China In Africa: It’s a Numbers Game

China’s growing global dominance got a publicity boost this April 2019 with the latest Forum on Belt and Road International ( BRI) Cooperation. The annual event brought world leaders from 37 countries, 5000 delegates from 150 nations and representatives of 90 international organisations to Beijing for the BRI conference that culminated in a resolution to continue strengthening ties and promoting global growth and economy through policy coordination among participating economies, infrastructure connectivity, trade investment and industrial cooperation

To Africa in particular, China has become a significant economic partner. China has catapulted from being a relatively small investor in the continent to becoming Africa’s largest economic partner, providing infrastructure and investment loans that have helped the continent record massive expansion of roads, rail and other utilities. Obviously, the forum is crucial in strengthening existing relationships and opening new opportunities for cooperation.


To date, it is difficult to understand the full extent of China’s blueprint in Africa due to the data knowledge gap that exists. This vacuum has fueled urban legends and sensational stories, everything from charges of neocolonialism, persistent yet unfounded rumor that Chinese firms use convict labor en masse, to even a Chinese settler colony in Africa. However, to dispel or confirm these narratives Africa must take a critical review, audit and examination of its principal relationship with China and what it portends for Chinese influence and footprint in the continent.

Trade

Since the turn of the 21st century, China has catapulted from being a relatively small investor in the continent to becoming Africa’s biggest economic partner. Africa-China trade increased from $13 billion in 2001 to $188 billion in 2015—an average annual growth rate of 21 percent. China has far surpassed Africa’s longstanding trade partners such as France, Germany, India, and the United States. According to a McKinsey and Company report dubbed Lions and Dragons in 2015, total goods trade between China and Africa amounted to $188 billion—more than triple that of India.


Statistics from the General Administration of Customs of China, in 2018, indicate that China’s total import and export volume with Africa was US$204.19 billion, a year-on-year increase of 19.7%, exceeding the overall growth rate of foreign trade in the same period by 7.1 percentage points. Among these, China’s exports to Africa were US$104.91 billion, up 10.8% and China’s imports from Africa were US$99.28 billion, up 30.8%; the surplus was US$5.63 billion, down 70.0% year on year. In December last year, China’s total imports and exports with Africa were US$18.27 billion, up 15.5% year on year and 2.1% month on month. Among these, China’s exports to Africa were US$9.55 billion, up 3.9% year on year and 3.0% month on month; China’s imports from Africa were US$8.72 billion, up 33.7% year on year and 2.2% month on month; the trade surplus was US$840 million, down 68.7% year on year and up 13.5% month on month. In 2018, the growth rate of China’s trade with Africa was the highest in the world.

China and Infrastructure

China has a long history of infrastructure investment in Africa, and this remains the country’s most visible legacy to this day. In the 1970s, China constructed the 1,710 km Tanzania-Zambia railway (Tan-Zam Railway completed in 1976), which linked landlocked, mineral-rich Zambia to the Indian Ocean. China’s aid for the project consisted of a nearly one billion interest-free loan, over one million tons of machinery and materials, and 50 thousand laborers to undertake construction efforts. Zambia’s first president, Kenneth Kaunda, hailed China’s support, and claimed the railway served as “a model for south-south cooperation.”


However, one of the megatrends of our times has been the growing presence of China in Africa’s infrastructure sector. Over the past two decades, China has helped to meet some of Africa’s infrastructure financing needs and is now the single largest financier of African infrastructure,financing one in five projects and constructing one in three mega projects.

Most funded projects are in the Transport, Shipping and Ports sectors (52.7 per cent), followed by Energy and Power (17.6 per cent), Real Estate (15 per cent, including industrial, commercial and residential real estate) and Energy and Power (13.1 per cent)

To date China has participated in over 200 African infrastructure projects. Chinese enterprises have completed and are building projects that are designed to upgrade about 30,000km of highways, 2,000km of railways, 85 million tonnes per year of port output capacity, more than nine million tonnes per day of clean water treatment capacity, about 20,000MW of power generation capacity, and more than 30,000km of transmission and transformation lines.

Foreign Direct Investment

China is poised to become Africa’s largest source of Foreign Direct investment. At the current growth rates, China will be Africa’s largest source of FDI stock within the next decade. China’s financial flows to Africa are around 15 percent larger than previous estimates. This discrepancy is found because official figures, which rely on banking-system data, do not cover informal money-transfer methods often used by smaller businesses. These methods include “mirror transfers,” in which a local payment is made into the Chinese account of an associate or family member, who in turn makes a local equivalent payment in Africa to the beneficiary’s bank account.

Aid

China is the second- or third-largest country donor to Africa Chinese official development assistance (ODA) and other official flows (OOF) to Africa together amounted to $6 billion in 2012. Chinese foreign aid expenditures increased steadily from 2003 to 2015, growing from USD 631 million in 2003 to nearly USD 3 billion in 2015. The United States promised somewhat more—$90 billion in the same period—but Chinese aid is more sought after. Unlike Western assistance, which comes mainly in the form of outright transfers of cash and material, Chinese assistance consists mostly of export credits and loans for infrastructure (often with little or no interest) that are fast, flexible, and largely without conditions. Thanks to such loans, the International Monetary Fund estimates that, as of 2012, China owned about 15 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s total external debt, up from only 2 percent in 2005. And McKinsey & Co. reckons that, as of 2015, Chinese loans accounted for about a third of new debt being taken on by African governments. 

Debt

Most of China’s loans to Africa go into infrastructure projects such as roads, railways and ports. China’s loan issuance to Africa has tripled since 2012. New debt issuance by Chinese institutions to African governments increased dramatically in the past five years, rising to some $5 billion to $6 billion of new loan issuances each year in the 2013–15 period. The McKinsey report suggests that in 2015, these loans accounted for approximately one-third of new sub-Saharan African government debt. Most of these loans are linked to infrastructure projects, such as China EXIM Bank’s $3.6 billion loan to finance the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya. From 2000 to 2017, the Chinese government, banks and contractors extended US $143 billion in loans to African governments and their state-owned enterprises (SOEs).


In 2015, the China-Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at John Hopkins University identified 17 African countries with risky debt exposure to China, potentially unable to repay their loans. It says three of these – Djibouti, Republic of Congo ( Congo-Brazzaville) and Zambia – remain at risk of debt distress derived from these Chinese loans. In 2017, Zambia’s debt amounted to $8.7bn (£6.6bn) – $6.4bn (£4.9bn) of which is owed to China. For Djibouti, 77% of its debt is from Chinese lenders. Figures for the Republic of Congo are unclear, but CARI estimates debts to China to be in the region of $7bn (£5.3bn). Angola is the top recipient of Chinese loans, with $42.8 billion disbursed over 17 years. Yet, Chinese loans are currently not a major contributor to the debt burden in Africa; much of that is still owed to traditional lenders like the World Bank.

