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Four Reasons Why Raila Odinga Struggled in the 2022 Kenyan Elections

15 min read.

With so much effort going into making allegations of electoral manipulation, there seems to have been little time for Azimio leaders to reflect on what may have gone wrong and why.



Four Reasons Why Raila Odinga Struggled in the 2022 Kenyan Elections
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In the weeks leading up to Kenya’s 2022 presidential election I wrote a piece that attempted to explain why Raila Odinga was not winning by a landslide and sent it in to the Elephant. It started by pointing out that given that Odinga was a long-term opposition leader who enjoyed strong support among the country’s marginalised and disenchanted communities, he might have expected to win the election at a canter after receiving the backing of President Uhuru Kenyatta. After all, the “handshake” between the two leaders appeared to have removed one of the main barriers to Odinga winning a general election, namely the state machinery that he and his supporters have consistently argued has been used to lock him out of power.

Yet despite the Azimio coalition bringing together the sitting president and the country’s most powerful opposition leader, Odinga did not seem to be running away with the election. The feeling I got from different parts of the country was that many voters were disenchanted with the handshake and the prospects of an Odinga/Kenyatta alliance. Opinion polls also suggested that the campaign was struggling to get into first gear, and that his main rival, William Ruto, retained an advantage. So I sat down to try and explain why, and wrote a piece about the four challenges that I thought his campaign faced, and why they meant he could lose the popular vote.

Then something changed.

The opinion polls began to shift. According to newspapers such as the Daily Nation, Odinga first went into a slight lead and then began to pull away. In one influential poll released just six days to polling day, the Daily Nation put Odinga 8 per cent ahead of Ruto. I distrusted these polls for a number of reasons: a nationally representative private poll my research group had commissioned put the election much closer, with Odinga leading by just over 2 per cent; telephone-based and computer-assisted polls would ignore the poorest members of society, who might be more likely to support Ruto’s “bottom up” economic message; some respondent’s may have been worried about saying they would vote for a candidate not favoured by the president; and, the media had tended to favour Odinga in its coverage. But as more and more polls came out giving Odinga a large lead, my belief in my argument waned. Maybe I had got it wrong, and the Azimio campaign had found a way of overcoming its own contradictions.

I soon lost confidence in my argument and, not wanting to publish analysis that I wasn’t sure about, I wrote to the editors at the Elephant asking them to shelve the piece.

In the wake of the announcement that William Ruto had won the presidential election with 50.49 per cent of the vote, my mind has consistently returned to the piece, because I think it may shed some light on the outcome. The results, of course, have been rejected by Odinga’s team which has petitioned the Supreme Court to try and overturn Ruto’s victory. But even if Kenya heads to a “fresh” election, or a run-off, it seems clear that Azimio struggled to excite and mobilise the electorate – including in his “home” counties. Whatever this was, it was not a resounding victory for Odinga and the “handshake”.

So in the hope that it might help those seeking to understand what happened in the elections – and because the analysis will still be relevant if the country requires a second presidential poll – I decided to publish the initial piece. The main analysis – which starts in the first section below – remains untouched. All that has been changed is this introduction, with a new conclusion inserted at the end of the piece to connect the discussion to the actual election results.

My argument ran as follows. Odinga’s campaign suffered from four major challenges: the fact that he lost popular trust following the handshake with Kenyatta, the president’s own unpopularity among key communities and his inability to deliver his own community, the mixed messages being sent out by the campaign, and a complacency that the election was in the bag. These weaknesses threatened to undermine his support not only in competitive areas such as central Kenya, but also in his own heartlands. This might not have mattered against a weak opponent, but Odinga was facing one of the most effective strategists in Kenyan politics. Ruto had begun to lay the groundwork for the 2022 campaign well in advance of 2017, ensuring that his allies were elected in key areas in that year’s general elections. In addition, through his “hustler” narrative and critique of privileged “dynasties” Ruto had hit upon a message that resonated with a cross-section of Kenyans suffering significant economic hardships.

If Odinga’s campaign did not resolve its internal contradictions, I argued, Ruto could well emerge victorious.

From this point onwards, I reproduce original article.

No longer the people’s president  

Odinga’s reputation as an opposition stalwart was hard won and well deserved. He played a key role in helping Mwai Kibaki to mobilise support ahead of the 2002 elections, securing the country’s first ever transfer of power at the ballot box. Odinga then broke from President Kibaki when it became clear that he had no intention of either pursuing constitutional reform or keeping the promises he had made to his allies. Having defeated Kibaki in a constitutional referendum that would have taken the country backwards, he continued to campaign for reform.

Ruto had begun to lay the groundwork for the 2022 campaign well in advance of 2017, ensuring that his allies were elected in key areas in that year’s general elections.

In this way, Odinga played a major role in the introduction of a new constitution in 2010, even if it took the 2007/8 post-election crisis to generate the necessary political will to change the rules of Kenya’s political game. With the introduction of a Supreme Court and a system of devolution that created 47 new county governments, this represented a major democratic breakthrough that has profoundly shaped the country’s politics ever since.

