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Fact-checked: Six claims by Kenya’s deputy president on the cost of living

Rigathi Gachagua says that under his boss, president William Ruto, fertiliser and flour prices have fallen, and the local currency has strengthened. But do his figures add up?

  • Gachagua was largely correct that the cost of fertiliser has fallen during the Ruto administration, from KSh7,000 per 50-kilogram bag to a subsidised price of around KSh2,500 per bag. 

  • He was also mostly correct about the price of maize flour over the same period, saying it dropped from KSh240 for a two-kilogram bag in September 2022 to around the KSh130 mark in 2024.

  • But the deputy president misrepresented the strengthening of the shilling, saying it fell from KSh162 to the US dollar “when we came in” to KSh134 at present. While the current exchange rate is correct, it was at around KSh120 to the dollar when Ruto and he were sworn in.

In March 2024, Kenya’s deputy president Rigathi Gachagua spent time in his political backyard trying to quell simmering dissent over taxes on avocados.InsertReport

Kenya is one of the world's leading exporters of the fruit, and central Kenya one of the main growing areas.
New tax rules in the country require farmers to submit electronic invoices for their sales, causing uproar.

As Gachagua reassured farmers, agriculture minister Mithika Linturi was battling an explosive fake fertiliser scandal that threatened the March to May 2024 planting season – and his own career

While using artificial intelligence (AI) tools to monitor public debate, we came across claims made in an article by Tuko, a popular Kenyan digital news platform.

In the article, dated 26 March, Gachagua praised his boss, president William Ruto, for reducing the price of fertiliser and maize meal and lowering the local currency's exchange rate against the US dollar. 

“Tulipoingia, mbolea ilikuwa KSh7,000, sasa ni KSh2,500 –kazi ya Rais William Ruto. Tulikuwa [tunanunua] unga KSh240, sasa imeteremka, KSh130, KSh135, KSh125. Dollar ndiyo hiyo ilikuwa KSh162, sasa ni KSh134,” Gachagua said.

Translated from Kiswahili, this means: “When we came in, the price of fertiliser was KSh7,000, now it is KSh2,500 – Ruto’s work. The price of maize flour was KSh240, now it is KSh130, KSh135, KSh125. The dollar was at KSh162, now it is KSh134.” 

Ruto and Gachagua took office in September 2022, and despite economic turbulence, say they are on track to deliver on their pre-election promises,  including reducing the cost of living despite economic turmoil. 

But are Gachagua's figures accurate? We took a closer look.

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Claim

“When we came in, the price of fertiliser was KSh7,000 …”

Verdict

Mostly Correct

Fertilisers are mainly used to help plants grow by providing them with essential nutrients that may not be sufficiently available in the soil.

For historical price data, Dr Timothy Njagi, a researcher at the Tegemeo Institute, an agricultural policy think tank in Kenya, referred us to the National Agricultural Information System database.

Run by the ministry of agriculture, the database provides farmers, traders and processors with daily market prices for agricultural commodities.

It has prices for three types of fertiliser: diammonium phosphate (DAP), calcium-ammonium nitrate (CAN) and nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK). 

A much-vaunted subsidy by the government covered DAP, CAN, NPK and three others – urea, sulphate of ammonia and muriate of potash (MOP).

The data shows that a month before Ruto and Gachagua took office, retail prices for a 50 kilogram bag of fertiliser ranged from KSh4,000 (KSh80 per kg) to KSh9,000 (KSh180 per kg).

Fertiliser prices July-August 2022 (KSh)

 

DAP

CAN

NPK

Highest 

9,000

7,750

7,500

Lowest 

5,400

4,000

4,000

Source: Kenya Agriculture Management Information System

The national cereals board (NCPB) also monitors prices. In its last report before the two leaders took office, prices were between KSh4,400 and KSh7,500 on 27 May 2022.  

Publicly available market data supports Gachagua's claim.

Claim

“[The price of fertiliser] is now KSh2,500.”

Verdict

Mostly Correct

Ruto announced the fertiliser subsidy in his September 2022 inauguration speech.

He said: “... we have already made arrangements to make 1.4 million bags of fertiliser available at KSh3,500 for a 50-kilogram bag, down from the current KSh6,500. This will be available from next week.” 

The agriculture ministry implemented the subsidy by the state-owned NCPB selling fertiliser at between KSh1,775 and KSh3,500 for a 50-kilogram bag as of 30 September, two weeks into the new administration. 

However, the agency noted that market prices remained higher, at KSh4,400 to KSh7,600.