Business

According to the McKinsey report , there are about 10,000 Chinese-owned firms operating in Africa today. Around 90 percent of these firms are privately owned. State-owned enterprises (SOEs) tend to be particularly in specific sectors such as energy and infrastructure, the sheer multitude of private Chinese firms working toward their own profit motives make Chinese investment in Africa a more market-driven phenomenon than is commonly understood. Chinese firms operate across many sectors of the African economy. Nearly a third are involved in manufacturing, a quarter in services, and around a fifth in trade and in construction and real estate. In manufacturing, an estimated 12 percent of Africa’s industrial production—valued at some $500 billion a year in total—is already handled by Chinese firms. In infrastructure, Chinese firms’ dominance is even more pronounced, and they claim nearly 50 percent of Africa’s internationally contracted construction market.

One-third of Chinese firms based in Africa reported profit margins of more than 20 percent in 2015. They are also agile and quick to adapt to new opportunities and they are primarily focused on serving the needs of Africa’s fast-growing markets rather than on exports.

Agriculture

According to CARI China has acquired 252,901 hectares of land in Africa. Cameroon alone accounts for 41% of all lands actually acquired: driven by two large purchases of existing rubber plantations (over 40,000 hectares each) in 2008 and 2010.China has also established 14 agricultural centres across Africa.

China has also taken an increasingly hands-on role in its work and investment related to African agriculture, leasing and developing land and in many instances being accused of “grabbing” large swathes of it. But as Deborah Brautigam’s reports the assumptions about China’s role in Africa are often not borne out in reality and the areas of land “grabbed” for investment are small compared to the vast areas identified by some.

Security

Over the past decade China’s role in peace and security has also grown rapidly through arms sales, military cooperation and peacekeeping deployments in Africa. Today, China is making a growing effort to take a systematic, pan-African approach to security on the continent.

China is now the second-largest contributor to the peacekeeping budget. Chinese personnel have served on missions in Africa for decades, but until 2013 they were small contingents in unarmed roles such as medical and engineering support. China now provides more personnel than any other permanent member of the Security Council – they numbered 2,506 as of September. Chinese peacekeepers now serve in infantry, policing and other roles in Africa.

In 2017, China established a 36 hectare Djibouti military facility.with a ten-year lease at $20 million annually. It has been described as a support base for naval anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, peacekeeping in South Sudan and humanitarian and other cooperation in the Horn of Africa, but has also been used to conduct live-fire military exercises.

Labour and Population

The number of Chinese immigrants in Africa has risen sevenfold in under two decades, The Annual Report on Overseas Chinese Study said the African continent was home to more than 1.1 million Chinese immigrants in 2012, compared with less than 160,000 in 1996, adding that 90 percent of the current total arrived after 1970. Initially, most labourers coming to Africa were from retail industry but today with the closer relationships with Africa, Chinese intellectuals and skilled professionals have settled in Africa.

The number of chinese workers by the end of 2017 was 202,689. In 2017, the top 5 countries with Chinese workers are Algeria, Angola, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Zambia. These 5 countries accounted for 57% of all Chinese workers in Africa at the end of 2017; Algeria alone accounts for 30% of the numbers. These figures include Chinese workers sent to work on Chinese companies’ construction contracts in Africa (“workers on contracted projects”) and Chinese workers sent to work for non-Chinese companies in Africa (“workers doing labor services”); they are reported by Chinese contractors and do not include informal migrants such as traders and shopkeepers.

Media

There has been a significant increase of Chinese media on the African continent in recent years. This has taken place across various levels, including infrastructure development, training of journalists, production and distribution of media content, and investing directly in African media houses and platforms. The increased media footprint is widely seen as a way for China to extend its ‘soft power’ on the continent. But this is not the first time that China has established a media presence on the continent. As far back as the 1960s and 1970s, Chinese media was active in Africa.

However, since 2012, state-run media outlets have also pitched up in the continent, among them the Africa bureau of China Global Television Network (CGTN based in Nairobi) and China Daily Africa newspaper. China also takes African journalists to Beijing for training, while state-linked firms have made investments in local media outlets including buying a 20% stake in South Africa’s Independent News and Media firm (INMSA). The Beijing-based StarTimes Group has also become one of Africa’s most important media companies, increasingly influential in the booming pay-TV market. As it spread its foothold in Africa, the company has embarked on a project to provide solar-powered satellite television sets to 10,000 villages across Africa.

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China has not “taken over Africa”; she has merely joined with earlier groups of imperialists in grabbing a part of the African bounty. As a newcomer, her presence is more visible, but not yet as substantially deep-rooted as the long-standing European imprint.

She comes with two key differences: first, China does not yet have the military and diplomatic capacity to replace any of those Western powers in physically securing and enforcing the various trade routes and treaties needed to keep the global trade machine, upon which they all depend, running. Second, therefore, this venture cannot be implemented remotely, but by human displacement. Even a settler-overlord project may not work. What could work is one where millions of Chinese people are steadily shipped over to “yellow” Africa as a continuation of the anti-black ethnic cleansing and encroachment the Asians began centuries ago in South Asia.

The Africa of the ordinary people must therefore assert itself and force its concerns on to all public agendas. The struggle now is to hold a public conversation independent of these various imperialists and their allies.

Sources: McKinsey and Company report. Compiled by Mdogo.




Toa Kitambulisho! Evolution of Registration of Persons in Kenya

Kipande

In 1915, the colonial government enacted the Native Registration Ordinance but it was not until 1919 and 1920 that it was implemented. The registration was an instrument to control and regulate the recruitment of African males into colonial labour. It contained a registration certificate and fingerprint of the holder. The Ordinance made it mandatory for all adult males aged 16 and above to be registered. Upon registration, they were issued with registration papers kept in metallic copper containers attached to a chain commonly referred to as “Kipande.” The Kipande was worn around the neck like a dog collar. The Kipande contained the wearer’s tribe, their strengths and weaknesses and comments from his employer on his competence, therefore, determining his pay or whether or not he would be employed.

The government used the Kipande to curtail freedom of Africans and monitor labour supply. It also empowered the police to stop a native anywhere and demand to be shown the document. For Africans, the Kipande was like a badge of slavery and sparked bitter protests.

Passbook

In 1947, the Kipande was replaced by an identity booklet which had fingerprints but not the bearers portrait. A new law, the Registration of Persons Ordinance, was passed to make it mandatory for all male persons of all races of 16 years and above to be registered. But under this new law, the identity cards issued distinguished between the protectorate and non-protectorate persons. Although the Ordinance sought to remove discrimination based on race, it made no attempt to remove gender-based discrimination. The trend continued even after independence until 1978 when an amendment was made to what has become the Registration of Persons Act (Cap 107, Laws of Kenya) to include the registration of women who had attained the age of 16 years and above. A further amendment to the Act was made in 1980 to raise the age of registration from 16 to 18 years.