Despite serving as Prime Minister in the power sharing administration that ushered in the new constitution, Odinga’s reputation as an opposition leader was further cemented in the years that followed. On the one hand, he was declared the loser in a series of close and often bruising election defeats in 2007, 2013 and 2017, which were made even harder to take by the fact that each time he was convinced he had been cheated. On the other hand, Odinga increasingly refused to play politics by the rules laid down by President Kenyatta, boycotting the “fresh” presidential election in 2017 and then refusing to accept the legitimacy of Kenyatta’s victory – ultimately being sworn in as the “people’s president” by his supporters in a controversial ceremony in Nairobi.

Against this backdrop, the “handshake” between Odinga and Kenyatta that ended their long-running standoff on 9 March 2018 took many of his supporters by surprise. Moving into government, and securing no immediate concessions in return for calling off his protests, made it look like Odinga had given up his fight for political change. Worse still, it opened him up to accusations that he had sold out those who had made great sacrifices to fight his corner, prioritising his own wealth and security ahead of their dreams.

The impact of this move on Odinga’s reputation continues to be underestimated, even today. At the elite level, it led to figures such as public intellectual and political strategist David Ndii abandoning Odinga and throwing their weight behind Ruto on the basis that he represented the only credible challenge to the corrupt ruling clique. But perhaps the biggest impact was among ordinary Kenyans. In a nationally representative survey conducted in mid-July 2020, only 18 per cent of respondents said that they trusted Odinga “a lot” and 42 per cent said “not at all”. This decline was not only felt among groups that have historically not associated with Odinga such as those who live in central (51 per cent “not at all”), it also extended to western (45 per cent) and even Nyanza itself (31 per cent).

Controversial primaries or “nominations” don’t help this situation. As I wrote at the time, discussing the winners and losers of the process, “Odinga—and his ODM party—have come out rather bruised. They have been accused of nepotism, bribery and of ignoring local wishes. This is a particularly dangerous accusation for Odinga, as it plays into popular concerns that, following his “handshake” with President Kenyatta and his adoption as the candidate of the “establishment”, he is a “project” of wealthy and powerful individuals who wish to retain power through the backdoor after Kenyatta stands down having served two-terms in office.”

What is particularly striking about the trust numbers from July 2020 is that at the time the poll was conducted – the numbers shifted in later surveys – trust in Odinga lagged considerably behind William Ruto. According to the poll, only 23 per cent of Kenyans trusted Ruto “not at all” and this figure was particularly low in key battleground regions such as central (19 per cent). This represented a remarkable turnaround for Ruto – who was once found by a survey to be the most feared leader in Kenya – and meant that Odinga started the 2022 election campaign from a position of weakness.

The Kenyatta problem 

The reputational fallout from the handshake has been reinforced by the strong support Odinga’s candidacy has received from President Kenyatta and his allies. Not only is the president visibly in Odinga’s corner, but his allies in the ruling party are active parts of the Azimio coalition. This has created the perception that Odinga is being used as a stooge by the Kenyatta family and their clique to protect their interests in the next government.

Such an accusation would not have been so damaging in the past, but Kenyatta’s credibility has fallen in the last five years. Against the backdrop of a struggling economy and rising unemployment and poverty during the COVID-19 pandemic, the president’s failure to deliver on key election promises, or to reduce corruption, has created the perception that he and his government are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. This situation is only likely to get worse over the coming months, as the fallout from the war in Ukraine and the food shortages in the region push up the prices of essentials. Petrol prices are already set to be the highest in Kenyan history.

The reputational fallout from the handshake has been reinforced by the strong support Odinga’s candidacy has received from President Kenyatta and his allies.

Odinga’s dependence on Kenyatta for financial and state support is thus as much of a curse as it is a blessing. At a moment when many Kenyans are desperate for change, Odinga’s alliance with Kenyatta makes him look like the continuity candidate.

Yet this is not the worst of it. Being seen to be a “project” or a “puppet” for other interests can be politically fatal in Kenya because it implies that a leader cannot be trusted to deliver to their own communities. Odinga should know this well, because it was in part this accusation that undermined the efforts of Musalia Mudavadi to mobilise the support of his Luhya community in the 2013 general election, and so enabled Odinga to dominate the vote in western province. Mudavadi’s career has never fully recovered.

Odinga may also gain little from Kenyatta’s support in central Kenya itself. At present he is losing the region in most credible opinion polls despite Kenyatta’s support, and it is unclear whether Kikuyu leaders can really rally support for a leader who they have demonised repeatedly for decades. Kenyatta is also highly unpopular in parts of central Kenya himself – in a survey our research team conducted in July 2022, 21 per cent of Kikuyu, Embu and Meru voters said that Kenyatta’s endorsement made them less likely to vote for a candidate, compared to 17 per cent of Luos.

Yet despite this, Azimio has done little to counter the idea that Odinga is not his own man. Instead of creating clear blue water between the two leaders when setting up the new coalition, Azimio appointed Kenyatta as its chairman. And by using Kenyatta’s speeches as a vehicle to demonise Ruto and so try and so limit his support in central Kenya, Azimio has consistently reminded Kenyans that Kenyatta is a central part of the Odinga team. This created a gaping open goal, enabling Odinga’s opponents to score numerous points at his expense. Most notably, Ruto – always one to find a punchy phrase to sum up popular frustrations – has taken great delight in warning that if Odinga were to win, Kenyans would suffer a “remote-controlled presidency”.

