Laying a Groundwork for Growth in Kenya

With IFC’s help, Kenya’s poorest county is looking to shake off years of underachievement to attract investment, support local businesses, and achieve sustainable economic growth.
Turkana County in Kenya’s northwest borders Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Uganda, and is home to almost one million people. Although geographically vast (Turkana is Kenya’s second largest county) economic opportunity there has been small, held back by limited infrastructure, markets, and investment.

Its future looks brighter, however, with government and the private sector working together to capitalize on several good prospects, including in agribusiness, and the discovery of potentially large oil resources.

Meanwhile, thanks to a process of devolution, decision-makers in Turkana now have more power to shape their county’s economic future in line with Kenya’s overall Vision 2030 strategy.  Although largely seen as a blessing, decentralization also means local authorities are under pressure to get growth right.

This is why IFC is helping Turkana lay the groundwork for growth now, ahead of the expected arrival of sizable – and transformational - economic opportunities.

As part of its support, IFC hosted more than 80 representatives from local business, government, development institutions, and civil society organizations to discuss economic challenges and opportunities in Turkana, and to outline a shared way forward.

The event, held in January in Lodwar, Turkana’s largest city, concentrated minds on how local businesses and entrepreneurs might benefit from improved access to finance, training, and markets.

During the two-day event, IFC presented studies on economic challenges and opportunities in the county, on gender-related issues, and on opportunities in agribusiness.

Representatives from Turkana County Government called for a strong partnership between the public sector and local entrepreneurs, and requested help identifying new market opportunities.

Manuel Moses, IFC Country Manager, Kenya, said at the event, “Turkana and other counties in Kenya are today empowered to design and implement initiatives that can benefit their citizens.  IFC is helping ensure growth from these initiatives is both sustainable and benefits local businesses, including those owned and operated by women.”

Economic Opportunities

Explorer Tullow Oil discovered what could total a billion barrels of recoverable oil in Turkana in 2012, and is working to bring the resource into development.

The project’s sizable associated infrastructure demands, and long supply chains would be a boon for local businesses, creating opportunities in the transport, construction, hospitality, and other sectors.

IFC expects to work closely with Tullow, who participated in the Lodwar event, on local economic development initiatives in Turkana, leveraging a Canada-funded local economic development program to ensure benefits are distributed broadly.

Although an oil boom could help secure Turkana’s economic future, discussions at the IFC-hosted event also focused on diversifying the county’s economy, strengthening its legal and regulatory environment for business, and building better infrastructure to connect it to the rest of Kenya and beyond.

This approach reflects IFC’s strategy to help local businesses benefit from large investments in the extractives, agriculture, infrastructure, and other sectors. IFC’s support to enterprise development in Turkana will be delivered within the framework of the Canada-IFC Local Economic Development Program, a five-year partnership program between IFC and Global Affairs Canada, which will be implemented in Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, and Cote d’Ivoire.

The Kenya Program will focus on supply chain linkages and broader market access for local businesses in Turkana, emphasizing reducing structural barriers to gender equality, empowering women and girls, and strengthening local institutions.

The Lodwar event was organized by IFC, in partnership with Global Affairs Canada, and with support from Tullow Oil.