The first generation Identity Cards

In 1980, legislation was amended to include women and the booklet was replaced by the “First Generation” paper identity card with subtle security features embedded in the new document. The document design contained the bearers portrait and fingerprints. Raphael Musau, who was the officer in charge of National Registration Bureau and driving the whole process, witnessed the handing over of the new generation national identity card to the former president Daniel Arap Moi. In 1977, Raphael Musau was requested by the then vice president Daniel Arap Moi to design a new Kenyan Identity card which was to replace the blue colonial passbook. His first port of call, accompanied by Principal Registrar of Persons, was De La Rue, Company in London who eventually were tasked with making the new design.

The second generation card

The first generation identity card was replaced in 1995 by the smaller credit-card size “Second Generation” card, that was in essence, a laminated paper card. The card includes basic information [name, sex, date and place of birth, date and place of issue] a photo, a signature and an image of one fingerprint.

Plastic card

In 2011, the second generation card, in turn, was upgraded to the present plastic card without fundamentally changing its features. The current generation of IDs therefore date back to 1995, the last time that the population was re-enrolled.

The card includes basic information [name, sex, date and place of birth, date and place of issue] a photo, a signature and an image of one fingerprint. It also includes a sequential 8-digit national ID number (just a sufficient number of digits to cover a population the size of Kenya’s) as well as a 9-digit serial number. The information on the front of the card is machine readable on the back. Since 2007 there have been intentions to move to a “Third Generation” e-ID card with a chip and enhanced security features, but these have not materialized because of financial constraints.


Under the Registration of Persons Act (Cap.107), it is a requirement by the law of Kenya that a Kenyan citizen who attains the age of eighteen must have an Identity card facilitated through the Department of National Registration Bureau.

The National Registration Bureau (NRB) is responsible for collecting biometric and biographic information and issuing National IDs (NIDs). The NRB also operates the Automated Fingerprint Identification System that checks for duplicate or multiple registrations.

The Kenyan NID is mandatory and must be acquired when an individual turns 18, and is issued free of charge. The Kenyan NID does not have an expiration date. Thus far, Kenya has issued 24 million cards, but this total may include duplicates as well as the inactive cards of deceased individuals. There are about 1.2 million new registrations each year. Foreigners who remain in Kenya more than 90 days are required to register as an alien and get an alien registration card.

Every citizen in Kenya not previously registered has to go through the first category which is the initial registration of applying for an identity card. At this stage, no fee is paid to access this service. In Duplicates – resulting from lost, defaced or mutilated cards. National Registration Bureau charges a service fee of Kshs.100 with effect from 16th March 2018 for replacement and change of particulars resulting from a change of name(s) and residence which attracts a fee of Kshs.300 and Kshs 1,000 (depending on the request).

The requirement needs for the first stage of ID application by Kenyan citizens include a birth certificate or baptism certificate, both parents identity cards and copy, two passport size photos and a school leaving certificate.

Huduma Number

On 19th September, 2005, the Head of Public Service appointed an Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Integration of Population Register Systems (IPRS) in line with the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) recommendation on the fast-tracking of the integration of the registration systems. The Taskforce made several recommendations one of them was the introduction of a unique national number – Personal Identity Number (PIN) for all individuals resident in the country. That the number be assigned at birth for all residents and serve as the control number for all registration systems, Establishment of a National Population Register, containing information of all residents and serve as a central reference for all population registration systems, a central database. Development of nationwide ICT infrastructure backbone to link government agencies for purpose of information sharing and verification.


According to  
Kenya Law Reform Commission, the recommendations of this taskforce formed the basis for the formation of the Integrated Population Register System (IPRS) to serve as the single source of truth for the population data in the country. Although IPRS was a good step towards the integration of population data, it was limited in capacity since it only consolidated data from primary population registration agencies, these being Civil Registration Department (CRD), National Registration Bureau (NRB) and Department of Immigration Services (DIS), which are established by different legal regimes. Further, IPRS did not seek to validate the information received from primary agencies by getting information from the source, Kenyans. There were a number of shortcomings of IPRS hence the Government took up the challenge. In order to improve and build upon the progress made by IPRS, the Government initiated the  National Integrated Identity Management system ( NIIMS) programme under Executive Order No. 1 of 2018. NIIMS was subsequently approved by the National Assembly vide the Statute (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, No 19 of 2018.

The purpose of NIIMS project is to create and manage a central master population database, which will be the ‘single source of truth’ on a person’s identity since it will contain information of all Kenyan citizens and foreign nationals residing in Kenya and will serve as a reference point for personal data for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and other approved stakeholders. NIIMS involves registration of all Kenyans both locally and abroad and also all foreign nationals who live in Kenya. Upon registration, the enrolled persons will be issued with a unique identification number referred to as Huduma Namba and later a multi-purpose card referred to as Huduma card, which will substitute the current inefficient identity cards. The Huduma Namba, being a unique identification number, will be used to identify all persons in the country and thus will be used while accessing government services and identification both by government and the private sector. It will waive the need for issuance of multiple registrations of the same person and will be used from cradle to death. NIIMS will be the single source of foundational data about a person and all government agencies will tap into it. The Huduma card will contain the integrated personal and foundational data of the cardholder. The mass registration for Huduma Namba began in March 14th 2019.




Kenya’s Ticking Debt Time Bomb

Fellow Kenyans, it will take CS Rotich approximately 1 and a half hours to read the speech. In that time alone, Kenya’s debt will have accrued an interest of Kshs.62,737,200.

See the Debt Clock

Odipodev is a data analytics and research firm operating out of Nairobi. They can be contacted on team@odipodev.com




Nairobi Commuter Train System: In the Shadows of the Lunatic Express

In March 2018, social media in Kenya was awash with images of old rickety Spanish trains that the Kenyan government was allegedly planning to buy at a rough estimate of between Sh71 million and Sh137 million per train to supplement the need for the Nairobi commuter train demand.

According to a media report, the Kenyan government was planning to import at least 11 diesel multiple units (DMU) of trains from Spain, with some as old as 25 years. The Transport Secretary, Esther Koimett, however, refuted the claims while sharing images on Twitter of what she said were the actual DMUs that government is planning on shipping to minimise the traffic congestion in the city.

“These are the actual DMUs we are getting. Cost for the 11 DMUs is Sh1.5 billion NOT Sh10 billion. They should serve us for another 20-25 years,” said Ms Koimett.

Whether true or not, the demand for commuter trains in the country is ballooning and that Nairobians religiously use the commuter trains to and from work is revealing. In March for instance, tens of thousands of commuters were heavily inconvenienced due to delays on the Nairobi commuter railway service (NCRS) schedule caused by the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron in the country.

