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#KenyaDecides2022: Fact-checking William Ruto’s manifesto ahead of presidential election

As Kenya votes on 9 August 2022, we looked at the manifesto of William Ruto, one of four presidential candidates. How did he fare with his facts?

  • Ruto’s manifesto gets it right when it comes to the decline in manufacturing’s contribution to the Kenyan GDP, how the country’s foreign debt is made up, and a couple of other important economic indicators.
  • But it was off, sometimes wildly, in how much food imports have increased over the past decade, and that edible oils are the country’s second-largest import after petrol.
  • The campaign’s claim about how much agricultural land in Kenya requires irrigation could also not be proven.

Kenyan deputy president William Ruto hopes to go one better after elections in August 2022 and become president. In June, his campaign published his manifesto.

Ruto is on the ticket of the United Democratic Alliance party.

The manifesto promised to create more decent jobs for the millions in the informal economy, lower the cost of living, as well as employ 116,000 teachers in two years.

Ruto also pledged, among others, affordable loans for small businesses, investment in agriculture, affordable housing, universal healthcare and to “end state capture”. 

We did not assess the viability of his campaign promises as we cannot fact-check the future. But we did sift through the evidence to find out if the manifesto cited the most accurate data on some key claims.

 

Claim

“Only 15% of the Kenyan workforce works in formal jobs in both the public and private sector.”

Verdict

Mostly Correct

The manifesto called for an “inclusive” economy. It claimed that the majority of Kenyans work in the informal economy. 

The national statistics office collects data on employment and publishes this in its flagship annual economic survey.

The most recent survey shows that in 2020, 2.74 million people, or 15.8%, were employed in the formal sector, and 14.5 million in the informal sector. 

In 2021, a provisional estimate said those employed in the formal sector were 2.9 million or 15.9%, and those in the informal sector were 15.3 million. We rate this claim as mostly correct. – Dancan Bwire

Claim

“Foreign commercial debts contributed 29% of foreign debt as at the end of 2021.”

Verdict

Correct

The manifesto said a rise in interest rates had made it difficult to manage foreign commercial debt.

Foreign debt is the total public and private debt that a country owes foreign creditors, experts have previously told Africa Check. It includes bilateral debt, multilateral debt and commercial debt.

Multilateral debt is owed to international financial institutions such as the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Commercial debt is owed to commercial enterprises or banks.

John Kinuthia, a senior programme officer with the Kenya office of the International Budget Partnership, a global budget transparency organisation, told Africa Check that the best source for this data was the national treasury.

He directed us to the quarterly economic and budgetary review, published in February 2022, which includes data until the end of December 2021. 

This showed total foreign debt was KSh4.2 trillion or US$37.1 billion. Of this, foreign commercial debt was Ksh 1.21 trillion or $10.7 billion. (Note: The exchange rate at the end of December 2021 was KSh113.14 for every US dollar)

Foreign commercial debt worked out to 28.9% of all of Kenya’s external debt. 

We rate this claim as correct. – Makinia Juma

Claim

“Food imports have increased from 10% to 17% of goods imports over the last decade which, in actual terms, translates to a 2.5-fold increase from $1.2 billion to $3 billion.”

Verdict

Incorrect

The rise in the food import bill had increased the country’s vulnerability to global food supply shocks, the manifesto said

For data on Kenya’s imports, Benjamin Muchiri, a senior manager at the national statistics office, directed us to the annual economic survey

The full decade for which we have data is 2010 to 2020, while we also have provisional data for 2011 to 2021. 

Food imports as a percentage of all goods imported (2010-2021)

Year

Share

Amount (KSh billions)

Amount (US$ million)

2010

7.4%

70.4

888.6

2011

8.2%

106

1,193.2

2012

7.9%

109.1

1,290

2019

10.3%

186.8

1831.6

2020

10.7%

176.3

1,655.9

2021*

9.9%

212.8

1,940.7

* provisional. Sources: Annual economic survey 2015 & 2022 for food imports,
and for previous and recent exchange rates.

