ODM leader Raila Odinga wants Nyanza residents to stop whining about marginalisation and wean themselves off overdependence on the national government.
In what seems to be part of his continued change of tack, Mr Odinga says the only sure way out of poverty if for locals to invest in income-generating activities, as opposed to whining about bad politics.
Mr Odinga comes from a family of politicians who had run-ins with governments of the day and often claimed Nyanza was poor because of neglect by sitting presidents.
On a tour of Kisumu County on Tuesday, however, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader singled out untapped potential in farming, encouraging the youth to take up fishing and grow avocado, cotton, macadamia nuts and other crops for money.
Mr Odinga told Nyanza residents to so they can end the vicious cycle of poverty.
“The vicious cycle of poverty goes ‘we are poor, and because we are poor we cannot save, and because we cannot save we cannot invest, and because we cannot invest we are poor’. This thing can be reversed so that we move from poverty to prosperity,” he said.
He encouraged the youth to come up with investment projects and start ups which can benefit the country.
He gave the example of Equity bank which he said started as a cooperative society but is now a big bank with many branches in East Africa. He also pointed out that founders of big companies such as Toyota Kenya and the Hilton chain of hotels started as small scale traders.
“These are initiatives that started from young people forming chamas (societies), growing them through savings and investing the money. One way of dealing with poverty is saving and investing. I am challenging our people to do likewise in our area.”
Mr Odinga pointed out that Nyanza has been backward, not because the people are not hardworking, but due to the successive political regime that he said has discriminated against the region.
This, he said, did not stop some Luo leaders led by his father Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a pioneer businessman in Nyanza, from starting the Luo Thrift and Trading Corporation in 1947.
The organisation set up some businesses in Kisumu and contributed to the construction of Ofafa Memorial Hall.
The ODM boss said the marginalisation will be reversed through building initiatives, which he believes will open a new chapter in development, not only in Nyanza but also in other marginalized areas and the whole country.
“Our people are hardworking, can save and can invest. If companies like Unaitas offer proper services, our people will buy those services,” he said.
Mr Odinga said Kenya is at par with Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea, as their their Gross Domestic product (GDP) are almost the same, but that bad leadership has gotten in the way in Kenya’s case.
“The mediocrity in which Africa has been led is to blame for the poverty and underdevelopment of our regions and country. This must change,” he said.
Mr Odinga reiterated this message during stopovers in Kondele and Kibuye markets, where hundreds of youth gathered to see him.
The opposition leader also asked Nyanza counties to position themselves to tap into the opportunities that will be presented by the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Kisumu.
“We must take advantage of the opportunity that the SGR brings to export produce through the railway and maximise on port and marine transport,” he said.
Mr odinga took a swipe at MCAs, saying they should reduce their “bonding trips” outside the country to cut costs at county level.
“We have had many occasions on MCAs from this region going for uncalled-for bonding trips abroad. We should stop wastage of public resources,” he said.
The opposition chief spoke during the official opening of Unaitas Sacco’s 25th branch, a function at which he was the chief guest.
The sacco is banking on fishing communities and avocado farmers in Nyanza to expand its clientele.
It says it will pump a seed capital of Sh1.5 billion into economic activities in the Lake Region Economic Bloc, a grouping of 14 counties in western Kenya, to transform financing.
The lender also announced that an additional Sh500 Million will be pumped to the fishing industry to fund fishermen through partnerships with the local beach management units around Lake Victoria.
Unaitas chairman Joseph Kabugu said the funds will be finance value chain agriculture in horticulture, avocado farming in particular.
Mr Odinga was accompanied by Kisumu Deputy Governor Mathew Owili, Speaker Onyango Oloo and MPs James Nyikal (Seme) Jared Okello (Nyando), Aduma Owuor (Nyakach) and Fred Ouda (Kisumu Central).
Also present were Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) Chief Executive Officer, Mr Abala Wanga, Kisumu Members of County Assmebly (MCAs), the business community and members of the public.