Mixed messages 

In the past, Odinga’s messaging was powerful and clear, but it is now unconvincing. This is partly because his campaign has to cope with the internal contradictions of being an opposition leader backed by the establishment. But it also reflects muddled thinking and a failure to capture the public imagination.

Back in the day, you knew where you were with an Odinga campaign. He was in favour of constitutional reform, devolution, and shifting power and resources in the direction of the country’s economically and politically marginalised ethnic groups. This gave him a clear brand and an obvious set of slogans. Things have looked rather different since 2010, however, and it is important to realise that the challenges facing Odinga have a history that predates the 2022 general elections.

Being seen to be a “project” or a “puppet” for other interests can be politically fatal in Kenya because it implies that a leader cannot be trusted to deliver to their own communities.

In one respect, Odinga was a victim of his own success. The achievement of a new constitution complete with devolution took away one of his main demands. Thereafter, Odinga’s team has struggled to find as effective a framing device that would resonate with as wide a range of communities. In post-2010 elections, Odinga has presented himself as the defender of the new arrangements – the only leader who could be trusted to make sure that devolution was protected and extended. In some ways this made sense – devolution was very popular – but as all good politicians know, promising to make something a bit better is never going to excite voters as much as promising something completely new and game changing.

Campaigning on the same issue also risked making Odinga look like a one trick pony – something that his then Jubilee rivals took full advantage of. In 2013, for example, Jubilee leaders sought to tap into popular excitement at the new technological opportunities transforming the country by claiming that they were “digital” while Odinga was “analogue”.

The 2022 campaign has brought with it even greater challenges. By presenting himself as the opposition candidate on the side of Kenya’s hard working “hustlers”, Ruto has appropriated Odinga’s approach and updated it for a new generation. At the same time, the closer relationship between Odinga and Kenyatta has generated suspicions that an Azimio government would predominantly benefit their Kikuyu and Luo communities, respectively. The obvious implication of this is that an Odinga presidency would preserve rather than challenge the greater economic and political opportunities that communities that have held the presidency currently enjoy. Along with Odinga’s damaged reputation, this has made it much harder to craft a message that resonates with communities that have never tasted power – i.e. with Odinga’s historical support base.

These issues have led Odinga to make a series of speeches that have been couched in warm tones, identifying important lessons from Kenya’s past without presenting any clear blueprint for how to navigate its future. Such narratives no doubt evoke warm memories, in particular the role that Oginga Odinga and Jomo Kenyatta – Raila and Uhuru’s fathers – played in the nationalist struggle. But they are unlikely to excite the county’s youth, who are too young remember this history, have borne the brunt of recent economic downturn, and represent more than three-quarters of the population.

These challenges could have been overcome by a creative campaign that highlighted past government failings and promised to put them right. But Azimio has gotten itself in such a mess that such a campaign has not been possible. There are two aspects to this. First, it is unclear who is actually in control of Odinga’s campaign. Strong rumours suggest that powerful figures around Kenyatta – most notably his influential brother Muhoho – have as much sway as long-time ODM leaders. It is not hard to see how such a situation would lead to mixed messages and undermine Odinga’s ability to position himself against Kenyatta’s legacy. While the president is understood to have informed Odinga’s team that he understands that they may need to distance his candidacy from the current government, others around Kenyatta are said to be extremely sensitive about any criticism, binding the hands of Odinga’s speech writers.

As all good politicians know, promising to make something a bit better is never going to excite voters as much as promising something completely new and game changing.

Second, the Azimio coalition has struggled for unity and purpose. The difficulty of integrating its numerous parties into a common organization and slate of candidates was so great that it proved to be easier to change the law to allow coalitions to be registered as parties than to create a more unified political vehicle. Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza alliance is not without these challenges, but the greater number of leaders and parties involved on the Azimio side mitigates against a clear and coherent structure and leadership. As Pamoja African Alliance (PAA) spokesperson Lucas Maitha put it, as his party tried to quit the coalition: “There is a lot of confusion in the coalition today. Nobody knows who is calling the shots in Azimio”.

The lack of integration within the coalition also means that it risks fighting against itself when it comes to some downstream races for Governor, Senator, Member of Parliament and MCA. Kenyans don’t have to look back far in history to see the impact that this kind of fragmented campaign can have. It was exactly the same set of challenges that undermined the campaign of President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity in 2007, and led to what was effectively the “incumbent” grouping losing control of the National Assembly.

The complacency of the powerful

You might have thought that the challenges outlined above would lead to significant changes to the campaign structure and a real sense of urgency. Instead, what is striking is the apparent complacency within the Azimio coalition. This appears to be rooted in two assumptions. The first is that Kenyan politics is still essentially an ethnic census, in which success simply requires you to recruit the most “Big Men” (or “Big Women”). The second is that whichever candidate has the backing of the state is bound to win. On that basis, Odinga cannot lose.

But these are flawed and deeply dangerous assumptions. Many of the leaders behind Odinga have no capacity to direct the votes of the communities they claim to lead. Odinga gained ground on Ruto when other leaders such as Kalonzo Musyoka officially joined his side, but the likes of Gideon Moi and Charity Ngilu bring few votes with them. Ruto has also demonstrated a remarkable ability to penetrate the support base of his rivals, and is currently the most popular candidate among the Kikuyu, turning assumptions about ethnic voting on their head.

