmud Mohamed, who believes the county must have a firm foundation with proper leaders who should think outside the box.
“We have every necessary resource in the county; we the old people should provide advice, and the youth should establish firm administrative systems to propel Garissa to a new age,” he said.
The proposed Garissa international airport will have the twin purpose of exporting cargo as well as taking commercial passenger flights.
Garissa Mayor Ismail Mohamed Garat is among the youthful leaders who are thinking of a rich future.
Mr Garat, 34, said: “We want to brand Garissa as the home of livestock where everything from a cow and camel will be exported from.”
Already, the Government is building a Kenya Meat Commission abattoir in Garissa that will handle local livestock instead of having to drive them all the way to Athi River.
Plans are underway to build a tannery to process hides and skins.

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