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Uhuru Kenyatta’s Debt Legacy: Reviewing Two Claims About Kenya’s Borrowing Under Former President

3 min read.

As the country struggles with a cash crisis, did the national debt quadruple under Uhuru Kenyatta, and did his government borrow more than KSh4 trillion in its last term?



Kenyatta’s Debt Legacy: Reviewing Two Claims About Kenya’s Borrowing Under Former President
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Kenya’s high national debt has dominated headlines in recent months, with one proposed solution being to borrow from Peter to pay Paul, or taking on new debt to pay off old.

The country is expected to face a debt repayment crisis in 2024, even as officials work to borrow more in the fiscal year beginning on 1 July 2023.

In January, when news that the country was looking to take on more debt first brokeVentures Africa, a Nigerian media publication, attributed the borrowing appetite to the “bottom-up” economic policy of the current administration.

President William Ruto has been in office since September 2022.

As the conversation continued, the artificial intelligence tools that Africa Check uses to monitor public debate online picked up two claims about Kenya’s public debt, allowing us to revisit the debate about former president Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy.

We vetted them for accuracy.

Claim: Kenyatta borrowed “KSh4.1 trillion … in the five years leading up to June 2022”.

Verdict: Correct

In reference to news that Ruto’s government would borrow KSh3.6 trillion in his first term, Ventures Africa said this amount was “equivalent to 89% of the record Sh4.1 trillion borrowed by his predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta, in the five years leading up to June 2022”.

(Note: KSh3.6 trillion is about US$27 billion at time of publication. Due to a sharp currency depreciation in recent months this figure is used only for illustration.)

We found the same claim in an article in Business Daily, a Kenyan newspaper. The story was published on 24 January, two days before the one in Ventures Africa.

Business Daily cited the national treasury as the source of the KSh4.1 trillion figure.

Kenyatta’s second term began in November 2017 and ended in September 2022, when he handed over power to Ruto, his former deputy.

Annual public debt reports.The treasury publishes annual public debt reports. These show trends in public debt at the end of each financial year, which in Kenya runs from 1 July to 30 June.

The data shows that between 30 June 2017 and 30 June 2022 public debt increased by KSh4.18 trillion.

The numbers are taken from the debt reports for the financial years 2016/172017/182018/192019/202020/21 and 2021/22.

We also checked the monthly bulletins published by the treasury. These show that at the end of December 2017, the first full month of Kenyatta’s second term, total public debt was KSh4.6 trillion.

In August 2022, the last full month of Kenyatta’s second term, the debt stood at KSh8.7 trillion. Between December 2017 and August 2022, public debt increased by KSh4.1 trillion. – Grace Gichuhi

Claim: Kenya’s debt more than quadrupled to KSh8.58 trillion ($71 billion) under Kenyatta.

Verdict: Mostly Correct

Ventures Africa cited November 2022 data from Kenya’s central bank, which put public debt at KSh8.9 trillion.

When Kenyatta was first sworn in as president in April 2013, the national debt was  KSh1.79 trillion, according to the central bank.

At the end of this financial year, 30 June 2013, total debt stood at KSh1.89 trillion, according to the national treasury’s annual debt reports.

The debt had increased to KSh4.59 trillion as of 30 November 2017. Kenyatta began his second term that month, stepping down in September 2022 after having served two terms.

In August 2022, the last full month of Kenyatta’s second term, debt was at KSh8.7 trillion. The total debt more than quadrupled from KSh1.79 trillion to KSh8.7 trillion. This is an increase of 383% or almost five times.

The claim checks out. We therefore rate it mostly correct. – Dancan Bwire

Kenya’s forex pain

Exchange rate fluctuations have a significant impact on Kenya’s public debt.

Treasury data shows that the debt was KSh1.8 trillion as at 31 March 2013. This was $21 billion based on the prevailing exchange rate of the US dollar at KSh85.64.

In August 2022,  one US dollar exchanged for KSh118.80 according to the  treasury. The debt was KSh8.7 trillion, which works out to about $73 billion (not $71 billion as estimated by Ventures Africa).

In dollar terms, the increase is 247%, or just over three times.

Written by Africa Check researchers Dancan Bwire and Grace Gichuhi. This article was first published by Africa Check.