The assumption that the state can simply deliver an election is also problematic. Spending more money doesn’t mean you necessarily get more votes – especially if the money is seen to be tainted by corruption. Using the security forces to intimidate rival voters or applying pressure to the electoral commission can be effective, but if Odinga remains behind in the polls, any blatant attempt to manipulate the process would return Kenya to the political crisis of 2007/8. Moreover, with the emergence of an assertive Supreme Court that just rejected Odinga’s proposed “Building Bridges Initiative” constitutional changes, even these more cynical strategies can no longer guarantee victory.

Spending more money doesn’t mean you necessarily get more votes – especially if the money is seen to be tainted by corruption.

Azimio leaders therefore have no room for complacency. Yet that is just what they are demonstrating.

The original text ends here; what follows is a reflection on the official results of the election, and what they tell us about the accuracy of the foregoing arguments.

The 2022 election results: The Handshake blues

It is too early to know what the 2022 election results will look like after a Supreme Court petition, and correlation is not causation, but some of the results suggest that the intuitions outlined above may have been on the money.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the results was the strength of support for Ruto in Central Kenya. Most notably, neither Kenyatta nor Odinga’s running mate Martha Karua proved able to mobilise much support in the region. While Odinga performed better than he had done in 2017 – demonstrating that he did gain something from his chosen alliances – Ruto convincingly defeated him in Kenyatta and Karua’s home polling stations. In Murang’a County, Ruto secured over 343,000 and Odinga just over 73,000, with a turnout of 68 per cent. In Nyeri, Ruto won with 272,000 votes and Odinga just 52,000, on another 68 per cent turnout. And in Kiambu Ruto polled a massive 606,000 to Odinga’s 210,000 on a 65 per cent turnout.

Much less commentary has focussed on the elections in what are usually thought of as Odinga’s home areas, in part because much of the Azimio accusations of electoral manipulation have focussed on central Kenya, but there is an interesting story to be told here as well.

Things don’t look that damaging for Odinga if you just scan the numbers quickly without putting them in context. In Homa Bay, Odinga polled almost 400,000 votes and Ruto got under 4,000 on a 74 per cent turnout. Odinga also won overwhelmingly in Siaya (371,000 to 4,000) on a 71 per cent turnout and in Kisumu (420,000 to 10,000) on a 71 per cent turnout. These landslide victories are the stuff of politicians’ dreams, and turnout percentages in the 70s look healthy compared to most parts of the world.

Indeed, these results look pretty good until you remember that these counties are in Odinga’s electoral base, where he was hoping for the kind of overwhelming wall of support he received in previous elections. In 2013, turnout in Nyanza was 89 per cent. Homa Bay recorded 94 per cent, Siaya, 92 per cent, Kisumu 90 per cent – an average of around 20 per cent higher than 2022. Moreover, comparing the 2022 turnout in these areas with Ruto’s heartlands reveals striking differences. In Bomet, Ruto won 283,000 votes to Odinga’s 13,000 on a turnout of 80 per cent. In Elgeyo Marakwet, he secured 160,000 to Odinga’s 5,000 on a 78 per cent turnout. And in Kericho he polled 319,000 to Odinga’s 15,000 on a turnout of 79 per cent. Overall, the four counties in the country with the highest turnout all went to Ruto.

Odinga also suffered from a similar drop in turnout in other areas that have historically supported him. While he won the vote at the Coast, in a number of counties it was much closer and turnout collapsed. In Mombasa, Odinga polled 161,000 votes to Ruto’s 113,000 on a turnout of just 44 per cent. Azimio leaders will complain that this was due to the last minute cancellation of the governorship election, and that that may have had an impact, but Mombasa was far from the only county in the Coast to see a decline. In Kwale, it was 125,000 for Odinga and 52,000 for Ruto on a 55 per cent turnout. Back in 2013, turnout had been 66 per cent in Mombasa and 72 per cent in Kwale. While turnout declined in every county in 2022, the route to victory planned by the Odinga team assumed that they would be able to at least match his 2017 performance in his home areas now that he was backed by the power of the state.

Taken together, these figures suggest a common story. Potential Azimio voters in all three regions were unpersuaded by the handshake. In central Kenya, former Kenyatta supporters were not prepared to accept Odinga and instead flocked to Ruto. In Nyanza and the Coast, some Odinga supporters, disenchanted by his alliance with Kenyatta stayed at home, denying him the numbers needed for victory. Had Nyanza and the Coast turned out as they have done in the past, Odinga would not just have secured a second round run-off, he would probably have won outright.

Odinga also suffered from a similar drop in turnout in other areas that have historically supported him.

This is not to imply that Ruto did not earn his victory – he campaigned hard on a message cleverly designed to profit from Odinga’s difficulties, and many of the votes he won were not simply negative rejections of the handshake but a vote for change. But that message was so effective against Odinga – the archetypal “change” candidate – precisely because the handshake and his alliance with Kenyatta undermined his ability to persuade potential supporters that his presidency would deliver anything different to the last eight years.

This core challenge will remain if the presidential election needs to be re-run, and even now it seems like key lessons are not being learned. With so much effort going into making allegations of electoral manipulation, there seems to have been little time for Azimio leaders to reflect on what may have gone wrong and why. Even if those around Odinga believe they were hard done by in Central, it doesn’t seem plausible that their performance was undermined by manipulation in Nyanza, an area in which Ruto’s team has had very little presence. Yet there seems to be little recognition that Azimio may have simply have gotten its tactics badly wrong.

