Revival of Kisumu city quite inspiring
The Kisumu county leadership yesterday put its best foot forward and hosted a successful Madaraka Day celebration.
The lakeside city was a beneficiary of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s decision to rotate the hosting of national holidays by counties.
The event put a shine to the city which is fighting to regain its footing after years of neglect.
It would be remembered that in the early days of independence Kisumu served as the intellectual hub of the Western Kenya region.
It was the host of robust debates by distinguished scholars from East Africa.
But the country’s third largest city, will in subsequent years suffer underdevelopment due to the political leanings of its leaders.
This is largely attributable to the old governance structures that centralised resources and decision-making on their distribution on the Presidency.
The system rendered public resources a form of benevolence by the sitting Head of State as reward for loyalty and political support.
That is why devolution is celebrated as among the key gains of the 2010 Constitution which created structures that have unlocked money to regions, regardless of their political leanings.
While some stories on devolution have not been particularly inspiring, a number of counties have used their allocations to initiate transformative programmes.
Indeed, events in Kisumu this week underline the need for the national government to support growth of other cities outside Nairobi.
Development of big towns in the regions will not only reduce migration to the capital by people seeking opportunities but will also create jobs and improve access to critical government services. In fact, it will considerably help to decongest Nairobi.
Besides, support of alternative growth centres will see regions unlock their potential and attract investment.
And this is possible because some counties have the benefit of primary infrastructure and ample land for expansion.
It is notable that Kisumu is intricately linked to neighbouring counties in western Kenya.
For a long time, the town has been a consumer economy which gets most of its produce from neighbouring Kisii, Vihiga, Nandi and Busia counties.
Even as it steadily fights to regain its glory, Kisumu remains a critical market for its neighbours who stand to benefit more if the city is steered to its potential.
And such can only be achieved by mutual cooperation between the leadership of counties and the national government.