As a share of all goods imported, food and beverages rose from 7.4% to 10.7% between 2010 and 2020, an increase of three percentage points, or from 8.2% to 9.9% between 2011 and 2021 – 1.7 percentage points. 

In actual terms, in US dollars, the amount increased from $888.6 million in 2010 to $1.66 billion in 2020, a two-fold increase, or from $1.2 billion in 2011 to $1.9 billion in 2021, a 60% increase. 

The only way to get to a 2.5-fold increase as claimed in the manifesto is to use the Kenyan shilling. In the local currency, the amount increased from KSh70.4 billion in 2010 to KSh176.3 billion in 2020. But the claim references dollars, and the maths doesn’t add up. 

The manifesto was wrong on the share of food as a percentage of all imports, and also mangled numbers while calculating the bill. –  Makinia Juma

Claim

“Edible oils, palm oil primarily, is our second largest import after petroleum.”

Verdict

Incorrect

Kenya’s data agency publishes data on imports every year. 

The most recent data showed the top three imports over the last three years are petroleum products, industrial machinery, and iron and steel. 

Animal and vegetable fats were fourth. 

Value of top four Kenyan imports (KSh billion)

Import

2019

2020

2021

Petroleum products

307.5

201.1

335.3

Industrial machinery

257.6

231.9

254.8

Iron and steel

104.1

105.1

155.5

Animal/vegetable oil

59.9

94.1

120.8

Source: Economic survey 2022

In 2020, Kenya imported 893 tonnes of palm oil valued at $671 million (KSh73.6 billion). We haven’t seen data for 2021 yet, but it is unlikely to be significantly different from the three-year trend of imports.

We rate this claim as incorrect. – Dancan Bwire

Claim

“Two-thirds of Kenya’s agricultural land requires irrigation.”

Verdict

Unproven

“Irrigation is the single most important game changer in agriculture,” Ruto’s manifesto said. It then noted that “two-thirds of Kenya’s agricultural land required irrigation”. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization defines agricultural land as “land used for cultivation of crops and animal husbandry”. Put another way, it is “the total of areas under ‘cropland’ and ‘permanent meadows and pastures’”.

Kenya’s agricultural land amounts to 27.6 million hectares. 

In its master plan, the country’s water services regulator aims to irrigate 1.2 million hectares, with 623,700 hectares irrigated by 2030. 

The national irrigation policy gave the country’s irrigation potential as 1.3 million hectares in 2015. 

We know how much agricultural land there is. We also know how much land can be sustainably irrigated given the data on potential land. 

However, we don’t know how much agricultural land is in arid and semi-arid areas, which requires irrigation, but cannot be irrigated due to scarcity of water resources, cost and other factors mentioned in the Kenya agriculture strategy

Without that data, we cannot prove or disprove this claim. We therefore rate it unproven. – Dancan Bwire

Claim

“Africa accounts for only 2% of air passenger traffic.”

Verdict

Correct

For data on airline passenger traffic, we checked with the International Civil Aviation Authority, the United Nations special agency for air transport. 

The data showed in 2019, Africa accounted for 2.1% of the global air passenger traffic. 

Africa Check also checked these numbers with Raffaella Irie, the manager in charge of data and statistics at the African Airlines Association. Irie shared with us the association’s 2021 annual report

“The continent has the weakest contribution to the global air traffic: the share of African airlines traffic reduced from 2.11% in 2019 to 1.9% in 2020,” the report noted.

We therefore rate this claim correct. – Tess Wandia

Claim

“Manufacturing contribution to GDP has fallen from 9.3% to 7.6% in five years (2016-2020).”

Verdict

Manufacturing

The national statistics bureau said the manufacturing sector contributed 9.3% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016. 

GDP is the total market value of goods and services produced in a country in a given period, usually a year. 

The most recent economic survey shows the manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP fell to 7.6% in 2020. That year’s annual economic survey put the decrease down to the disruptions caused by Covid-19 pandemic. 

We rate this claim as correct. – Dancan Bwire

Further Reading

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