If the campaign strategy remains the same, with the added challenge of having to re-mobilise citizens who are tired of the election and may blame Azimio for further disruption on the basis that they refused to accept defeat, the outcome of a “fresh” election is unlikely to be different to the first.

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How Bureaucracy Is Locking Kenya Out of Transshipment Business

But for the bureaucracy bedevilling Kenya’s shipping sector, Indian Ocean Island nations could look to Lamu for transhipment while Mombasa has the capacity to attract major shipping lines in order to tap into this emerging business.



How Bureaucracy Is Locking Kenya Out of Transhipment Business
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The transshipment business, which involves the handling of cargo for other ports, is now an area of keen focus for many ports the world over. However, administrative bottlenecks created by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) have stymied Kenya’s transshipment business even as the Mombasa and Lamu ports face increasing competition from the other regional ports that are modernizing their operations even as new ones emerge.

But the tide is set to change if the new Managing Director of Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Captain William Ruto makes real his promise to confront the issues that have made it difficult for the port to tap into an emerging business line that has led to the growth of other successful ports.

Ruto has indicated that he will impress upon the KRA to simplify their procedures by adopting industry standards practiced elsewhere—such as at the Tangier Med port in Morocco, where 85 per cent of the cargo handled is for other ports, translating to 7.17 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs).

In an ideal situation, according to the new MD, the KRA is only supposed to approve the ship manifests once the shipping lines lodges them online, which in not the case in Kenya where the KPA is required to physically handle the transshipment containers that are landed at the ports. According to global standards, however, shipping lines, are only required to give notification of the ships that will carry the transshipment containers from the ports to the final destination. Simplified procedures have seen ports such as Singapore and Salalah in Oman handle over 90 per cent of their cargo as transshipment.

The port of Mombasa handled 1.43 million TEUs in 2021 compared with 1.35 million TEUs handled in the same period in 2020, representing an increase of 75,986 TEUs or 5.6 per cent. However, the KPA’s transshipment traffic was at an abysmal level, recording only 220,489 TEUs in 2021, a slight increase compared to the 175,827 TEUs recorded in 2020.

Lamu Port has the potential to become the biggest competitor to Salalah Port in Oman and the Port of Durban in South Africa in the transshipment business. Mombasa is also better placed than Durban to handle transshipments from Europe, China, and Singapore, all major world exporting countries; smaller vessels can be used to move cargo from the port of Mombasa to others on the Southern African coast.

Lamu Port could attract transshipment cargo for Tanzania, Mombasa, Somalia, and the Indian Oceans Islands of Comoros, Madagascar, Seychelles, and South Africa.

Although the KPA has striven to market Mombasa as a transshipment hub, reforms to tap into the business have been painstakingly slow even though the increased infrastructure at the port of Mombasa—dredging of the channel, rehabilitation of the berths, and the construction of the second container terminal—has increased the potential of the Mombasa port to handle more transshipment cargo.

Over seven years ago, a joint task force of the KPA and the KRA created a working template to increase the transshipment volume after collecting views from all the stakeholders involved in this trade and recommended a major transformation that, once fully implemented, would have seen more shipping lines find Mombasa port attractive for transshipment cargo.

In 2015, the joint task force visited three ports in Europe, Asia, and Africa that were close to Mombasa in size—and which have recorded significant growth in transshipment—to gather guiding lessons for the Mombasa port transshipment initiative. The selected ports were Tangier Med in MorrocoMorocco, Colombo in Sri Lanka, and Malta’s Freeport.

According to the team’s report, one of the major factors for the success of these ports is the manner in which they have simplified the processing of transshipment cargo, a vital lesson that Kenya, which has been associated with lengthy processes, could embrace. When the team visited the three ports iIn 2015, the transshipment process in Malta took less than 24 hours to approve, Colombo and Tangier Med both took less than 12 hours, whereas at the port of Mombasa it took 8 to 10 days.

“The shipping business is a complex affair that rides on predictable trends,” said Captain Ruto, a member of the delegation.

In all the ports visited, the transshipment business has been simplified through the use of Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) for faster clearance and approvals. Shipping lines in the three ports are only required to lodge manifests with customs for approval whereas in Kenya nine steps are involved, causing delays, with the ships earmarked to deliver cargo departing without loading the containers.

“The shipping business is a complex affair that rides on predictable trends.”

Delaying a ship is very costly and the daily average additional vessel operating costs incurred by shipping lines can range between US$20,000 and US$35,000 depending on vessel size, a demonstration of how crucial it is for lines to save time in the shipping industry.

Kenya has made significant strides following the fact-finding mission to the three ports. Vessel processing at Mombasa port went paperless when the Single Maritime Window System went live in June 2021, allowing shipping lines to lodge documents online and thus significantly improving clearing and turnaround times.

KenTrade, which runs the online cargo clearing system, worked with the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) to implement the system that facilitates ship clearance procedures by providing a single online portal for the sharing of information on the arrival, stay and departure of ships between the shipping lines/agents and the approving government agencies involved.

