Strong local governance plays a critical role in human development. Devolving power from the central government to the sub-national units enables women and men to participate in decision-making directly, and to hold local officials and institutions accountable to the communities and individuals they are meant to serve. Local governments can be more responsive to local needs, make better use of resources and direct them towards providing basic social services and building appropriate sustainable local economic development regulatory framework. County governments strategically contribute in various ways to an enabling environment for pro-poor economic growth.

One of our partners in Kenya, the International Center for Policy and Conflict (ICPC), works on strengthening the devolution policy and devolution of functions to county governments (both inter and intra county) and addressing gender-responsive, inclusive growth through promoting investment in pro-poor economic activities, and make critical public-private partnership dialogue and investments in counties to exploit the potential of important productive sectors and value chains. County governments play a role in fostering effective and efficient registration and licenses, creating a predictable and reliable environment for business, preferring procurement of local services (including through AGPO – Access to Government Procurement Opportunities – which has been set up to provide at least 30% of the contracts to the youth, women and persons with disability without competition from established firms), fostering investments in physical infrastructure, and collection and use of taxes and levies in transparency manner. Use their land use planning strategically to attract new business investment and can use a wide variety of other measures to stimulate additional investment by existing businesses and new business start-ups by local people and to attract new sources of business investment.

Devolution in Kenya is the pillar of the Constitution that sought to bring Government closer to the people. The County Government acts as the center for dispersing political power and economic resources to Kenyans at the grassroots. Devolution is advocated as a political response to the ills plaguing fragile and plural societies, such as conflicts, inequalities, rent seeking, economic stagnation, corruption and inefficient use of public resources (Institute of Economic Affairs, 2010). Consequently, devolution was advocated in Kenya as an alternative to address the administrative inefficiencies, corruption and misuse of public resources that have characterized centralized Government (Barret et al, 2007).

Devolution has been seen as a transfer of challenges experienced at the central system of government; corruption, misappropriation of funds, policy systems, and poor socio-economical and political will among others. Key challenges for investors are Kenya’s consistently low rankings on international measures of the ease of doing business and corruption. Kenya also faces a rising threat of insecurity from terrorism and crime. Corruption has increasingly become a major impediment to attracting investments in Kenya, and also impacts negatively on ability to carry out efficient business.

Our partner works with various players in counties to organize and engage with the respective governments at the county level and to bring in the required policy, laws and regulatory reforms, in devolved government to facilitate growth of business and strengthen private sector. Six different pillars as a methodology principle of implementation are applied: economic governance, locality development, enterprise development, social and community development, training and capacity development and technology, and with primary feature to bridge issues and bring together resources in a productive way from within and outside the counties to address challenges and promote local economic growth in a systematic and organized manner.

The policy advocacy strategy is an attempt to engage the champions of trade in each county who can possibly unite with common goals a long county newly emerging block and move the county governments and regional institutions favoring more intra-county trade towards peace and prosperity in the region which is the biggest national player in nation trade and investment.

The overall focus is to support the implementation of the national policy on devolution, through negotiations with all stakeholders to establish a national implementation strategy for the policy, and an action plan to guide this work aiming to provide strategic guidance to local economic development functions at the county government level and establish a mechanism through which Local Economic Development (LED) investments can take place through budget support.

To achieve impacts on county government engagement and advocacy for open trade and economy at the county level of government 2 questions are addressed:

  1. WHAT can county government best do to contribute to an enabling environment for pro-poor gender-responsive economic development?
  2. HOW can county government best contribute to an improved enabling environment for sustainable economic development?

Institutionalization of LED as a framework through which the public, business and non-government sectors work together to strengthen local economies at county level  in order to achieve rapid, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, create decent jobs and improve the quality of life for all with the below key objectives:

  • To strengthen the economic governance of counties through improved business regulatory frameworks for coordinated functional and fiscal decentralization based on constitutional local self-governance;
  • To improve county government accountability, inclusivity and management capacity to effectively, efficiently plan for and manage local governments’ service delivery and local economic development that corresponds to evolving decentralized authorities and responsibilities and;
  • To strengthen the capacity of county governments to engage more effectively with the private sector to develop and implement economic policies, programs and a long-term sustainable economic development strategy that catalyze a transition and encourage more competitive economy.