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Africa Check is a non-profit fact checking organisation set up in 2012 to promote accuracy in public debate and the media in Africa. The organisation's goal is to raise the quality of information available to society across the continent.


What We Are Learning About Election Disinformation in Africa and What You Can Do About It

As nearly a dozen countries in the region prepare to hold presidential elections, the spread of disinformation is inflaming the continent’s political landscape. Will facts prevail and calm the situation?



What We Are Learning About Election Disinformation in Africa and What You Can Do About It
Photo: Flickr/GovernmentZA
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Nigeria, Africa’s largest democracy, held its presidential election in February 2023. In the lead-up voters had to wade through a sea of political disinformation. And the spreading of false information continued as the votes were being counted – and afterwards

Kenya remains polarised in the aftermath of the August 2022 presidential election, with the opposition taking to the streets from March 2023 to demand a review of the electoral process.

Both countries were beachheads for Cambridge Analytica, the British political consultancy firm that attempted to influence general elections in Nigeria in 2015 and in Kenya in 2017.

Nearly 10 other countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, South Sudan and Sierra Leone, will hold presidential elections in 2023, and in 2024 others, such as South Africa, Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Egypt, go to the polls.

If parliamentary and local elections are included, the number rises to more than 20 African countries in 2023. Against this political backdrop and the resulting potential for disinformation, the forecast for honest public debate and post-election stability, from where we sit, is gloomy.

As we marked international fact-checking day on 2 April, here’s what we have learned from our efforts to fact-check the elections in Nigeria and Kenya, and what the African electorate can do to promote honest public debate, credible elections and evidence-based decision-making.

1) Targeting journalists, the judiciary and election management bodies is a powerful tactic

Political campaigners are increasingly targeting the media, the judiciary and election management bodies with political disinformation. These institutions are often accused of bias or incompetence, or even portrayed as corrupt or unreliable.

Some false or misleading information is used to intimidate journalists or officials perceived as a threat to political campaigns. In Nigeria, for example, there were reports of political support groups exaggerating and announcing their leader’s victory before the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission had collated results.

The aim is to undermine the credibility of these institutions and the people who work within them, to erode public confidence and to promote diversionary alternative narratives that will sow discord and confusion.

2) Ethnicity, culture and religion are elevated and exploited in elections

Elections in many African countries are seen as an ethnic census, as political mobilisation is often along ethnic lines.

As a result, public debate on key socio-economic issues, such as the economy, jobs, governance, education and healthcare is often stifled. Instead, the ethnicity of politicians is emphasised, with negative stereotyping dominating political narratives.

In Nigeria, these issues, along with political zoning and geography, came to the fore in the recently concluded elections.

Exploiting these divisions makes it easier for political campaigns to invoke ethnic, religious or even cultural solidarity, polarise and pollute the debate, and possibly win elections without addressing public policy issues.

Culture, too, is being hijacked by political dog-whistling, as we have seen in Kenya.

3) People are more connected, but voters are still vulnerable to false information

Internet use in Africa is growing, according to the latest data from the International Telecommunications Union, the United Nations agency for information, communication and technology.

However, multiple barriers make the digital experience less enabling for African voters. These include limited digital literacy skills to navigate the online landscape, inaccessible or poor quality public information, and even language. The language of the internet is often English, French or Arabic, but not every connected African speaks these languages.

Poor regulation of online spaces makes it easy for promoters of political disinformation to use data analytics, as seen in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

And when media houses erect paywalls, it makes quality information expensive and inaccessible to many people, forcing them to seek out lower quality information. As some have argued, “democracy dies behind paywalls”.

4) Government regulation is risky and inadequate

Most threats to democracy are regulated by governments. However, when it comes to political disinformation, government regulation is difficult because some in power use the levers of the state to spread false and misleading information during elections in order to retain power.

In some countries, such as Uganda and Nigeria, when social media platforms have cracked down on such disinformation networks, the authorities have retaliated by shutting down the platforms.

In addition, state authorities can sometimes mean to combat false information and hate speech, but end up suppressing the right to information and freedom of expression.

While it is useful to have laws to promote privacy, digital security and safety, and to encourage the circulation of verifiable information, these should be balanced against the risk of stifling honest public debate.

5) Platform accountability in African elections still a work in progress

Most of the popular social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram, Instagram, Tiktok and YouTube – used in Africa are owned by foreign companies based in or operating from the US, Europe or China.

