Kenya: People and Times That Shaped Kenya’s Landscape in 2018


Kenya entered 2018 on the back of a challenging year, during which an extended election process and a severe drought threatened to impede investment in economic growth. Then as the year slowly begun to age, a lot has taken place. DN2 brings you sampled persons and revelations that coloured Kenya’s 2018.

Handshake

Like it or hate it, the handshake was Kenya’s defining moment in 2018. Out of nowhere, like a whirlwind, the handshake threw the much needed surprise to cool the anxiety that was sweeping Kenya.

Even though Mr Odinga did not publicly recognise Mr Kenyatta as the duly elected President, only referring to him as “my brother”, the handshake that followed their joint statement on the steps of Harambee House was an indication that the closing of ranks between the then two most antagonistic political factions in Kenya’s history — the National Super Alliance (Nasa) and Jubilee — was in the offing.

The March 9, 2018 handshake thawed political tension, and rallied Kenyans together as it confirmed that there only exist two tribes in Kenya — the voters and the politicians.

The heavy taxation and other economic decisions that have followed the handshake has provided tough lessons for the Kenyan voter.

US Secretary of State Mr Rex Tillerson lauded the handshake saying that Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga had shown “great leadership” in coming together to address the deep divisions caused by the 2017 electioneering.

With the handshake, Mr Kenyatta firmly embraced the opposition and many claim that he has since distanced himself from William Ruto and their bromance. It is also observed that Kenyatta has since come out as a strong leader, talking tough against corruption in his government.

State of the economy

Kenya entered 2018 on the back of a challenging year, during which an extended election process and a severe drought threatened to impede investment in economic growth.

Despite a modest slowdown in GDP growth from 5.8 per cent in 2016 to 4.8 per cent in 2017, Kenya’s economy has shown some welcome robustness.

According to IMF, inflation has declined to below the midpoint of the authorities’ target line, the banking system and exchange rate have remained stable.

However, Kenya’s economic growth is not trickling down to poor Kenyans, according to a World Bank report published in October 2018.

The report indicated that at least 17.3 million Kenyans still live below Sh 92.4 per day. “The moderately robust GDP growth over the past decade has not generated consummate increases in household consumption,” the report stated.

As if in agreement with the study, 2018 was reported as the toughest economic year for Kenyan households, which was occasioned by high-food and energy prices, and skyrocketing costs for common goods and medical care.

As per the study, Kenya’s poverty elasticity is lowest in the region, meaning that the country’s percentage reduction in poverty rates associated with a percentage change in mean income is lower than that of Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

That notwithstanding, Kenya’s rising public debt is exerting pressure on the state of finances. In the year, the National Treasury reported that it expected 45 per cent of the tax revenue to be directed to paying off loans.

The government has responded to these developments by undertaking efforts to reduce the fiscal deficit to 5.7 per cent of GDP in 2018/19, down from 7.2 per cent as of June 2018 and 8.8 per cent in financial year 2016/17.

According to The Report 2018, a publication of the Oxford Business Group (OBG), reducing government spending through the reduction of development expenditure in order to narrow down the fiscal deficit reduces the capital stock of the economy. This reduces government ability to foster industrialisation, create jobs and maintain the competitiveness of Kenya’s economy.

State of corruption

Corruption, unfortunately became a defining factor for Kenya in 2018. “If we don’t watch out, corruption will engulf us,” Edward Ouko, the Auditor — General warned in mid-June 2018, describing the level of graft as shocking.

In October 2018, Kenya’s Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) ranked the Interior ministry as most prone to corruption, followed by the ministries of Health and Lands.

Over the year, the Daily Nation investigations desk continued to unearth high-profile scandals in key parastatals: The National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB), Government Advertising Agency (GAA), National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC), Kenya Railways Corporation, Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), National Youth Service (NYS) season two, and Kenya Power scandals.

The newest is the Ministry of Education irregularities in the procurement of textbooks worth Sh10 billion for public schools.

In July 2018, EACC director of field services Vincent Okong’o said that corruption had raised the cost of doing business in Kenya, and that the burden of corruption fell heavily on the poor as they cannot afford to bribe to access government services.

Big Four Agenda

Kenya’s socio-economic blueprint, the Big Four Agenda was on everyone’s lips for a greater part of the year.

The Big Four Agenda seeks to ensure economic development of the country by addressing food security, affordable housing, supporting the manufacturing sector and the provision of affordable healthcare.

According to the National Housing Corporation, Kenya has a cumulative deficit of 2 million housing units growing by 200,000 units per year being driven mainly by rapid population growth of 2.6 per cent per annum, compared to the global average of 1.2 per cent.

A high urbanisation rate of 4.4 per cent against a global average of 2.1 per cent has further continued to contribute to this spiralling deficit. It is against this backdrop that the government intends to deliver 1 million homes in the next five years.

The government has also launched phase one of the Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC) project which targets to render quality and affordable medical services for citizens. This phase targets 3.2 million Kenyans in Kisumu, Nyeri, Machakos and Isiolo counties.

However, the state of the public healthcare system remains in focus amid concern about poor staffing levels and inadequate infrastructure and equipment.

Data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) and the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) show that the number of health facilities and workforce at the counties remain inadequate to cater for demand by a steadily rising population.

State of the youth in Kenya

Young Kenyans constitute 76 per cent of the population, estimated to be about 39 million people. Yet, a majority of this youthful population remains unemployed.

This is a demographic dividend that the country can tap into and maximise on its potential to gain a competitive advantage and hinge ahead in socio-economic development.

Unfortunately, Kenya’s youth bulge has been a marginalised lot, as both policy and legislative frameworks have not made gains to avert the unemployment situation. The numbers tell it all, as today, unemployment in Kenya stands at 40 per cent, and 70 per cent of those unemployed are between the ages of 15 and 35.