“Dear customers, please note that the evening commuter train services will tomorrow (13/03/2019) experience delays. Syokimau 1 will depart at 1845 hours while Embakasi train will leave at 1900 hours. The other evening trains will run as scheduled,” read a notice by the Kenya Railway Corporation (KRC).

It was on the same day that the French President was conducting a station tour of the Nairobi Central Railway Station off Haile Selassie Avenue with commitment of funding the proposed development of a commuter rail service to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. This is aimed at decongesting the city as well as reducing the time taken between the central business district (CBD) and the airport.

The proposed JKIA commuter rail service, which is set to be completed by 2021 is part of a Sh340 billion public and private infrastructure trade deal between Kenya and France.

The Transport Ministry documents that over 13,000 Nairobians use the Nairobi Commuter Rail Service (NCRS), which was unveiled last December, every day. The NCRS is part of the Nairobi Metropolitan Transport Master Plan, which aims at decongesting the city.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) on the other hand keeps the data of revenues collected from ticket sales. It, however, does not report the number of travellers who use the NCRS in a day.

The data below shows the amount of money in millions that KRA collected from NCRS in terms of number of tickets sold in the period 2013 – 2016.

The NCRS operates 20 trips every day as shown in the below schedule, with average fare costs of between Sh30-Sh60. The Nairobi Transport executive Mohamed Dagane said in an interview last December that the commuter trains move over 40,000 different people daily contradicting reports by the Ministry of Transport.

“When the full complement is in they will enable us to transport around 132,000 people a day compared to the 13,000 we do today,” said Ms Koimett.

KRC in December said the NCRS project dubbed Nairobi Railway City (NRC) was part of its efforts to decongest the city roads. It is co-funded by the government and the World Bank.

To this effect, 10 new stations were to be completed to facilitate the plan. The Dandora, Mwiki, Githurai, Kahawa, and Ruiru were among the new stations. They complement the existing ones – Kibera, Imara Daima, Syokimau, and Makadara.

But the commuter train services in Nairobi are not a new thing. The services were introduced in the 1980s to provide a low-cost public transport alternative to the urban poor in the city, following the crippling economic inflation the country was experiencing at the time.

The long-distance passenger services had also been in operation between  Nairobi and Mombasa, as well as to  Kisumu, since the railway service went into operation in 1903 and as a result, the Kenya  Railways Corporation did not therefore have to acquire any new passenger wagons for the new services.

Despite the addition of the new wagons, the capacity is still limited as more and more Kenyans choose the trains over matatus, mainly because of time constraints and convenience away from the public service madness on the Kenyan roads.

Commuting to the city centre by train is much faster than by road, and more affordable. The trains carry sitting as well as standing passengers, with some hanging at the doors, and the more daring riding on the roof especially for passengers plying the Kibera route.

Most of the new stations constructed in the 2000s contain parking facilities allowing personal vehicle owners access to the stations.

Commuter train schedule

The commuter trains operate on weekdays twice during rush hours in the morning and evening. Some routes like the Nairobi – Syokimau also have afternoon services.

The service is not available on weekends, public holidays,  and during certain times of the day mostly non-peak periods.

The train picks up commuters at designated stops and takes approximately 20-30 minutes between stations. This includes a stoppage of two minutes at halts to pick up or drop commuters.

The current commuter rail network is so dilapidated that the average speed on some sections is as low as 15 kilometres per hour due to broken rails, unstable tracks and insufficient ballast.




The Unwinnable War: How the Myth of an ‘Institutional’ Solution Has Hobbled the Fight Against Graft and Wasted Time and Resources

What is clear is that in Kenya’s case, the public policy reform/technocratic approach to fighting corruption has become utterly irrelevant in the current political context. The Presidential ‘Summit’ on Governance and Corruption in November 2016 as former anti-graft Czar John Githongo opined was the final nail in the coffin of the ‘technical fix’ to corruption when President Uhuru Kenyatta expressed his helplessness, ripped into his anti-corruption officials and their approach, and basically reduced the event to a public relations exercise. Kenyans have done all the anti-corruption benchmarking, created all the anti-graft institutions, committees, working groups, task forces, units; drafted all the frameworks and policy papers; taken all the advice possible from multilaterals, bilaterals, NGOs, the private sector and others including churches; enacted all the laws and their subsidiaries; held all the conferences, summits, workshops and get-togethers possible. Fundamentally, what started in 1956 with a series of legal and institutional reforms aimed at improving governance and fighting corruption was a phase that ended with Presidential Summit on Governance and Corruption in November 2016. But the history of corruption didn’t begin here.

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In 1888, the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEACo) claimed Kenya as one of its territories. That arrangement continued until 1895 when the territory reverted to the British as the East African Protectorate encompassing areas deemed “waste and unoccupied” that did not have a settled form of government. In the early 1900s, Europeans began to stream into the country at the invitation of the colonial government and were allocated the most fertile land upcountry in areas where for generations Africans had farmed, grazed animals, and practised their customs freely. The consequence was that the indigenous people were driven to low-density areas unsuitable for agriculture with low rainfall, poor soil, and absence of pasture. Those who didn’t find a place to settle became squatters in white farms or worked as labourers for Asian merchants. The expropriation of African land by Europeans was done fraudulently and represented one of the first acts of land grabbing and looting by the colonial regime in Kenya. They just grabbed African farms without much effort to hide their activities. Until then, the African lands were secured by the Protectorate.

Regulations of 1897 forbade any alienation of land regularly used by Africans unless the colonial administration was satisfied the land was no longer regularly used and that Africans would not be adversely affected. That changed with the Crown Lands Ordinance of 1902 which gave the government jurisdiction over all lands subject to the right of occupation by Africans. From that time, African ownership of land was not recognized; only occupation and use of it were permitted.

The Unwinnable War: How the Myth of an 'Institutional' Solution Has Hobbled the Fight Against Graft and Wasted Time and Resources

Dawa ya Ufisadi

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In 1915, another Crown Land Ordinance was passed giving whites 999- year leases. It also transferred all lands formerly occupied by Africans to the control of the governor, and barred European landowners from employing non-white managers or supervisors to be in-charge of their holdings. The Ordinance also created African reserves to be located away from white settlements. As the whites entrenched themselves, more land laws were passed to govern different parts of the country making the Land Law in Kenya one of the most complicated land systems in the world. After World War II, the British government heightened the process of settling former servicemen by grabbing more land. Overall, 1% of the white population occupied 16,500 square miles of land.

At that time, crown or public land comprised 76.97% of Kenya. It included everything from forests to lakes and rivers. However, 70% of it was in the dry Northern Frontier Province, inhabited mainly by Somali ethnic groups. Of the total land area, only 1.9% was put to agricultural use at the time and almost all of it by white settlers. Thus, while each of the majority Africans occupied one or two acres on average, whites were sitting on 160 acres each per person.