These platforms often focus on Africa during elections and work with fact-checkers, including Africa Check, to tackle online disinformation.

They invest in tools, funding and people to tackle misinformation in the African context, but often on a project basis. Once elections are over, they move on. It is therefore not easy to hold these companies accountable for the spread of hate speech and political disinformation on their platforms.

It’s also not clear how algorithms prioritise online debates on these platforms, how certain issues are amplified and how false information is de-amplified. The sustainability of strategies, tools and tactics to fight online disinformation during elections is difficult to achieve for proprietary and financial reasons.

The question remains: how do African governments and civil society hold these foreign multinationals accountable for political disinformation, beyond the obvious data protection and digital privacy laws? Put another way, if these platforms don’t promote accurate data and honest public debate on the continent, what recourse do African governments have?

What can the African voter do in the face of political disinformation during elections?

Here are five of our tips:

  1. Media, digital and information literacy helps voters understand how the media works, how to assess the reliability of news stories, how to verify information, where to get credible information, and how to safely and intelligently spot and stop the cycle of political disinformation. More literacy clinics are needed to help counter the evolving strategies of information pollution. Election management bodies and other institutions must also work to develop and implement clear and transparent communication strategies to provide timely information on contested issues.
  2. In all the countries where Africa Check works, it has become increasingly clear that civil society, media organisations, journalists, government agencies, technology platforms and the public need to work together to monitor, pre-empt, debunk and call out harmful political disinformation. These collaborative efforts have worked in Kenya and Nigeria, and will be used in Senegal and South Africa for their next elections.
  3. It is important to understand the history, culture, religion and political context before developing strategies to target political and electoral disinformation. You need to understand the context of the issues being publicly debated, unpack all the angles of the conversation, and identify how those angles are being abused to further social divisions and spread disinformation. Then take appropriate action to break the cycle without alienating the people you are trying to reach with credible information.
  4. While fact-checking alone may not be enough, it is useful to empower fact-checkers through material, financial and support with tools, so that countries enable more people to fact-check and debunk for the public. Fact-checkers help the public sort out fact from fiction and hold public figures accountable for the claims they make.
  5. As technology evolves, fact-checking organisations need to build partnerships with technology platforms to develop tools that keep pace with the evolution of disinformation. Sophisticated election disinformation campaigns are highly coordinated, using tactics and strategies that reach many people quickly. Having tools developed through artificial intelligence and machine learning that can detect patterns, identify trends, and map the trajectory and actors of political disinformation networks will help provide early warning and disrupt these networks.

One last thing …

Ultimately, African countries need to find ways to build resilience against political disinformation. This requires a sustained effort to promote transparency, accountability and democratic values. This will help public figures and political campaigns to base their public statements on evidence. Countries need to invest in raising awareness of the dangers of disinformation and promoting critical thinking skills among citizens, even as they devise ways to ask social media platforms to label or remove false information and crack down on disinformation networks.

Written by Alphonce Shiundu, Kenya editor and Motunrayo Joel, Nigeria deputy editor/health researcher at Africa Check.

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‘Saving Face’ and the Subsidy That Disappeared: Fact-Checking Kenyan Deputy President Gachagua’s Media Claims

Did officials take president William Ruto’s budget out of spite? And did someone steal money meant to make Kenya’s staple food of maize flour cheaper? We took a closer look.



‘Saving Face’ and the Subsidy That Disappeared: Fact-Checking Kenyan Deputy President Gachagua’s Media Claims
Photo: Facebook/H.E. Rigathi Gachagua, EGH
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  • Gachagua is correct that the deputy president’s budget was cut under the previous regime, but exaggerated by how much. There is no evidence that the budget was ever KSh4 billion.
  • The deputy president was also right that KSh4 billion was released to subsidise the price of Kenya’s staple unga, or maize flour. And while exact figures are hard to come by, the millers promised this money have not received all of it.
  • However, it’s not true that maize is in short supply internationally, and it can’t be proven how many new teachers have been employed under Ruto.

Kenyan deputy president Rigathi Gachagua gave a media interview on 12 March 2023 in which he addressed concerns about media freedom, the cost of living, governance and education.

The interview came against the backdrop of allegations that Gachagua had requested KSh1.59 billion (US$12.3 million at current rates) for his office soon after his inauguration, despite claiming to have inherited empty coffers.

