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Fact-checked: Kenya president’s 2020 state of the nation address

Kenya’s president reported on the state of the nation, nearly one and a half years since the last such address. We fact-checked his claims.

This article is more than 3 years old

  • The president was accurate on many counts, including that the national curfew in response to the Covid-19 pandemic was the first put in place since independence in 1963.

  • Kenyatta was also mostly on the money regarding matters of economy and trade. Kenya has increased its trade within the East African Community, helped loosen trade regulations across the continent, and improved in international ease-of-doing-business rankings.

  • But while the textbook-to-pupil ratio in the first grades of school is nearly one to one, it is incorrect that 100% of students progress from primary to secondary education, and this repeats previously unproven claims.

​​​​​​In November 2020 Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta reported on the state of the nation, nearly one and a half years since the last such address.

The speech centred on his administration’s efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and its “Big Four” agenda that is focused on health, housing, manufacturing and food security.

The president also made claims of progress in various areas from education and land to the business environment and electricity connections.

We checked the accuracy of eight of Kenyatta’s pronouncements.

We have contacted the presidency for the source of the data used in the claims and will update this report with their response. 


[The Covid-19 dusk-to-dawn curfew is] Kenya’s first ever nationwide curfew since independence.


Mostly Correct

To stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, in March 2020 Kenyatta said a nationwide curfew would be “in effect in the territory of the republic of Kenya” from 7 pm to 5 am.

Starting on 27 March, the curfew’s hours have varied. At the time of writing, it is in place until 3 January 2021 between 10 pm and 4 am.

In his November address, Kenyatta said the curfew was “Kenya’s first ever nationwide curfew since independence”.

The best records on curfews would be the legal notices published in the Kenya Gazette as required by the Public Order Act, Dr Mutuma Ruteere told Africa Check.  

Ruteere is the director of the Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies in Nairobi. A former United Nations special rapporteur, he has written extensively on security, policing and terrorism in Kenya. 

“When a curfew is declared, it has to be gazetted,” Brian Kimari told us. He is a junior research fellow at the thinktank and has authored a policy brief on the curfew during the pandemic.

Kimari could not find an instance of another nationwide curfew, and we also came up empty when we scoured the gazette's archives

Historic curfews regional or pre-independence

The records do show that regional curfews have been declared before, in north-eastern Kenya in the 1960s and 70s during the shifta war and more recently during operations against the al-Shabaab terror group. Curfews were also in place in the cities of Nairobi and Nanyuki during the 1982 coup attempt, in some districts during various security operations, and during the 2007/08 post-election violence.

A news article from March 2020 said a national curfew had been in place before but under a colonial era state of emergency, citing veteran Kenyan administrator Joseph Kaguthi. 

Kimari said that the reference to the curfew by Kenyatta was meant to signal that the pandemic is “a very serious moment” for the country, but it also cast a spotlight on the “securitisation of the pandemic response”. – Alphonce Shiundu


“As at the end of 2019 calendar year, we had been able to achieve a textbook-to-pupil ratio of 1:1 for grades 1 through to 3.”


Mostly Correct

Kenya’s government took over the distribution of textbooks from schools in January 2018

For the most recent data on this, Dr Emmanuel Manyasa directed us to the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development. He is the executive director of Usawa Agenda, an advocacy group in the education sector.

The 2019 basic education statistical booklet notes that the education ministry distributed books “on numeracy and literacy because they are the foundational skills in education”.

“The data shows that the 1:1 pupil-textbook ratio in mathematics, English and Kiswahili has almost been achieved in Grade 1, 2 and 3,” the booklet says.

It breaks this down by grade and enrolment. 

The ratios have been rounded up, meaning some pupils were sharing books. For example, some 49,088 grade 1 pupils would not have had their own textbook.

Why is the ratio important? According to the education ministry, pupils sharing textbooks with more than one other child achieved less.

“Ideally, more learning material should improve learning outcomes,” Manyasa told Africa Check. But there were also other factors at play, he said, such as teacher shortages, especially in the rural areas. – Alphonce Shiundu


“During my administration, 4.5 million titles have been issued in the seven years since 2013.”


Mostly Correct

Kenyatta compared this number to the six million title deeds he said had been issued from independence in 1963 to when he took office in 2013. He made the same claim in another national address in June 2020.

(Note: Since 2012 title deeds are also referred to as “certificates of title” in Kenya. They prove that the person named in the certificate owns the land.

Since June 2020, the lands ministry website has claimed that 4.5 million deeds have been issued “since 2013 compared to 5.6 million since independence”.

In June Farida Karoney, the cabinet secretary for lands, gave Africa Check a similar number of 5.6 million from 1963 to 2012. From 2013 to June 2019 about 4.1 million deeds were issued, she said, and 388,000 from July to April 2020. The minister’s figures added up to 4.49 million. 

We have asked Karoney for the number of deeds issued since April and will update this report once we receive a response. 