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In 1935, Archdeacon Eric Burns, a British member of the Kenya Legislative Council (LegCo), complained that chiefs were forcing widows exempted from taxes into paying them a bribe so that the widows could retain their exemptions; and that animals sold in distress for non-payment of tax were undervalued and purchased by the chiefs and their henchmen. The evil of corruption and bribery got worse when colonialists enacted the Chief’s Act in 1937 giving the officials a wider latitude of powers, including maintaining law and order, collecting taxes to help sustain the luxurious lifestyles of whites, overseeing agricultural activities in their areas, and mediating disputes. To meet their financial needs, chiefs habitually confiscated livestock from tax defaulters to swell their herds, and accumulated land that really belonged to other people.” It was routine for chiefs to raid a village and demand surrender of personal property under threats of arrest. They collected hut and poll taxes and retained part of the money. The more levy they collected the more money went into the Exchequer and into their pockets. During colonial times, chiefs commanded respect and trepidation from locals in equal measures. Chiefs exerted themselves to please the authorities, often taking actions that turned out to be abuse of peoples’ rights. They sometimes beat and tortured innocent villagers to demonstrate their commitment to duty and loyalty to their masters. As the government’s “eyes” on the ground, chiefs frequently held barazas to explain colonial plans and policies, and were spokespeople and translators for white administration officials.

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The biggest known case of public corruption in Colonial Kenya involved the construction of the Mbotela and Ofafa housing estates on the east part of Nairobi in the 1950s. According to Joe Khamisi in his seminal work Kenya: Looters and Grabbers: 54 Years of Corruption and Plunder by the Elite, the project was intended to ease accommodation problems created by mass movements of people from the rural areas in search of jobs in the city, as well as the return of African soldiers from World War II. Thirteen thousand bed spaces per year were scheduled to be built over a period of five years at a cost of GBP.2 million (KES.273 million), which was to come as a grant from the Colonial Development Corporation (CDC). In those years, construction work was dominated by big European and Asian owned firms though many small “one-job-at-a-time operations” also existed. Those nondescript companies were prepared to take any job even though they didn’t have proper equipment and relied on cheap unskilled labor. Soon after tendering for the housing project was done and contracts awarded, news went around alleging corrupt practices in the selection process. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was called in to investigate. When news reached London, the British government appointed Sir Alan Rose a well-known lawyer to head a three-man commission with a brief to “examine accusations of corruption and malpractices in every aspect of the affairs of the Nairobi City Council.

A long list of contraventions of building specifications was provided, including “shallow excavation of footings, under-strength concreting in floors and lintels, substandard joinery, the use of cheaper, weaker materials throughout, and generally poor standards of workmanship” – all of which had apparently been approved by council officers in exchange for kickbacks. One of several officials implicated in the debacle was the city engineer Harold Whipp. Before the council made the decision to sack him, Whipp committed suicide and his body was found on a railway line. The Commission also unearthed several other cases of misconduct in the council including some in the fire brigade and the city market. The Mayor, Israel Somen, and his deputy, Dobbs Johnson, were cited for corrupt practices. The two survived the scandal and Somen was, after independence, appointed by Tel Aviv as the Israel ambassador to Kenya. The Rose Commission concluded that bribery and corruption were “by no means uncommon” among city office holders at ‘all levels and in all departments’; that the scale of cash inducements involved to secure services or preference from the council was often significant; and that such behavior was accepted as the norm and widely tolerated. So, it wasn’t just African home guards and chiefs who engaged in bribery and extortion in colonial Kenya.

Europeans were as guilty of corruption and malpractice in colonial Nairobi as anyone else, and Africans at the bottom of the colonial racial hierarchy were most often its victim. To stymie the growing trend of corruption in government, the LegCo (Legislative Council) enacted the Prevention of Corruption Act (Cap 65) in 1956, setting out jail terms for any public servant who solicited, accepted or obtained money unlawfully in exchange for service. It also provided for forfeiture of awards of gifts offered in a corrupt manner.” It was the Roe vs.Wade legislation as pertaining to fighting corruption in Kenya.

*******

On 12 December 1963, the Union Jack was lowered for the last time on Kenya soil, Kenya obtained ‘independence’ from the British. Under its first president, Jomo Kenyatta promulgated its first constitution which laid bare the hopes, dreams and promises of the Kenyan people. The government promised every part of the country will be controlled by the indigenous people of the area. Too, it promised it would eradicate poverty, disease and ignorance and also fight corruption.

However, that arrangement lasted for less than a year as Kenyatta abolished the region-based independence constitution in 1964 and introduced a unitary system of government which gave the presidency executive powers. Corruption took centre stage. An estimated 25,000 people were settled in the month of January 1964 alone. The pace in which the process was implemented implied there was no intention to vet and accord deserving cases their rights, but rather persons had already been predetermined or identified by the authorities.” The bottom line was: corruption was at play. One of the first things Kenyatta did after becoming Prime Minister, was to order a Rolls Royce car from the London’s Motor Show, for his use without any state budgetary provisions or (even) personal intent to pay. In doing so, Kenyatta became the first Kenyan official to violate procurement procedures which required that the Central Tender Board (CTB) call for multiple quotations from suppliers. It was a colonial process which did not change until the 1970s. Kenyatta also ignored the advice of Finance Minister James Gichuru who told him Kenya was short of capital and therefore bankrupt and could not afford the expensive vehicle.

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Having heard the complaints of senior officials in his administration about their inability to do private business because of government restrictions, Kenyatta 1 regime decided to do something. In 1971, Kenyatta appointed a body called the “Public Service Structure and Remuneration Commission” to recommend reforms in the public service on a system established by the colonial government. Known as the Ndegwa Commission, after its Chairman Duncan Ndegwa, the Commission recommended sweeping changes in moral and professional conduct of civil servants. It suggested increases in civil service salaries; the appointment of an ombudsman to oversee integrity in government; and slashing the number of parastatals. Furthermore, it permitted civil servants to engage in private businesses.

The Ndegwa report broke the colonial rule which was observed up to around 1970 that public workers should not engage in businesses. In the meantime, civil servants began immediately to engage in businesses. Soon, the civil service was submerged in corruption from top to bottom. Officers demanded bribes and sold tips and confidential government information to the highest bidders. Service delivery was impacted as many civil servants were often away tending to their private businesses. The Ndegwa allowed people to use their public offices to loot public resources with very little or no accountability.

*******

When Moi came to power many Kenyans hoped corruption would end. Because Kenya’s second president was a staunch Christian; and as a man with a strong rural upbringing, he was less entangled in the twisted urban lifestyles of intrigues, corruption, and conspiracy. He demonstrated that commitment by lashing at corruption and those involved in it wherever he went in the country, even as his family and cronies were amassing wealth. At one time, he showed up in Parliament to personally lead a debate on a legislation intended to deal with the menace. In 1982, Moi formed a working committee to draft a national code of conduct to deal with various issues including inequitable distribution of resources, misappropriation of public funds, and corruption. In announcing its formation, he accused some of his officials of greed and selfishness and promised tough action. He said his government would no longer tolerate graft and those caught would be punished severely. The working committee, chaired by a prominent businessman, B. M. Gecaga, submitted its report in October 1983, but that was the last time anyone heard of it. The whole charade appeared to be a public relations stint to hoodwink Kenyans into believing he was serious about corruption. It was a show of empty bravado.