Gachagua and his boss William Ruto have been in office since September 2022. Ruto was deputy to his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta, with whom he had a falling out while in office.

Gachagua said the funding request came from the former comptroller of State House, Kinuthia Mbugua, not his office. In the interview he spoke about the budget cuts suffered by the deputy president’s office ahead of the 2022 elections.

He also talked about controversial maize subsidies and the government’s move to import maize to curb the high cost of living which has led to protests.

But did Gachagua get all his facts right? We looked at five claims he made.

Claim: “[Officials in the Kenyatta administration] cut off funds to the office of the deputy president … The previous year the budget of the office of the deputy president was KSh4 billion, they went ahead and cut KSh1.5 billion.”

Verdict: Exaggerated

Gachagua claimed that Mbugua and former finance minister Ukur Yatani initiated the budget cuts in the 2022/23 financial year. He said:

“For four years, president William Ruto, then deputy president, fuelled GK [Government of Kenya] cars from his pocket. For four years, he bought tea for his office. For four years, he paid electricity bills for his office. For four years he paid allowances to staff accompanying him across the country. And when he became the president-elect, these two officers … sought to undo the damage of what they had done to save their face.”.

Allegations that Ruto was personally paying some official bills have been carried in the mainstream Kenyan media, including the Nation in March 2022 and the People Daily in June.

Both articles quoted Emmanuel Talam, then the deputy president’s communications director and now the president’s press secretary. Talam said the budget cuts had been in place since September 2021. Kenyatta’s spokesperson at the time declined to comment on the matter, and Yatani referred media questions to the comptroller.

No evidence for KSh4 billion figure

For proof of Gachagua’s claim, we contacted his office. Njeri Rugene, his head of communications, said Gachagua’s reference to KSh1.59 billion was his interpretation of the request made by those who had previously cut the budget – Mbugua and Yatani.

Kinuthia was appointed as auditor in January 2018. Yatani was designated as acting cabinet secretary for the national treasury in July 2019, and confirmed in the position in January 2020.

Budget allocations to ministries are contained in the Appropriations Act, which authorises the spending of public funds, John Kinuthia told Africa Check. He is a senior programme officer at the Kenya office of the International Budget Partnership, a global budget transparency organisation.

We reviewed national budget estimates, appropriation acts and expenditure reports from the 2019/20 financial year, when Yatani and Mbugua were both in office, to the 2022/23 fiscal year, the most recent.

Sources: Budget estimates; appropriation acts, national treasury sector reports (2019-2022)

Sources: Budget estimates; appropriation acts, national treasury sector reports (2019-2022)

(Note: Actual spending exceeds the amount in the appropriations acts, because there were supplementary appropriations acts – laws authorising reallocations within the financial year – which we haven’t been able to find publicly.)

In as far as his claim that the budget was whittled, Gachagua was right.

The data shows that the budget for the deputy president’s services, the spending unit for activities related to the office of the deputy president, was cut from KSh2.68 billion in 2019/20 to KSh1.5 billion in 2020/21.

The cuts amounted to about KSh1.2 billion.

In budget reallocations in January 2023, with Gachagua in power, the office was allocated KSh2.63 billion.

But there’s no data to support the claim that the budget for the office of the deputy president was ever KSh4 billion during Mbugua and Yatani’s tenure.

We therefore rate Gachagua’s claim exaggerated.– Alphonce Shiundu

Claim: “KSh4 billion was released from the national treasury to subsidise unga.”

Verdict: Correct

Gachagua said the treasury had released KSh4 billion to subsidise unga, which is Kiswahili for flour.

Rugene told Africa Check the deputy president was referring to the maize flour subsidy programme announced in July 2022 to protect the Kenyan public from the high prices of the staple food.

At the time, the minister for agriculture Peter Munya said the government had “set aside KSh8 billion to fund the programme”.

A subsidy is a financial benefit given by a government to individuals or businesses to make particular products or services more affordable to the public. The main intention is to protect citizens from adverse economic conditions.

The subsidy programme aimed to reduce the retail price of a two-kilogram packet of maize flour to KSh100. At the time, a packet was selling for at least KSh205 on the open market.

The government reportedly suspended the programme in August 2022 due to insufficient funding from the treasury.

