Ten counties in Northern Kenya are part of the Frontier Counties Development Council (FCDC), which is dedicated to improving the lives of its economically marginalized people. These 10 counties, which include Garissa, Isiolo, Lamu, Mandera, Marsabit, Samburu, Tana River, Turkana, Wajir, and West Pokot, account for more than half the land mass of Kenya. However, the region’s economic development has regularly fallen behind the rest of the country. 

In fact, six of the 10 counties fall into the bottom fourth of Kenya’s GDP per capita rankings. The entire region faces limited accessibility, tribal and political conflicts, gender inequality, drought, locust invasions, and environmental degradation. These complex challenges drive food insecurity and poverty in Northern Kenya and weaken its communities’ ability to withstand shocks and adapt to changing circumstances.  

FCDC formed in 2015 to address these constraints and facilitate economic development. However, the council operates as a company limited by guarantee, which means FCDC lacks the legal power to mobilize regional resources or harmonize policies in Northern Kenya. 

Forming a Regional Economic Bloc

Establishing the FCDC as a legal trading bloc would help boost social and economic development in the region. To make this a reality, the Feed the Future-funded Livestock Market Systems (LMS) Activity’s USAID Kuza Associate Award, implemented by ACDI/VOCA, collaborated with FCDC member county governors to increase their understanding of the issue and prepare a bill. 

“The legal establishment of FCDC as a regional economic bloc is a crucial step in realizing the goals and aspirations of the people of the marginalized [Aric and Semi-Arid Lands] regions.”

H. E. Captain Ali Ibrahim Roba, Governor of Mandera county

Partnering with Feed the Future

To support the passing of the bill, USAID Kuza provided technical assistance to county attorneys, secretaries, and assemblies, explaining the bill, its implications, and the specific measures required by each actor. The USAID Kuza team visited select counties to provide legal support. Together with the United Nations Development Programme and World Bank Kenya, they also led several training sessions on the bill. 

Thanks to these joint efforts, Mandera County passed the bill in January 2020. Later that year, the bill passed in Samburu by February, in Garissa by March, in Marsabit by August, and in Isiolo by December. This milestone of five out of 10 counties passing the bill met the legal threshold needed to establish the FCDC as a regional economic bloc.

“We are very grateful to USAID Kuza for providing us with technical and logistical support to make [the passing of the FCDC bill] possible. Their support in the formulation and implementation of and advocacy for economic development policies has been crucial to our success.”

Honorable Mohammed guleid, fcdc chief executive officer

The successful passing of the FCDC bill is just one way that USAID Kuza is supporting economic development opportunities in Northern Kenya. USAID Kuza works closely with local partners to improve the enabling environment, accelerate public and private sector investment, expand county-level capacity, and incorporate monitoring, evaluation, and shared learning. 

Learn more about USAID Kuza

Learn more about our work in Kenya