In a TV interview, billionaire businessman Jimi Wanjigi quoted statistics that cast the economic management of current president Uhuru Kenyatta in a poor light.
Wanjigi was right to say that debt repayments took 18% of revenue when former president Mwai Kibaki left office, and that GDP growth in 2007 was 7%. He was also correct that Kenyatta won the 2013 election by just 800,000 or so votes.
But his claims about current debt repayments and growth under the Daniel arap Moi administration were exaggerated. Claims about the poverty rate were incorrect, and a claim about agriculture misleading.
Kenya’s general elections are set for 9 August 2022.
To make his case, Wanjigi cited statistics as evidence of the government’s economic mismanagement. We checked seven of his claims.
We asked Wanjigi’s office for the source of his figures. Spokesperson Isaac Njuguna said the claims were accurate and the data from the official Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.
He also sent us the bureau’s 2020 poverty report.
In the interview, Wanjigi said debt repayments had drastically increased and were choking the country’s business environment.
He said the sharp increase had been in the last nine years of president Uhuru Kenyatta’s government, a trend not seen under his predecessor, Mwai Kibaki.
“When Kibaki left power, of every KSh100 of Kenyan revenue collections, KSh18 went to [repaying] debt,” Wanjigi said.
Kibaki left office on 9 April 2013. Kenya's total public debt was then KSh1.8 trillion, according to data from the Central Bank of Kenya and the national treasury. The most recent data shows that by June 2021, this debt had grown to KSh7.7 trillion.
To verify the level of debt at the end of Kibaki’s term, John Kinuthia, a senior programmes officer at the Kenyan office of budget transparency think tank International Budget Partnership, advised us to check the treasury’s annual debt management reports.
The 2013 debt report says 18.7% of revenue went to repaying debt in the last financial year of Kibaki’s term, ending in June 2013.
“Wanjigi’s KSh18 figure out of every KSh100 for 2013 was not that far off,” Kinuthia said.
We therefore rate the claim as correct. – Makinia Juma
We asked Benjamini Muchiri, a senior manager at Kenya’s statistics bureau, where to look. He directed us to the treasury’s public debt register. The most recent publicly available version is for the 2019/2020 financial year.
The International Budget Partnership’s Kinuthia said the data varied from year to year.
For example, in June 2019 debt repayment took 58.8% of revenue.
Even projections for debt payment in a financial year were different to what was actually spent, Kinuthia added.
We have not seen any data that supports Wanjigi’s claim that 75% of revenue currently goes to debt repayment, even if it is clear that since 2013, debt servicing has risen sharply. —Makinia Juma
Mwai Kibaki took over from Kenya’s second president, Daniel arap Moi, on 30 December 2002.
For historical growth data, senior Kenya National Bureau of Statistics manager Benjamin Muchiri directed us to the bureau’s annual economic surveys and to central bank data.
The World Bank’s data portal was also a good source, he said, as it is compiled from the national accounts of member countries.
According to the bureau’s economic surveys, Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.4% in 2002. The central bank had this at 0.5%, the same as the World Bank. GDP is a widely used measure of the total value of goods and services produced in a country in a specific period, usually a year.
We found no evidence that Kenya had a negative growth rate in 2002. The data shows that while Moi’s 24-year rule was marked by low growth, only 1992 saw economic contraction, at -7%.
Wanjigi’s claim is inflated, but the economy did grow consistently under Kibaki. – Dancan Bwire
The data shows consistent growth from 2002 to 2007.
We therefore rate Wanjigi’s claim as correct. In 2008 growth tanked to 0.2% following the global financial crisis and the effects of a disputed election, before rebounding to 8.4% in 2010. – Dancan Bwire
But the agency does not compile annual poverty rate statistics, the International Budget Partnership’s Kinuthia told Africa Check.
Its most recent statistics were released in 2018 and have data for 2015/16. This data defines “overall poverty” as households and individuals whose monthly expenditure “is less than KSh3,252 in rural and peri-urban areas and less than KSh5,995 in core-urban areas”.
It gives the national poverty headcount rate as 36.1%, a fall from the 2005/06 rate of 46.6%.
When Kenyatta took office in 2013, the available data puts the poverty rate at 46.6%, 10 percentage points higher than the 36% Wanjigi claimed.
Multidimensional index looks beyond income
But is the current poverty rate 52%? We asked Paul Samoei, a senior manager for research and development at the Kenya statistics bureau who works on poverty data.
He said the index in the 2020 report was not a measure of the overall poverty rate.
“The multidimensional index looks beyond income to include access to safe water, education, electricity, food, and six other indicators,” he said.
A closer look at the 2020 report shows that it uses data from the 2015/16 survey. The statistics bureau also warns that the findings should be interpreted with caution, due to survey design limitations.
Given these facts, we rate Wanjigi’s claim as misleading. – Makinia Juma
We asked Dr Timothy Njagi, a development economist and research fellow at the Tegemeo Institute, an agriculture policy think tank hosted at Egerton University, where we could find data to verify this claim.
He directed us to the statistics bureau’s economic survey. This shows that in 2020, animal production made up 3.6% of national GDP, not 4% of “agricultural GDP”.
Wanjigi seemed to have mangled his numbers, Njagi said.
Does livestock employ around 100,000 people? There is no official data on the number of people employed in the agricultural sector because Kenya has never done an agricultural census, Njagi said.
And most smallholder farmers practise mixed farming, engaged both in livestock and crop production. Double counting would therefore be a concern with any estimate, he said. – Dancan Bwire
Wanjigi said he ran a tallying centre that confirmed Kenyatta’s victory.
He said: “Kenyatta won that election. Didn’t you see the difference in votes? The difference was 800,000 votes. I believe the competitors went to court and what happened? They lost.”
Chris Kerkering is litigation manager at the Katiba Institute, a nonprofit organisation that promotes knowledge of the constitution and its use in society.
For a candidate to be declared winner of a presidential election in Kenya, they must have 50% plus one vote in their basket.
“The candidate also has to have 25% of the votes in each of more than half of the counties cast in their favour,” said Kerkering.
The data shows Kenyatta got 6,173,433 votes, and Odinga 5,340,546 – a difference of 832,887 votes.
The claim is therefore correct. – Grace Gichuhi