On 20 February 2023, the Cereal Millers Association (CMA), the main industry lobby, said the programme ran from 21 July to 17 August 2022.

The treasury “opened a special account and credited it with KSh4 Billion [$34 million at the time], which was part of the estimated KSh8 billion required for the programme”, the CMA said in a statement.

On 28 February 2023, the budget and appropriations committee of Kenya’s national assembly released a report showing that on 4 August 2022, the treasury paid KSh4 billion for the subsidy programme. This was four days before the 9 August 2022 elections.

By law, the release of public funds to spending units must be authorised by the Office of the Controller of Budget.

The latest report by the controller of budget on the implementation of the budget for the first half of the 2022/23 financial year, was published in February 2023. It showed that on 4 August 2022, the office approved KSh4 billion for the maize flour subsidy.

There’s publicly available evidence to support Gachagua’s claim that KSh4 billion was disbursed for the maize subsidy programme. We therefore rate the claim correct. – Makinia Juma

Claim: “… those millers are demanding money from us, they only received KSh1.7 billion…”

Verdict: Mostly Correct

Gachagua claimed that while KSh4 billion was disbursed, maize millers “only received KSh1.7 billion [while] KSh2.3 billion was stolen”.

“[The millers] are saying they did not receive the money and [yet] the money left the national treasury,” he said.

On 20 February 2023, the Cereal Millers Association reported selling maize flour worth KSh4.3 billion under the subsidy programme. But the lobby also said that only KSh1.7 billion had been paid to it, leaving an outstanding bill of KSh2.5 billion.

The CMA repeated this to the national assembly’s agriculture committee in March.

But a report by the budget and appropriations committee presented to the national assembly on 28 February said that the total amount spent on the subsidy programme was KSh7.3 billion. Of this KSh4 billion was disbursed, and KSh3.3 billion was outstanding.

Why the difference in figures between the committee and the lobby? This is because data from the small and medium-scale millers is not available to the CMA, Stephen Ogallo, the operations manager of the millers’ association, told Africa Check.

Contacted on 16 March to find out if the figures had changed, the association told Africa Check that two more companies that had participated in the subsidy programme had joined the lobby in the last four months.

“The CMA members were only paid KSh1.9 billion, part of the initial KSh4 billion,” Ogallo said. “The CMA can only support the KSh2.5 billion balance owed to its members.”

‘Awkward situation’ says agriculture minister

The amount will rise when interest is included, Ogallo added.

The CMA represents the country’s largest millers. The lobby told Africa Check that while it had about 50 “millers and traders” in its ranks, only 29 took part in the subsidy programme.

Smaller millers are represented by the United Grain Millers Association. UGMA chair Kennedy Nyaga told Africa Check that there was a “difference” between what the government paid and what the millers received.

He however would not say how many members of his association were paid, how much and what the outstanding amount due to the UGMA was.

According to parliament they are owed about KSh400 million. The agriculture committee is now investigating claims that the two groups of millers were given different terms under the same subsidy, a situation agriculture minister Mithika Linturi described as “awkward”.

The deputy president’s claim of outstanding dues is largely supported by the evidence, although only the outcome of the investigation will determine if this money was stolen. – Dancan Bwire

Claim: “Maize is not available anywhere in the world.”

Verdict: Incorrect

In December 2022, Kenya exempted importers from duty on 900,000 tonnes of maize and 600,000 tonnes of rice in a bid to curb rising prices.

This exemption would be in place for six months, from 1 February to 6 August 2023.

However, consumer prices have remained high. When asked about this, Gachagua claimed there was a global shortage of maize and that importers were competing with other governments for the grain.

“The maize is not available anywhere in the world,” he said. Kenya’s agriculture minister had been to Zambia, one of the countries from which Kenya imports maize, but “there was no maize available”, he said.

Kenya imports maize from Uganda and Tanzania, and has previously bought from Zambia, Mexico and South Africa.

“The only maize available is in South Africa, and we are in competition with Angola and Rwanda for the same maize,” said Gachagua. The landing cost for maize in Brazil is “too high”, he added.

But is there a global shortage of maize, or even of cheaper maize?

‘In another … month, we will have flooded this country with maize’ – minister

“There are decent supplies of grain in the world market,” said Wandile Sihlobo, chief economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa, an agribusiness thinktank and lobby.