******

In 1993, the Government established the Police Anti-Corruption Squad in the police force to spearhead the fight against corruption in the Criminal Investigation Department. It was abandoned in 1995. The Prevention of Corruption Act (Cap 65) was amended in 1997 and would lead to the creation of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority (KACA), the first government anti-corruption organ established by law to fight corruption. The first Director of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority, John Harun Mwau, was appointed in December, 1997. KACA was disbanded in the year 2000 after it was declared unconstitutional by the High Court. This decision was on the basis, among others, that the powers of KACA to prosecute went against Section 26 of the then Constitution which had then preserved powers of prosecution on the Attorney General. After the disbandment of KACA, the Anti-Corruption Police Unit was formed as an administrative organ to continue the fight against corruption.

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In July 1998, Parliament appointed a Select Committee on anti-corruption under the Chairmanship of MP Musikari Kombo and gave it the mandate to study and investigate the causes, nature, extent and impact of corruption in Kenya; identify the key perpetrators and beneficiaries of corruption; recommend immediate and effective measures to be taken against such individuals involved in corruption, recover public property corruptly appropriated by them; and enact a Bill to provide stiff penalties for corruption related offences. The motion led to the enactment of the Anti Corruption and Economic Crimes Bill (2000) which established the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) with responsibilities to investigate corrupt cases and institute civil proceedings for recovery of corruptly obtained assets; and the formation of the Kenya anti-corruption advisory board to be responsible for appointing commissioners, and advise the commission on the performance of its functions. Nothing came out of those efforts until Moi handed over the government to Kibaki in December 2002.

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Kibaki’s victory in the 2002 general elections came as a big sigh of relief that four decades of KANU’s misrule had come to an end. Kenyans dreamed of a new beginning away from corruption, misadministration, and human injustices. Kibaki vowed to deal firmly with corruption which Moi had failed to clamp down. Kibaki said that corruption would cease to be a way of life in Kenya. Soon after being sworn-in, Kibaki moved to create institutions to deal with the challenge. He established the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) and appointed John Githongo as PS in his office to deal with matters of ethics in the public sector. Within a few months, he got Parliament to enact the public officer ethics legislation to compel all public servants to declare their wealth. The legislation tightened protocols to discourage favoritism, nepotism and administrative malpractices in government. From all initial indications, Kenyans were convinced Kibaki was the man to steer the country away from rampant sleaze which had dominated the two previous administrations. KACC was born out of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act (ACECA) and the Public Officers Ethics Act of 2003 which became fully operational on 2 May 2003. The Act also established the Kenya Anti- Corruption Advisory Board (KACAB), a body which recommends to Parliament persons to be appointed as director and assistant directors, and advises the commission on the exercise of its powers and performance of its functions. However, while the anti-corruption push, led from the front by President Mwai Kibaki, started with a bang it faltered within eight months. Through a series of circulars, directives, committees, commissions and endless meetings, the fight against corruption was bureaucratised, effectively reduced to an annual laundry list by the anti-corruption authority of what they mostly hadn’t achieved, and the odd court appearance by suspects wearing broad smiles and expensive suits.

*******

In August 2010, a new constitution was promulgated in Kenya, which made far-reaching changes on governance, leadership, integrity in the anti-corruption regime. Article 79 of the Constitution required Parliament to enact legislation to establish an independent body to ensure compliance with and enforcement of Chapter Six of the Constitution. Pursuant to this Article, Parliament enacted the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission Act, No. 22 of 2011 which came into effect on 5th September 2011. The Act amended the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act (ACECA) by repealing the provisions establishing Kenya Anti Corruption Commission and its Advisory Board, while retaining all other provisions relating to corruption offences and economic crimes, their investigation and prosecution.

********

After billions of dollars have been spent in the war on graft, today, corruption is undergoing a moral and political paralysis. Largely due to the politicization of corruption by the Kenyan political class in their battles for 2022, and more fundamentally because the standard post-colonial logic that “all would be fine” if it were not for the corruption of some persons and their ability to mobilise their own ethnic groups in pursuit of the public purse has been falsified. The political vernacular of corruption has lost its luster, especially with the millennial generation, who today perceive corruption not as the abuse of public office for private gain but the abuse itself lays in the existence of the public office. Indeed, the very idea and roots of the Kenyan state is that of “corruption” and of the continuous abuse of its citizens.




The Aftermath of Terror Attacks in Kenya Since 1975

The Aftermath of Terror Attacks in Kenya Since 1975


On 1 March 1975
, three bombs exploded at the OTC bus stop in Nairobi. 27 people were killed and 100 others injured. No one claimed responsibility for the incident and the police declined to speculate on the identities and motives of the bombers.

On 31 December 1980, the Fairmont Norfolk Hotel was bombed by terrorists. 20 people were killed and 80 were injured after the attack. The hotel was extensively damaged and renovation commenced immediately. The terrorist, identified later by the police and Interpol as Quddura Mohammad Abd-el-Hamid, had boarded the 2.30 p.m. Kenya Airways flight bound for Jeddah via Khartoum six hours before the bomb exploded. He was a known terrorist travelling under the name Muradi Alkali with a Maltese passport.

On 7 August 1998 the U.S embassy in Kenya was bombed killing 212 people and leaving more than 4,500 wounded. The blast occurred at about 10:45 a.m.(Local time). The force of the blast blew off the embassy’s bomb-proof doors, which were later used as stretchers to carry away the injured. Injured people were rushed from the scene, as a plume of smoke rose above the Nairobi skyline. Windows were shattered as far as 10 blocks away, and bloodied clothing and papers littered the streets. On the same day, a second truck bomb exploded outside of the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, causing extensive damage to the building killing 12 people.In total, the two bombings killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. The Terrorist group al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the bombings and more than 20 people have been indicted in the United States for the bombings. Eight are currently serving prison terms.

On November 22, 2002 an Israeli owned hotel In Mombasa was bombed just as two missiles were fired at an Israeli holiday jet that had taken off from the city’s airport. The missiles narrowly missed the Arkia airline plane – a Boeing 757 carrying 261 passengers – but a large part of the Paradise Hotel was reduced to rubble and the rest was a smouldering shell.15 people died. Kenya police claimed three suicide bombers were killed, along with nine Kenyans and three Israelis, two of whom were children. About 80 people, most of them Kenyans, were injured in the attack. The Army of Palestine claimed responsibility for the attacks, however, speculations arose that it could have been Al-Qaeda.

