Why urban counties deserve additional funding

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020 00:00 |
An apartment block under construction near Nyali bridge, Mombasa. Photo/BONFACE MSANGI


The growth of urbanisation brought about by devolution has necessitated a re-look into how urban counties should be funded to cope with increased demand for essential services.

Challenges facing Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru and Uasin Gishu counties are large and complex, requiring a major shift in approach to funding.

To put this into perspective, the UN predicts that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, posing unique infrastructural challenges for African and Asian countries, where 90 per cent  of the growth is predicted to take place. 

The urban centres play host to millions of Kenyans who either work or reside there.

Increased rural-urban movement, urban population boom and depreciating financial resources are stretching their ability to meet demand for service delivery.

Of particular concern is the need to allocate resources to develop slum areas. Counties need additional assistance to provide piped water, sanitation, solid waste management and drainage services. 

Additional investment and cash allocations to these urban centres is imperative if they are to meet residents’ expectations.

Investment in addressing these challenges comes with huge outlay which the counties cannot adequately absorb. 

For this reason, the Commission on Revenue Allocation is currently working on a proposed report to support additional funding for cities in form of conditional grants.

The conditional grants will not only play a vital role in providing financial support for urban counties but also improve governance.

They will place emphasis on prudent financial management to expand infrastructure for water and sanitation, energy and transportation.

It is, however, important that these counties increase their own sources of revenue. 

The Commission has developed a scientific model that can assist counties factually, and realistically, set revenue targets according to their internal technical and financial capacity. 

One of the unexplored avenues counties should consider is how to bring the private sector into development plans.

Public-private partnerships provide a useful key in unlocking finances and technical expertise needed to tackle urban challenges. 

Despite the critical importance of infrastructure for urban development, financing remains an immense challenge.

The case to increase funding allocation to the urban centres is even more pronounced when sized up from a purely economic perspective. 

Urban centres are central in the country’s development. They affect how the economy grows and how resources are allocated. This requires  high quality urban infrastructure that sustains  urban economies.  

Basic sanitation and drainage, especially in the slums, is a fundamental right in sustaining human dignity. 

It is also important to recognise that even as the commission proposes to increase funding for urban counties, much attention will be placed on ensuring projects initiated by the  counties achieve value for money. 

Sustainability planning will be integrated in the financing model as well as provision of technical assistance to the five counties. 

The provision of technical assistance is essential if the counties are to plan, finance, manage and coordinate sustainable urban infrastructure. This requires critical rethinking of funds allocation and active involvement of all stakeholders. 

In spite of the challenges, the current moment provides an ample opportunity to address the unique challenges. 

Indeed, just as these five cities continue to expand at a rapid rate, the leadership will need to start thinking not only of the demands of the current population but also those of future generation. — The writer is a lawyer and communication expert

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