Sihlobo has studied the grain market in Kenya and has also written on global grain production. He lectures in the department of agricultural economics at Stellenbosch University in South Africa and is a researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand’s school of governance, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

He directed Africa Check to his February 2023 article which referenced data from the US department of agriculture. The data is contained in the monthly global report showing agricultural supplies and demand.

At the end of February, world stocks of maize stood at 295.3 million tonnes. By the beginning of March, this figure had risen to 305.7 million tonnes, with the majority of these in China.

The data shows major maize-exporting countries, including Brazil, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine, all had maize stocks of at least 13 million tonnes in February and March.

The International Grains Council, the intergovernmental organisation for cereals, also published data in March showing that at the end of 2022, major importers, including the US and Canada, had 49 million tonnes of stocks in 2021/22. The council expects this to rise to 50 million tonnes.

On 16 March 2023, four days after Gachagua spoke, agriculture minister Mithika Linturi said importers were expected to deliver grain. “In another one month we will have flooded this country with maize,” he said.

What’s the cost of maize?

In Kenya, the average maize price was KSh6,000 ($46.55) for a 90-kilogram bag in February 2023. For a tonne, that works out to $517.19. (Note: US$1 exchanged at KSh128.9 on 10 March 2023, the week before Gachagua spoke.)

“Globally, the average maize price is about $281 per tonne,” said Sihlobo, citing data from the International Grains Council.

A March bulletin from the US department of agriculture shows that world maize prices have dropped due to a “weak global demand”.

Therefore there are maize stocks on the international market. Kenyan media have reported that the delays in importing maize are due to pricing disputes, with the government seeking lower prices.

Gachagua’s claim of a world shortage is unsupported by the evidence. – Grace Gichuhi

Claim: “We have employed 35,000 teachers, so that we can start bridging the gap.”

Verdict: Unproven

To address Kenya’s teacher shortage, the deputy president said the country had employed 35,000 teachers.

Gachagua said his party’s manifesto included a plan to recruit 116,000 new teachers in two financial years.

The Teachers Service Commission is the country’s largest public service employer. In December 2022, it advertised 35,550 teaching posts. The deadline for applications was 16 December.

When contacted, the country’s education ministry asked Africa Check to verify the status of the recruitment with the commission, in particular whether it had been completed and whether the teachers had been placed in schools.

The commission asked Africa Check to write a formal letter. We have done so. While we wait for a response, we rate the claim as unproven. – Tess Wandia

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Fact-Checking Kenyan President Ruto’s First Roundtable With Journalists

A few months into his first term, William Ruto discussed his administration with the media. But did he get his facts right?



Fact-Checking Kenyan President Ruto’s First Roundtable With Journalists
Photo: Flickr/World Trade Organization
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Claims: Six claims, about the cost of fertiliser and power, the number of livestock in Kenya and the rest of Africa, and the size of the country’s economy in the region

Verdict: Three correct, one mostly correct, one incorrect and one unproven

Source: Kenyan president William Ruto (January 2023)

  • During his chat with journalists, Ruto was correct to claim that his government had lowered the cost of fertiliser.
  • He was also right that a gas power plant produced expensive electricity, while hydropower was much cheaper. A claim about geothermal energy was unproven.
  • He was incorrect to say that Kenya had the third highest number of livestock in Africa. But a claim about the size of the country’s economy “in the region” was mostly correct.

Africa Check

For the first time since he was elected, Kenyan president William Ruto invited members of the media to a discussion at State House, his official residence.

He answered questions about topics such as his administration’s promises to create jobs, lower the cost of living, boost food security and improve manufacturing.

Africa Check vetted six of his claims.

We asked spokesperson Hussein Mohamed for the source of the president’s data. Mohamed said he would send it to us, and we will update this report when we get it.

Claim: “We’ve reduced the cost of fertiliser from about KSh6,000 to KSh3,500.”

Verdict: Correct

Fertilisers contain chemicals that help improve the growth and productivity of plants.

Agriculture makes up a fifth (22.4%) of Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP), a common measure of the size of an economy.

When Ruto was sworn in on 13 September 2022, he promised to lower the price of a 50 kilogram bag of fertiliser from KSh6,500 (about US$50) to KSh3,500 ($30). This was just before the start of Kenya’s rainy season, which runs from October to December.