Since 8 April 2019, it is a mandatory requirement for national governments to introduce electronic information exchange between ships and ports. The objective is to make cross-border trade simpler and the logistics chain more efficient for the over 10 billion tons of goods that are traded by sea annually across the globe.

The requirement is part of a package of amendments in the revised Annex to the International Maritime Organization’s Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention) adopted in 2016. It is intended to reduce or eliminate the manual, decentralized, duplicated, and unnecessarily lengthy processes in the maritime sector, which are affecting ships’ turnaround times and increasing costs at the port of Mombasa.

The FAL Convention recommends the use of the “single window” concept whereby the agencies and authorities involved exchange data via a single point of contact.

Another advantage of Mombasa as a transshipment hub is its capacity to attract major shipping lines. There are over 20 shipping lines currently using the port at Mombasa, the majority of which handle containers.

But what should concern Kenya most is the growing competition that is coming with the development of other regional ports and the emergencemergencee of new ones. Tanzania is inching closer to realizing several plans and strategies that have been initiated over the years to enhance its potential as a maritime country.

There are over 20 shipping lines currently using the port at Mombasa, the majority of which handle containers.

The country has direct access to the Indian Ocean, with a long coastline of about 1,424km at the centre of the east coast of Africa. It has the potential to become the least-cost trade and logistics facilitation hub of the Great Lakes region.

There is the planned expansion and modernization of Dar es Salaam port under the Dar es Salaam Maritime Gateway Project (DMGP). The DMGP will increase Dar es Salaam port’s capacity from the current 15 million metric tonnes annually to 28 million tonnes.

The improvement of maritime hard infrastructure has gone hand in hand with the overhauling of the soft infrastructure. The Tanzanian government has already introduced electronic systems that have made cargo processing and clearing easier. These systems include the electronic single window, which has reduced paperwork and has also removed the need to physically visit multiple government agencies and regulatory bodies to lodge documents as all this can be done digitally through the Tanzania Customs Integrated System (Tancis).

In May 2016, global port mega-operator DP World agreed to develop Berbera Port in Somaliland and manage the facility for 30 years, a move that is set to make it the most modern port in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia has acquired a 19 per cent stake in the project, the other partners being DP World, with a 51 per cent share, and Somaliland with a 30 per cent share. The total investment of the two-phased project will reach US$442 million. DP World will also create an economic free zone in the surrounding area, targeting a range of companies in sectors from logistics to manufacturing, and a road-based economic corridor connecting Berbera with Ethiopia.

Port Berbera is now the closest sea route to landlocked Ethiopia, a journey of 11 hours by road. It has opened the route needed for growth in the import and export of livestock and agricultural produce.

Djibouti has undertaken significant developments in all its ports. The Djibouti International Free Trade Zone (DIFTZ) was officially inaugurated in July 2018. The initial phase, a 240-hectare zone, is the result of a US$370 million investment and consists of three functional blocks located close to all of Djibouti’s major ports.

The project has also created major business opportunities for Djibouti and East Africa as the region’s export manufacturing and processing capacity is expanded in key sectors such as food, automotive parts, textiles and packaging.

The Djibouti ports of Doraleh Multipurpose, Ghoubet and Tadjourah have all been completed in recent years. Doraleh Port is particularly strategically located, connecting Asia, Africa, and Europe. It can handle two and six million tonnes of cargo a year at its bulk terminal and breakbulk terminal, respectively.

Port Berbera is now the closest sea route to landlocked Ethiopia, a journey of 11 hours by road.

Another key milestone for the Djibouti ports is the standard gauge railway (SGR). A 750-kilometer SGR line connecting Addis Ababa with the ports in Djibouti has been constructed, cutting a three-day journey down to 12 hours.

Djibouti has also received global attention due to its strategic location. Virtually, all of the sea trade between Asia and Europe passes through the Red Sea on its way to or from the Suez Canal. As a result, Gulf and Middle Eastern powers, China, the United States, and France have developed great interest in this route and the country today hosts 5 military bases.

Having made significant gains in automating cargo clearing procedures and also expanded the port of Mombasa by constructing a second container terminal and a new port in Lamu, there is great need for the KRA to work with the other industry players to simplify transhipment cargo procedures. The capacity of Lamu Port—which is ideal for transhipment cargo owing to its deeper channel that can receive bigger vessels—has been under-utilised. In spite of its strategic location as a transshipment hub, the port has received less than 20 vessels since the three berths were commissioned in May 2021.

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The Perfect Tax: Land Value Taxation and the Housing Crisis in Kenya

The Kenyan government has proposed a compulsory housing levy from workers salaries to support contractors to build affordable homes for the working class. As incomes are squeezed and living standards collapse, Ambreena Manji and Jill Cottrell Ghai argue that the case for asking workers to bear the cost of housing development has not been made.



The Perfect Tax: Land Value Taxation and the Housing Crisis in Kenya
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The proposal in section 76 of Kenya’s Finance Bill 2023 to amend the Employment Act 2007 so that employers will compulsorily deduct 3% from workers’ salaries and send that, plus a further 3% contributed by the employer, to the National Housing Development Fund has met with widespread consternation.

The levy is expected to raise around £460 million a year for the National Housing Corporation that administers the fund. Following legal action, earlier proposals for a housing levy under the previous regime had been made voluntary and set at a lower rate of 1.5%. Now, the 3% levy will begin with civil servants before being extended to other parts of the formal and non-formal sectors.