Only the ministry can confirm the number of deeds it has issued, the Kenya Land Alliance, a not-for-profit organisation that advocates for land reform in the country, previously told Africa Check. – Vincent Ng’ethe


Kenya currently ranks 56th globally and third in sub-Saharan Africa on the ease of doing business report, from a low of 136th globally in 2014.



Every year, the World Bank publishes a report ranking how friendly countries make their economies to investors.

The most recent, Doing Business 2020, ranks Kenya 56th out of 189 countries.  In the sub-Saharan Africa region the country was third after Mauritius and Rwanda.

The 2015 report, using data current as of June 2014, placed Kenya 136th. So on this score the president was accurate. The presidency has also cited the country’s progress up the rankings in previous years. –Vincent Ng’ethe

World Bank pauses ease of doing business rankings

The ease of doing business rankings have in recent years come in for international scrutiny.

Kwame Owino is the chief executive of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a thinktank in Nairobi. In his view, the report is of questionable use, he told Africa Check.

The methodology “has been questioned within the World Bank itself” and while the ranking is seen as an end in itself, it “does not necessarily lead to more investment”.

Owino also said the rankings were weighted in favour of large formal businesses. “But if you know we have a huge informal sector, many of the things spoken about in the Ease of Doing Business report don't affect them as much.”

In Kenya, 83% of employment was in the informal sector, according to the 2020 economic survey. Further, he said, the report has an “urban bias” as it considers only the capital Nairobi and not the country’s 46 other counties.
On 27 August, the World Bank said that it was looking into irregularities around data published in the 2018 and 2020 Doing Business report. 

“The publication of the Doing Business report will be paused as we conduct our assessment,” the bank said.


In March 2018, Kenya and Ghana were the first countries to not only sign but also ratify the landmark agreement creating the African Continental Free Trade Area.



The African Continental Free Trade Area is expected to increase trade both within Africa and with other regions and has been described as the largest free trade area in the world based on the number of countries.

The agreement establishing it was signed by 54 of the bloc’s 55 members in March 2018 during an African Union summit in Rwanda. Eritrea has not yet signed.

The agreement’s status list shows Kenya was the first to ratify it on 6 May 2018, a day ahead of Ghana. Some 28 countries had ratified the agreement as of October 2019, meaning they agreed to be bound by its terms. – Vincent Ng’ethe


The last mile connectivity programme crossed the 7.2 million household connections mark.



According to Kenya Power, the country’s electricity utility, “last mile” refers to the last link to the consumer’s premise or home.

In June 2020 we rated as unproven a claim by Kenyatta that the government had connected 8 million households to the electric grid. Because of a delay in appointing Kenya’s auditor-general, the utility firm only published its 2018/19 annual report in November 2020.

The report shows that in the year to June 2019, some 306,771 customers were connected to electricity. (Draft treasury figures gave a figure of 440,822 customers.)

As of 30 June 2019, the annual report showed Kenya Power had connected 5.4 million domestic consumers. Another 1.29 million were connected under the rural electrification programme, for a total of 6.7 million. 

Domestic connections accounted for 94.5% of all customers. This category has over the last five financial years accounted for at least a 90% share of the total. 

On its website, Kenya Power says that as of June 2020 it “sells electricity to over 7.5 million” but does not specify how many customers were domestic. 

The available data accounts for 6.7 million of the 7.2 million connections cited by the president. Kenya Power’s 2019/20 annual report, to be published in January 2021, will likely give newer data but in its absence we rate the claim as unproven. –Vincent Ng’ethe


Kenyan exports within the East African Community jumped to a six-year high in 2019.



The East African Community counts six member countries – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

The 2020 economic survey from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows that in 2019, Kenya made KSh140 billion in exports to the other countries. This was the highest since 2013.

Kenya exports

The finalising of the community’s common market protocol meant that its members were trading more with each other, Dr Paul Kamau told Africa Check.

He is a senior fellow at the University of Nairobi’s Institute for Development Studies and has published research on Kenya’s trade in East Africa. 

“This could be giving the business community more confidence,” he said, adding that as markets such as the US and China get more competitive, there has been more focus on regional markets. – Vincent Ng’ethe


For the second year running Kenya has achieved a transition rate of 100% from primary to secondary school.



In his previous state of the nation address in April 2019, the president claimed the country had achieved a 100% transition from primary to secondary school. We fact-checked the claim then and found it to be incorrect.

There are conflicting claims about the transition rate in 2019.

A year later, in February 2020, education minister George Magoha claimed a 99.8% transition rate. 

We have contacted the education ministry for clarity. The available data however does not show a 100% transition rate in 2019 or 2020. Experts have previously told Africa Check that achieving this full rate is difficult in the absence of a law making secondary school compulsory. 

Secondary school is also not completely free and this will keep some students away. We therefore rate the president’s claim as incorrect. – Vincent Ng’ethe

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