The World Bank estimates that approximately 800,000 Kenyans join the labour market each year, and only 50,000 succeed in getting professional jobs.

Despite Kenya’s positive economic trajectory, a 2016 World Bank survey of Kenya’s long-term performance showed that the stagnation of manufacturing and agriculture, the mainstays of the domestic economy has meant that job creation has not kept pace with the growing working-age population.

According to the World Bank, Kenya’s population of 44 million is growing at a rate of 2.5 per year, and 9 million more job seekers will enter the market by 2025.

The government has in its budget for 2018/2019 financial year, allocated Sh 444.1 billion towards education, with a focus on expansion of Technical and Vocation, Education and Training (TVET) infrastructure.

More synergy is needed through partnerships between academia and industry so that the transfer of skills and knowledge in universities and colleges is backed by job market dynamics.

Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) has for two years now, partnered with the Germany Technical Cooperation (GIZ) in the TVET programme.

The programme seeks to influence the policy direction regarding technical training towards demand-driven technical education in Kenya.

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Personalities that defined 2018

Raila Amolo Odinga

Raila Odinga has continued to shape and shake Kenya’s politics, rubber-stamping his authority as Kenya’s political enigma. The ‘People’s President’ lived to his word until his January 30 symbolic ‘swearing in’ ceremony at Uhuru Park, Nairobi.

Mr Odinga then went ahead and threw a historic surprise to his then “boy scouts” Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr Musalia Mudavadi and Mr Moses Wetang’ula, when he locked them out of the peace-deal and the handshake. This caught them flat-footed.

The handshake also saw the fallout between Raila Odinga and Miguna Miguna, the self-declared NRM General who is currently exiled in Canada.

In mid-October, Raila Odinga was appointed to the African Union as the High Representative for Infrastructure Development in Africa.

In the statement, AU said Mr Odinga brought with him a rich political experience and strong commitment to the ideals of Pan-Africanism and African integration, as well as a deep knowledge of infrastructure development.

Prof Kivutha Kibwana

Makueni governor Prof Kivutha Kibwana has come out as a model leader in both governance and socio-economic development.

The ‘governor of the year’, Prof Kibwana has redefined the role of devolution in Kenya, making a majority of other county bosses look like intellectual dwarfs.

At a time when some governors were launching two public toilets, culverts and one-acre farm of cabbages in the name of food security, governor Kibwana launched roads, mega water projects and the 120-bed fully-equipped Makueni Mother and Child Hospital which has come at a cost of Sh135 million.

He has previously launched a value-addition fruit processing plant, and a milk processing plant empowering the local smallholder farmer to uplift the economy in Makueni.

This raises the question as to whether other county governments should spend huge budgets on ‘bench-making trips’ abroad or they should just head to Wote, Kikumini and Kathonzweni in Makueni for localised sustainable development lessons.

George Kinoti and Noordin Haji

This was the year that both the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Hajj stood out as the brave faces in the fight against corruption in Kenya. Even numerous times when the president almost threw in the towel, asking: “Wakenya mnataka nifanye nini jamani? “(What do you Kenyans want me to do now?)” The duo went full-blast, not sparing even senior government officials.

For the first time, Kenyans have seen highly influential people hauled before the courts since Kinoti took office in January and Haji in March.

The zeal with which Kinoti and Haji seized their mandates contrasts sharply with the approach of their predecessors where files gathered dust, investigations took a long time and often were shoddy. Many cases were less than watertight, leading to acquittals.

Clearly, Haji and Kinoti are men on a mission to clean up the rot in governance. The only support that they would require is from the judiciary to crack the whip on graft cases.

The Director of Criminal Investigations, George Kinoti, says the Judiciary and other agencies involved in the war on graft need to get fully on board for the country to win it. Speaking exclusively to NTV’s Mel Myendo, Kinoti said the war on graft at times appears to have been left to investigators and prosecutors.

Ekuru Aukot

Former presidential candidate and Thirdway Alliance party leader has throughout the year thrown his weight behind the collection of over one million signatures to push for a constitutional referendum.

In April 2018, Thirdway Alliance launched ‘Punguza Mizigo’, a campaign which aims at collecting one million signatures to endorse a referendum. The initiative seeks to reduce the number of MPs from the current 416 to 147.

So far, the Ekuru Aukot led-party has collected 690,000 signatures and is targeting to surpass the 1 million signatures by April 2019.

Under the proposed system, the 47 counties will be turned into constituencies, with each electing a male and female representative to Parliament. Each constituency will also elect a male and female representative to the Senate. Additionally, six members will be nominated to Parliament to represent special interest groups.

“Kenya is currently over-represented. A referendum will reduce the cost of running Parliament from the current Sh 36.8 billion to Sh 5 billion annually. This will save taxpayers Sh 31.8 billion annually,” noted Mr Fredrick Okango, the Secretary General at Thirdway Alliance.

Okoth Obado

The Migori governor made headlines for one-and-a-half months following the death of his alleged girlfriend Sharon Otieno. The body of Ms Otieno, who was seven months pregnant at the time she was killed, was found near Kodera forest in Homa Bay on September 4.

On September 24, Mr Obado, a key suspect in her murder case was arrested, and spent over a month shuffling between the Industrial Area Remand Prison and Milimani Law Courts.

This was a high-profile murder case which drew a lot of public interest. DNA results linked the governor to the unborn child Ms Otieno was carrying, who was also killed in the murder. Other suspects in the case, Mr Obado’s personal assistant Michael Juma Oyamo and Migori County Assembly Clerk Casper Obiero, who have denied the charges are still in police custody until May 2019 when their trial will start.

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Publish date : 2018-12-31 06:34:26

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