The agriculture ministry announced the lower price a week later. It said farmers could buy the subsidised fertiliser from the National Cereals and Produce Board. The board later posted photos online of farmers collecting the fertiliser.

In October farmers interviewed by the media said that they had bought the fertiliser at the lower price. We therefore rate the president’s claim as correct.

Commercial fertiliser prices remain high 

But it’s a different story on the open market.  Here a 50kg bag of fertiliser can cost more than KSh5,000 ($40), and in some instances as much as KSh9,000 ($70).

A 2018 study by the Alliance for Green Revolution, a nonprofit working in 11 African countries, estimated that private importers provide half the fertiliser used in Kenya. – Dancan Bwire

Claim: “The Muhoroni power plant is producing energy at 52 US cents per kilowatt hour.”

Verdict: Mostly correct

The gas turbine plant in Muhoroni, a town in southwestern Kenya about 300 kilometres from the capital Nairobi, has a capacity of 60 megawatts (MW).The plant helps stabilise the fragile power grid in western Kenya.

Thermal power plants – like the Muhoroni gas plant – burn fuel that boils water, producing steam. The steam then drives electricity generators. This is in contrast to hydropower plants, where falling water drives the generators.

Ruto used the Muhoroni plant as an example of the high cost of energy in Kenya, due to thermal generation. He compared it to the cost of electricity from hydropower sources, produced at four US cents per kilowatt hour.

A kilowatt hour (KWh) measures the energy used by an electrical device. It’s the measure seen on your electricity bill.

The Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) operates the Muhoroni plant and sells the electricity generated to Kenya Power, the state utility.

Kenya Power said they would send us information on the plant, but have not yet done so. A presidential task force reviewing controversial power purchase agreements in Kenya has also struggled to access this information.

So we checked the firm’s most recent annual report. In the 2021/22 financial year, Kenya Power bought 40 gigawatt hours (GWh), or 40 million KWh, from the Muhoroni plant at KSh2.03 billion. This works out to KSh50.69 for every kilowatt hour. (Note: The World Bank calculates the cost of power in dollars per kilowatt hour.)

In 2021, according to the most recent economic survey from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics,  one US dollar cost an average of KSh109.65. At that rate, Kenya Power bought each kilowatt hour from Muhoroni for 46.23 US cents.

The gas plant’s output accounted for only 0.5% of the 7,911 GWh the utility bought that financial year. But proportionately, it cost nearly 10 times this, or 4.2%, of the total KSh48.4 billion Kenya Power spent to buy electricity.

Ruto’s claim about the plant’s high cost is mostly correct. – Makinia Juma

Claim: “We are getting power from our hydros at four US cents per KWh.”

Verdict: Correct

KenGen produces electricity from 14 hydropower plants. (Note: See here for more details about how electricity is generated.)

Nine of these – including Gitaru, Kiambere and Turkwel – are large plants. Five are much smaller.

In the 2021/22 financial year, Kenya Power bought 3,157 GWh, or 3.157 billion KWh, from eight of the large plants. This works out to KSh2.74 per KWh.

The Sang’oro station is one of the nine larger hydros, but for unclear reasons is treated separately in the annual report. The bill for the 10 GWh, or 10 million KWh, bought from the plant comes to KSh752 million, or KSh6.83 per KWh.

The average cost of electricity from the large hydros is therefore KSh4.79. This works out to 4.36 US cents at the 2021 exchange rate of KSh109.65.

The report also lumps wind power with the small hydropower stations. Without more detailed data from Kenya Power, we are unable to work out an exact figure.

But the available data does back up Ruto’s claim. – Makinia Juma

Claim: “We have 400 megawatts of capped geothermal energy.”

Verdict: Unproven

We asked the State House spokesperson what Ruto meant by “capped” geothermal energy. We will update this report should we hear back.

Geothermal energy is the natural heat stored in the earth’s crust. To produce it, wells are drilled deep underground, and the resulting steam drives large turbines that produce electricity.

Kenya has geothermal potential of up to 10,000 MW, according to the country’s energy regulator. So far, 828 MW is “installed capacity”, or “the maximum theoretical electric output a power station can produce when operating at 100%”. (Note: Kenya Power has a higher figure of 950 MW.)

In its most recent annual report, published in 2020, the state-run Geothermal Development Company said it had a target of increasing its capacity to 1,065 MW, by 2030.