The money will be used both to support developers and building contractors to build 200,000 affordable units and to subsidise mortgages for low- and middle-income households who would be offered an interest rate of 7%, half the market rate. By some calculations, affected employees’ net monthly salaries will be cut by about 52% when all statutory deductions including tax, the National Health Insurance Fund and the National Social Security Fund, as well as this new deduction, are taken into account.

Trade unions have spoken out against the levy, arguing that a variation in employment law cannot be imposed without consultations. The Kenya Constitution of 2010, Article 118, says that Parliament must facilitate public participation in its legislative work.

According to the 2022 Kenya Economic Survey, there were 2,907,300 employed in the formal sector and an annual rate of affordable home construction by the national government of around 500 units a year. It is not clear under the Constitution that the national government has this responsibility, as opposed to the devolved government at county level.

Kenya’s skewed land ownership

Whilst there is manifestly a need to address Kenya’s dire shortage of affordable homes, it is important to diagnose fully the reasons for this. Land shortages and the high costs of building materials are important causes as Steve Biko Wafula has argued. Kenya’s skewed land ownership is attributable to long-term land grabbing, going back to the colonial period. Importantly, one constitutional provision designed to address this – which calls for the development of  minimum and maximum land ceiling laws – has been studiously ignored, especially the setting of a maximum holding. The housing levy will not address this problem: it cannot increase the supply of land for housing.

The levy is designed to encourage developers to enter the affordable housing market by offering them lower land and construction costs and providing tax exemptions, as well as guaranteeing contracts with the government. However, Wafula has also pointed out that the administration of the housing fund is not clear because it relies ‘on a complex system of collection, allocation, and disbursement of funds that could be prone to errors, delays, and fraud’.

Moreover, Kenyans have seen funds such as the National Housing Development Fund used as a revenue kitty. The 2005 Ndung’u report on Illegal and Irregular Allocation of Public Land detailed how state corporations were in effect forced into buying grabbed land, as ‘captive buyers of land from politically connected allottees’. The primary state corporation targeted to purchase land was the Kenyan workers’ pension scheme, the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). It spent Ksh30 billion (£175 million) between 1990 and 1995 on the purchase of illegally acquired property.

At a time when the government is desperate to increase its resources through raising taxes, Kenyans are also understandably suspicious that some of this money, at least, will end up in general government coffers rather than in the fund for which it is statutorily earmarked – other than that which ends up in party or private pockets, of course.

Household incomes

Whilst some prospective home-owners may be lured by the offer of lower interest rates and longer repayment plans, the proposed fund is also being seen as an unwelcome compulsory saving scheme. Funding can be drawn down after seven years or at retirement whichever is the sooner. But with standards of living being severely squeezed by inflation and with longstanding constraints on wages, as well as existing deductions which yield little benefit, many households will struggle to take a further cut to their take home pay.

Indeed, government workers were not paid their salaries earlier this year due to cash flow problems caused by the country’s mounting debt. It is ironic then that the proposal is in effect asking Kenyans formally to agree to defer a portion of their wages. Furthermore, because contributions are payable from income that has already been taxed and are taxed again when the funds are drawn down, workers are exposed to double taxation.

Workers are being asked to stake their long-term security on the success of a housing fund about which many have unanswered questions. If the promised housing materialises, how can we be sure that it will not be developers and landlords who benefit rather than the intended beneficiaries? There are real prospects that the housing units will be taken up by landlords and that Kenyan workers – having already accepted lower wages because of the housing levy deduction – could still find they have to pay high rents to access housing. What guarantees will there be that the housing will not be financialised in such a way as to put the notion of housing – as shelter and personal security – at grave risk?

Building on Serap Saritas Oran’s work on the financialisation of pensions in Turkey which theorises pensions from a political economy perspective and argues that pensions are fundamental to working class standards of living, we can see how the housing levy proposal similarly financialises a right to housing. Housing is a critical factor in social reproduction, that is, in how life is maintained and labour power reproduced. Turning housing from what Oran calls ‘a social right’ into an individualised personal investment, the levy creates opportunities for speculation and extraction. In this schema, there is a real risk that some who should be the beneficiaries of affordable housing will find that because of interest rates or the accrual of high rent arrears, they in fact become debtors.

Progressive taxes

We recognise that providing affordable housing is an important goal but we believe other, much fairer ways of raising much needed revenue for housing should be considered.

Might the time have come to have a well-informed national conversation about Land Value Taxation? Given Kenya’s worsening gini coefficient which demonstrates how skewed the country’s wealth is, why should workers bear the brunt of the government’s house building programme?

Land Value Taxation is a progressive tax which ensures that the tax burden is instead borne by landowners who can well afford it. Because land ownership generally correlates with wealth and income, it is much fairer to require those already advantaged to fund the needs of those who do not yet have homes.

Land Value Capture should also be considered. This taxation can be used for example if a road is built or other infrastructure such as a park is improved, causing a rise in the value of neighbouring properties. The principle is that these property owners should share some of their unearned gain with the public.

Elsewhere in the world, funds raised in this way have been used to build lower-cost housing. In addition, the money raised could also be used to fund ongoing operational costs such as maintenance of local roads, schools, and parks. Wouldn’t that be a fair and – given the infrastructure boom of recent years which has bestowed windfall gains on many property owners – very effective way to tackle the shortfall in affordable housing?