In the months of August 2007 and 2008 respectively, the Ugandan army bombed over 5,000 Turkana pastoralists in Koten in a move to flush them out of the area. UPDF was accused of bombing the Turkana pastoralists in Nakwanye (Nakwanga) and Morutorong in August 2008.  

On 21 October 2010 thirty people were reported to have been killed following the night clashes between Al-Shabaab and a pro-government Somali militia on the Kenya-Somali border.

In October 2011, Kenya sent troops into Somalia after Kenya’s national security was threatened by the Somalia-based Islamist militant group, Al-Shabaab. The terrorist group had in fact carried out a number of cross-border raids during the months preceding the operation.

On October 28, 2011, Kenyan born Elgiva Bwire Oliacha alias Mohamed Seif pleaded guilty to a grenade attack in Nairobi. Elgiva Bwire Oliacha confessed to being a member of Al-Shabaab, and admitted his role in a terror attack that took place in Nairobi. One person was killed in the and 20 others were wounded after the grenade was detonated in a bar.

On 10 March 2012,  Al Shabaab killed six people and wounded sixty more after four grenades were detonated at the Machakos bus station in Nairobi.

On 18 November 2012, seven passengers were killed and 33 others injured following a bomb blast in a city matatu.

On 21 September 2013, Al Shabaab attacked pedestrians at Westgate Shopping Mall. 68 people were killed and over 150 people injured over the four days siege. Witnesses claimed that the attack was highly organised, with the attackers having pre-positioned weapons throughout the building, as well as obtaining access to service elevators. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility.

On 23 November 2013, suspected Al Shabaab militants killed at least 28 people on a bus in Arabiya area, Mandera County. The heavily armed militias were reported to have waylaid a Nairobi bound bus, which left the incursion prone Mandera town early in the morning between Mandera and Arabia. According to the Mandera East sub-county commissioner Elvis Korir the assailants stopped the bus, veered off from the main road before separating passengers and targeting those they perceived to be non-Muslim. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the killings through its radio station in Somalia, saying it was in retaliation for raids by the government security officials in the coastal city of Mombasa closed two mosques after allegedly found hosting radicalised Muslim youth and cache of firearms among them hand grenades.

Between 15 June and 17 June 2014, more than 60 people were killed in attacks in and near Mpeketoni, Kenya. The Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militant group claimed responsibility, but the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta asserted that the attacks were organized by local politicians with ties to a network of gangs.

In July 2014, 21 people were killed in Hindi village located in Lamu county. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility.

In August 2017, anti-terrorism detectives gunned down Hussein Said Omar aka Babley, a terror suspect after a police shootout. According to police reports, Babley and his brother Ahmed Said Omar alias Dogo were both suspected to be behind the 2014 Mpeketoni massacre.

On November 21, 2014, 28 people were killed after suspected Al-Shabaab militants attacked a Nairobi-bound bus in Omar Jilo, in Mandera County. Witnesses said the attackers ordered all off the bus, divided the passengers along ethnic lines – Somali and non-Somali, shooting all non-Somalis. Many of the deceased were teachers. Al Shabaab claimed the responsibility of the killing of the 36-non local Kenyans at a quarry in Koromei area near Mandera in the night of December 1, 2014 through a pro-Al-Shabaab website. They claimed that the attack on Koromei was part of series of attacks executed by the Mujahidin to serve as a response to Kenya’s occupation of Somalia and the killing of innocent Somalis.

On April 2, 2015,  Al Shabaab gunmen attacked Garissa University killing 148 people. Among the deceased,142 were students.

On July 7, 2015,  Al Shabaab attacked Mandera town, throwing grenades into the homes of quarry workers. 14 people were confirmed dead. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility, declaring they were specifically targeting Christians in the attack to avenge killings of Muslims in Somalia and Kenya by Kenyan security forces.

On October 25, 2016,  Al Shabaab gunmen attacked  Boshari Guest house during the early morning hours. 12 people were killed. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility, claiming there target were Christians.

On November 6, 2017, Al-Shabab militants ambushed and burnt down two police land cruisers in an attack in Daba City, Mandera County. The two vehicles carrying police officers were escorting a bus to Mandera when they were hit by rocket-propelled grenades. 12 killed, several wounded.

On August 13, 2017, Al-Shabaab destroyed a Kenyan police vehicle which was driving through Yadi, Damase and El Wak towns in Mandera with an improvised explosive device. Fatalities were recorded.

On September 25, 2018,  Al-Shabaab militants claimed to have overrun a Kenyan military base in Taksile area north of Pandaguo, Lamu County. They killed 10 Kenyan soldiers. Kenyan military sources reported the clashes, although they claimed that 10 Al-Shabaab fighters had been killed.

On January 15, 2019   Al Shabaab attacked Nairobi, DusitD2 hotel. 21 people were killed and several other injured. About 700 people were rescued from the compound. On February 26, 2019  Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji claimed the Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) Eastleigh branch has been accused of helping to finance terror-related crimes by facilitating the withdrawal of Sh30 million by a suspect in one week to Jilib town which is the headquarters of Al-Shabaab.




Where Do Kenyans Seek Medical Treatment?

Where Do Kenyans Seek Medical Treatment?

 

In Kenya there are about 15 medical doctors for every 100,000 persons, a ratio that is quite low. Due to this, people seek other alternative sources of health care. For this reason, over 70% of Kenyans rely on traditional healers as their primary source of health care. This number is high because healers respond to diverse needs – they work as herbalists and birth attendants and they’re within reach of ordinary citizens. Estimates suggest that there is one healer for every 950 patients operating both in the rural and urban settings. legitimacy and authority are bestowed on them particularly because they act as custodians of precious biodiversity and the bearers of traditional knowledge.

According to a national household survey released  by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 57 percent of the population seek treatment from traditional healers and herbalists compared to 28 percent who accessed from health facilities.  

Population distribution by who diagnosed the illness

Population distribution by who diagnosed the illness

 

The same study also revealed that as compared to their counterparts in urban areas rural folk visit traditional healers more by a 13 percent difference, largely due to the distribution and accessibility of health centres in the rural areas viz. urban centres.

Population distribution by who diagnosed the illness

Population distribution by who diagnosed the illness: Rural v. Urban

At 76 percent, 59 percent and 57 percent respectively, West Pokot, Siaya and Migori Counties reported the highest numbers as regards treatment by traditional healers and Baringo and Kirinyaga Counties recorded the lowest at 36 percent and 39 percent respectively.

Counties with highest proportions of population that reported diagnosis by a traditional healer

Counties with highest proportions of population that reported diagnosis by a traditional healer

For those who seek treatment in the health facilities only 1 in 4 Kenyans have access to private hospitals or clinics while the majority of the population are reported to access treatment through public health government hospitals, dispensaries and health centres.