Projects totalling 430 MW are in development, according to the chief executive’s statement in the report. Most of this is in partnership with KenGen, which put out a statement on the day Ruto spoke to the media.

There is publicly available data showing that 400 MW or so is being developed. But without confirmation from Ruto’s spokesperson it is unclear whether the president was referring to this. – Grace Gichuhi

Claim: “We are the third-largest livestock holder as a country in Africa.”

Verdict: Incorrect

In making this claim, the president was talking about the potential of Kenya’s leather industry. We traced the claim to a 2015 World Bank study on the industry. This said that “Kenya is the third largest livestock holder in Africa”.

Dr Timothy Njagi is a research fellow at the Tegemeo Institute of Agriculture Policy and Development, an agriculture policy think tank in Kenya. He said we should check with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for data on livestock numbers.

FAO lists 18 categories of livestock, from bees and chickens to buffalos, cattle and horses.

Njagi said we should focus on camels, cattle, goats and sheep as these are “referred to as traditional livestock.” They are also the animals listed in 2012 government research on the leather industry.

Njagi also said that since the Covid pandemic, Kenya has lost a significant number of its poultry, as farmers opted out due to high food costs. This volatility is also why our focus is on “traditional” livestock.

FAO uses the official numbers. When these are unavailable, it turns to “non-official sources or historical data”. The agency’s most recent figures are from 2021.

Below is a ranking of African countries by livestock holding:

Top African countries by traditional livestock numbers
Rank Country Number
1 Ethiopia 153,336,110
2 Nigeria 146,386,010
3 Chad 128,196,687
4 Sudan 110,399,490
5 Kenya 84,653,025
6 Mali 64,490,817
7 Tanzania 58,513,921
8 Niger 52,708,573
9 South Sudan 42,018,450
10 Burkina Faso 38,832,387

Source: FAO 2021. See our calculations here.

By this breakdown, Kenya has the fifth – not third – highest number of livestock in Africa.

The chief statistician at the FAO also told Africa Check that “Kenya is not the third-largest livestock holder in Africa regardless of any type of livestock”.

The organisation used numbers from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics on livestock production and data on livestock, and the net livestock trade, or total imports less exports.

The agency also shared this table from their publicly available database that shows “live animals”.

“The analysis shows that in 2020/21, Kenya is the eighth livestock holder in Africa (all types of livestock combined),” the FAO said in an email.

“It should be noted that different data sources and methods to derive figures used to rank countries will give different rankings.” – Tess Wandia

Claim: “Kenya has the largest economy in this region.”

Verdict: Mostly correct

Ruto made this claim during a discussion of Kenya’s interventions in conflicts in several African countries. We have asked his spokesperson what he meant by “region”.

Kenya has its military in missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Somalia.

Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta is mediating the conflicts in the DRC and Ethiopia, while the government is also concerned about conflict in South Sudan.

During the discussion, Ruto said that he travelled to Ethiopia, Uganda, DRC, and South Sudan in 2022 to discuss regional stability.

“We have a huge interest in the stability of this region. If this region is unstable, the biggest hit will be on our economy,” he said.

Kenya shares a border with five countries: Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia.

It is also part of the East Africa Community (EAC), made up of seven countries – Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, DRC, Rwanda and Burundi.

Kenya, Somalia, Uganda and Ethiopia are part of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), which has eight members. The others are South Sudan, Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea.

Then there is the Eastern Africa Standby Force, a combined military set up to “enhance peace and security in the eastern Africa region”. Its 10 members are Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.

We checked for the most recent data from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on the 14 countries mentioned above.

The World Bank’s most recent GDP data is for 2021. But it last tracked Eritrea’s GDP in 2011, and South Sudan’s in 2015.

The data shows that in the EAC, Kenya has the largest economy, at US$110.3 billion. It has the second largest economy in the Igad region, after Ethiopia’s $111.3 billion.

The IMF released new GDP estimates in October 2022, showing that Kenya was the largest economy among the 14 countries. The IMF data also shows the Kenyan economy has consistently outperformed Ethiopia’s.

Here is a table showing the breakdown, region and size of the economy based on the two data sources.

Chart 1
Therefore we rate Ruto’s claim as mostly correct. – Tess Wandia

This report was written by Africa Check, a non-partisan fact-checking organisation. View the original piece on their website.

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