In August 2023, Ruto said the subsidised fertiliser prices had been further reduced to KSh2,500 for a 50-kilogram bag. 

Africa Check contacted the NCPB by email, who told us the prices had fallen. “Currently the fertiliser we are handling is KSh2,500,” spokesperson Noah Koskei said. 

We therefore rate Gachagua’s claim as mostly correct. 

However, data from the agriculture ministry’s database - which tracks unsubsidised prices - shows that market prices remain at between KSh4,500 and KSh7,500 for a 50-kilogram bag.

Claim

“When we came in the price of maize flour was KSh240 …”

Verdict

Mostly Correct

The price of maize and maize meal is a political issue because it is the country's staple food. We have previously fact-checked other claims made by Ruto on maize prices.

In July 2022, shortly before Ruto was elected, his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta introduced a controversial maize flour subsidy that he said would reduce the price of a two-kilogram packet “from KSh205 to KSh100”. 

However, the subsidy did not cover premium maize flour brands. 

A June 2023 parliamentary report investigating the subsidy put the maize flour prices at between KSh190 and KSh215. 

Tegemeo’s Dr Njagi has researched maize prices in Kenya. He directed Africa Check to the government database for price information. The database tracks 12 brands of maize flour.

It showed that on 12 September 2022, the day before Ruto and Gachagua were sworn in, a two-kilogram packet of maize flour was selling for between KSh193 and KSh256 in Nairobi’s supermarkets. These prices held the day after the swearing-in. 

We rate the claim as mostly correct.

Claim

“Now, [the price of maize] is at KSh130, KSh135, KSh125 …”

Verdict

Mostly Correct

Gachagua made this claim in March 2024. To verify this, Africa Check checked with four supermarkets that stocked a total of 15 brands of maize flour. 

Gachagua’s claim checks out – there’s maize flour within his price range of KSh125 and KSh135, and even cheaper. The minimum price is also lower than the prevailing prices in September 2022. However, prices for premium brands remain high.

We therefore rate the claim as mostly correct.

Claim

“[When we came in], the US dollar was at KSh162 …”

Verdict

Incorrect

According to the Central Bank of Kenya, one US dollar exchanged for an average of KSh119.45 in August 2022. In September, the month Ruto took office, the exchange rate was KSh120.42 per dollar.

The local currency weakened from KSh121.03 per dollar in October 2022 to KSh159.69 in January 2024. The dollar averaged KSh161 in February 2024.

As the shilling weakened sharply, the central bank governor Kamau Thugge said it was overvalued, a sentiment later echoed by finance minister Njuguna Ndung’u.

Ruto claimed that his predecessor, Kenyatta, had used foreign currency reserves to prop up the shilling, thereby “maintaining an artificial exchange rate”. 

But Gachagua was wrong, the dollar was not at KSh162 when he and Ruto were sworn in. All data shows that the shilling weakened significantly against the dollar during Ruto’s nascent administration.

Claim

“... now [the dollar] is [exchanging] at KSh134 …”

Verdict

Correct

In the week that Gachagua spoke, the central bank’s weekly bulletin showed that the dollar had traded at KSh132.38, down from KSh134.01 the previous week.

In this respect, Gachagua was right.

In May 2024 the local currency was trading at about KSh133 to the dollar.

Why the fortunes of the shilling have changed

Deputy president Rigathi Gachagua omitted the central bank’s intervention – the bank buying dollars from the market – to curb exchange rate volatility. 

Dr Naftaly Mose teaches international economics at the University of Eldoret. He has written extensively on the Kenyan economy and in 2022  co-authored a paper on the exchange rate and capital flight. 

Mose told Africa Check that the sudden strengthening of the Kenyan shilling exchange rate – from KSh162 to KSh134, as mentioned by Gachagua – was “due to large dollar inflows and increased investor confidence in the economy”.

“The central bank has also been actively involved in the forex market,” Mose said over email.  

He said Kenya received a US$1.5 billion Eurobond, part of which was used to repay its dollar-denominated debt and ease pressure on the shilling. As the Eurobond news broke, the government also announced that its KSh70-billion infrastructure bond had been oversubscribed – “a sign of investors’ confidence”, Mose said. 

Economists and Kenyan business leaders have however been sceptical about the sustainability of the strong exchange rate, as the fundamentals of the economy – its debt burden, trade balance and interest rates – have not improved.

“The public debt problem will remain a major concern and the main weakness of the exchange rate valuation in Kenya. Increased political interference in central bank roles may also increase shilling volatility,” Mose cautioned.

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