Population distribution by type of healthcare provider

Population distribution by type of healthcare provider

Urban constituents recorded a higher access to private hospitals at 78.2 percent than their rural counterpart  at 64.2 percent.

Distribution Population by Type of Healthcare Provider: Rural v. Urban

Population distribution by type of healthcare provider: Rural v. Urban

The government of Kenya seeks to have universal healthcare to all Kenyans by 2022 to guarantee access to quality and affordable health care. As the data suggests, government should therefore lay its emphasis in investing in public health systems and traditional medicine which have the potential to transform primary healthcare and make it more affordable and accessible.

Written by Joe Kobuthi
Data by Juliet Atellah
Graphics design by Mdogo




A Timeline of Terror Attacks in Kenya Since 1975

A Timeline of Terror Attacks in Kenya Since 1975

The narrative around terror attacks makes them seem like a rare event. However, since 2011, Kenya has faced 321 terror attacks; that is a new attack every 9 days.

Here’s a look at 29 of the deadliest attacks.

Visualization by OdipoDev

Clean Data: Here
Raw Data: Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)

 




Vaccination in Kenya has a Fake News Problem; And it is Not Happening Online

When you come across the term ‘fake news’, you will most likely think it has something to do with politics. This is because the majority of the research and attention given to fake news has been focused on its use in politics and election campaigns. However, misinformation and disinformation also presents a big challenge in other sectors. Health is one such area that our research shows is also being affected by fake news. However, it does’nt get the mainstream attention afforded to categories like politics.

As the Information Age has evolved in the era of social media, we have seen misinformation in health explode with no system of facts in place to counter the spread of falsehoods. Misinformation to do with health is uniquely delicate in that it completely suffocates the truth in many cases, exposing people to very real physiological danger. The forces behind this brand of fake news includes false advertising pushing products like waist trainers, genitalia enlargement pills, magical weight loss pills and meal replacements. The misinformation is also spread through myths and misconceptions of diseases such as ebola, as witnessed on social media whenever an outbreak occurs. In countries like the U.S, vaccine hesitancy has found a home online with the ‘anti-vaxxer’ movement gaining massive momentum in Facebook groups and other social media channels. ‘Anti-vaxxers’ believe there’s a connection between vaccination and autism, as well as other brain disorders, despite there being no scientific evidence supporting that theory. We have also seen healthcare being caught up in political tugs of war, leading to falsehoods being trumpeted by influential public figures or mainstay institutions like the church. In short, fake news is seriously damaging our health.

This phenomenon has been manifested in Kenya in the area of vaccination. The country has a long history of vaccine hesitancy and distrust, which has been mainly fuelled by the church’s skepticism towards the procedure. A survey carried out by Ipsos in 2014 found:

  • As much as 45% of Kenyan Catholics believe that the tetanus vaccine is being used to depopulate Kenyan populations,
  • While the Catholic Church are the most vocal against vaccines, in other Christian denominations as much as 65% of them also believed the vaccine is a tool for depopulation,
  • 40% of Muslims consider the vaccine to be a depopulation device, with 77% of North Eastern Province residents being in opposition to the vaccine,
  • As a testament to the power of misinformation, education was not a factor influencing people’s beliefs in whether the vaccine is a depopulation mechanism or not.

Most recently, there has been loud public debate and uproar over a national cervical cancer vaccine drive planned by the Kenyan Government and targeted at girls aged 9 to 14 years.

We conducted research around this conversation and other vaccine-oriented conversations in recent history to understand the underlying attitudes towards vaccines among Kenyans. We wanted to trace any misinformation and misconceptions being pushed online around this issue and the forces behind it. Here is what we found:

1. News stories are the trigger of conversations around the vaccine. News coverage sparks Kenyans to share misinformation around vaccines, either innocently or maliciously.

As with any other facet of public health, vaccine drives need to be supplemented by media campaigns in order to get vital information out to the public. However, the opposition to the vaccines, mainly by the Church, tends to make the vaccine drives a news item in themselves.

In our research we identified that there is no active digital anti-vaccination campaign in Kenya. No specific organisation of any kind is actively churning out fake news about vaccines to a specific target audience.

In the absence of an active digital misinformation campaign or news coverage, vaccine misconceptions largely stay under the radar. This rapidly changes whenever a story is published. Sparked by news coverage, anti-vaccine sentiments tend to bubble to the surface and online commentary increases in comment sections on news sites and on social media. From this, we can conclude that the misinformation agent happens offline and the misconceptions appear online.

Mentions across the web for terms associated with vaccinations in December 2018

2. Politicians are emerging as influential misinformation agents about vaccines.

As the government wages a tug of war with the church over vaccines, the debate rapidly becomes political and invites other parties to weigh in on the matter. This is how an influential voice like ODM leader, Raila Odinga ends up holding a press conference to state that the tetanus vaccine led to the sterilization of over 500,000 women. This effectively makes the media a conduit for fake news. The data we collected shows how much conversation Mr.Odinga triggered by making one statement about vaccines.

Key word density graph for comments on news stories about vaccines in 2017

Raila appears prominently in conversations about vaccines from news data gathered, garnering more mentions than even the Church.

Examples of some of the comments we found

Politicians wield large influence over Kenyans and having them actively participate in spreading misinformation about the vaccine could have far-reaching effects. Our research shows that very few politicians so far, have shared views digitally about vaccines. But as with everything in politics, this could change in an instant.

3. Prominent coverage of misinformation agents by mainstream Kenyan media lends credibility to the information and spreads it beyond Kenya’s borders.

Kenya has become a leading case study among anti-vaccination communities around the world. Many have used information reported on mainstream Kenyan media to lend credence to their claims of vaccines as tools of depopulation. Videos of the Raila Odinga press conference on the tetanus vaccine were shared by anti-vaccine sympathisers across the world. The content has been used to create several videos on Youtube, with the most popular having over 93,000 views.

Infowars, the infamous conspiracy theory website founded by Alex Jones, also picked up on these claims and wrote an article and even did an entire video which is also available on YouTube.

4. Several members of the public often make attempts to correct the misconceptions of others that they see in the comment sections of vaccine stories.

In the absence of a proper system of fact checking to counter the vaccine misinformation and misconceptions, we are seeing members of the public trying to correct misconceptions when they encounter them. However, while this is positive, it also runs the risk of misinformation being countered with more misinformation.

Methodology:

Data collection: Historical Keyword data collection off of Twitter to do with terms relevant to vaccines
Facebook: Data collected from Daily Nation, The Star and Standard Facebook pages by mining stories to do with vaccines then collecting the comments in the comment sections.

Time period: 2016–2018

Odipodev is a data analytics and research firm operating out of Nairobi. They can be contacted on team@odipodev.com




Is the Media Setting the Right Agenda?

Odipodev is a data analytics and research firm operating out of Nairobi. They can be contacted on team@odipodev.com