A raid on wages

Speaking on Kenya’s NTV news channel  Mercy Nabwire, Kenya Medical Pharmacy and Dentistry Practitioners Union National Treasurer, recently described the proposed housing levy as ‘a raid on workers’ wages.’ The economy is in bad shape and public services are threadbare, but the case for asking workers to bear the cost of righting this – especially when their incomes are squeezed and their standard of living plummeting – has not been made. Still less the case for compelling them to surrender their already precarious wages for some nebulous future promise.

This article was first published by ROAPE.

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America’s Failure in Africa

It is evident that only an investment of this type – in capital, in human resources and in qualified training – can allow the United States to leave a real mark of progress in Africa, following a counterpoint strategy to that of China.



America’s Failure in Africa
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Gone are the days when Melania Trump traveled to Africa in tropical colonial clothes, showing the complete lack of interest of the United States, led by her husband, in the continent. Since then, official American policy has changed significantly.

Africa is, once again, a continent disputed by the great powers. This dispute results from the new race for raw materials and markets, the search for influence in the world chess, namely African votes in the United Nations, and also the presentation of a social laboratory to show the world which recipe for prosperity works best. : the developmental authoritarian Asian or the liberal western.

All of this, in the context of the new competitive dispute with China, led the United States to once again focus its attention on Africa and place it at the forefront of its foreign policy priorities.

In recent months, American initiatives related to Africa and the trips of high dignitaries have been constant. Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, First Lady Jill Biden, to mention just the most important recent trips (Harris, March 2023; Yellen, January 2023; Biden , February 2023). Only Joe Biden’s tour is missing to culminate this high-level political-diplomatic offensive.

However, the impression that remains from these trips is that, apart from beautiful speeches, splendid photographic opportunities and some circumstantial financial support, they add nothing to the resolution of African problems and, above all, they do not diminish the supposed Chinese influence, nor do they oppose it.

The problem is in the model adopted by the Americans. It is a model that is not very interactive and does not address African structural problems. Essentially, US leaders distribute smiles and marketing, warn of the Chinese danger, announce small foreign aid and refer the big questions to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), talking with greater or lesser intensity about good governance. Janet Yellen’s visit to Zambia was emblematic of this failure. When Hichilema was elected, he became a sort of poster boy for American good intentions.

However, what is certain is that Zambia has a serious foreign debt problem and has defaulted, finding itself in an endless labyrinth between China and the IMF, which ends up greatly harming the population. It is not enough to say that China is to blame and order the IMF to move forward, which in turn makes everything depend on agreements with China, which is waiting for the country to agree with the other creditors, getting into a tailspin – prolonged pong.

This kind of attitude will only lead to the US being criticized for talking but doing nothing.

The truth is that China’s entry into Africa from the 2000s onwards was not due to any historical relationship, practically irrelevant, but to a void, a void left by the West. Now, it is this void that persists, despite the new rhetoric and the countless initiatives, trips and forums held in the American capital or in Europe.

Africa does not need economists with their Harvard and MIT textbooks, which apply recipes from developed market economies unable to serve African populations and leading to their impoverishment. The manual to be applied must be the previous one, that of the very creation and structuring of economies and markets. Bringing consultants, economists, managers and people of intentions ashore doesn’t help – it only complicates things.

Obviously, to be successful, the North American perspective has to be different, resembling what was done in Europe after the Second World War (1939-1945). In other words, launching their money helicopters over Africa, while creating domestic markets on the continent.

Very simply put, the US will only compete with the Chinese in Africa if it replaces them, if it spends money. Arriving in Africa empty-handed or with promises of future private investment, which may or may not materialize, is no use.

Strictly speaking, if they really want to help Africa, the Americans should start by swapping the Chinese debt, that is, lending financial funds to African governments at lower interest rates and higher maturities, so that governments pay China. In this way it would certainly be possible to introduce competition into the African debt market and remove the monopoly from China.

In the same vein is the financial support for structural projects on the continent, from the massification of electricity and basic sanitation to digitization.

It is clear that the American people may disagree with this option and politicians may not want to embrace it, but the only realistic path is this and not another — this is how the US has gained influence in the past.

Furthermore, in addition to real capital, Africa needs specialists: not economists or consultants, which are in abundance, but professionals in essential areas, such as doctors, nurses, engineers, IT professionals, teachers, etc.

It is necessary to recover the initial spirit of the Peace Corps, idealized by President Kennedy, and massively send to Africa “men and women from the United States qualified for service abroad and available to serve, if necessary under difficult conditions, to help people in areas that help countries meet their needs” (Peace Corps Goals).

Finally, good governance should not focus on the constitutional apparatus, but on something simpler and more fundamental: public administration.

What is essential is to prepare public administrations in African countries to function efficiently and effectively, even if governments do not meet their objectives. Shifting the focus of good governance from the executive to the administration is a structuring element of any functioning society, overcoming disagreements and fears of political interference.

It is evident that only an investment of this type – in capital, in human resources and in qualified training – can allow the United States to leave a real mark of progress in Africa, following a counterpoint strategy to that of China. Otherwise, good intentions will be just that: good intentions without results.

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