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As Raila Odinga jets into London, we fact-check Kenyan deputy president’s 2022 Chatham House speech

William Ruto was back to a favoured stomping ground in the English capital. But did his claims on the day add up?

  • In his address at London’s Chatham House, Kenyan deputy president William Ruto spoke widely about the country’s economy and society, and his plans should he win the presidency in the upcoming election.

  • His claims about constitutional amendments, the size of Kenya’s working population, milk production and food imports are mostly correct.

  •  But those about business numbers and credit defaults are unproven. Claims about agriculture’s contribution to GDP and unemployment are exaggerated, while one on the levels of East African trade is incorrect.

On 7 March 2022 Kenyan deputy president William Ruto returned to Chatham House, the British think tank, to set out his agenda should he be elected president in the August general election. 

Ruto outlined his development priorities and answered questions from the audience, some about his record in office. He has been the country’s second in command since 2013.

We checked nine claims he made about constitutional amendments, trade, agriculture and unemployment and more. 

(Note: Ruto’s expected main rival, Raila Odinga, is also set to speak at the think tank, on 16 March. We will again watch out for any claims made.)

Claim

“The building bridges initiative proposed about 72 different amendments to the constitution.”

Verdict

Mostly Correct

We have asked the deputy president’s office for the evidence for his claims and will update this report when we hear back.

In London, Ruto said the building bridges initiative, a controversial government-backed bid to change the country’s 2010 constitution, had “proposed a raft of amendments in the region of 72 different amendments”.  

The draft law to amend the constitution was published in November 2020. Kenya’s high court and court of appeal then ruled that the bill was unconstitutional. The government is awaiting the verdict on its appeal to the supreme court

So how many amendments were proposed in the bill? 

To find this out, we would have to check the clauses that propose specific changes to articles of the constitution, Victor Kapiyo, a partner at Nairobi law firm Lawmark Partners LLP, told Africa Check. 

The bill to amend the constitution had 74 clauses, of which 71 propose amendments to articles of the constitution. 

We therefore rate this claim mostly correct. Tess Wandia

Claim

“Four million of our young people [are] out of school, out of college, out of university, have no jobs.”

Verdict

Exaggerated

Ruto said his “inclusive economic model” would create jobs for “millions” of Kenyans who have no work. 

“Four million of our young people [are] out of school, out of college, out of university, have no jobs,” he said.

Labour statisticians at the Kenya bureau of statistics directed us to their quarterly labour force surveys. The most recent covers January to March 2021.

Published in September 2021, it gave the results of “the youth aged 15 – 34 who were not in the education system and were not working or being trained for work (NEET) during the reference period”. Data collection is done over three months for 12 days each month. (Note: The agency said vocational training was not captured, “so, some of the youth might still be in training”.)

Kenya’s constitution defines “youth” as people who “have attained the age of eighteen years; but have not attained the age of thirty-five years”. 

The survey found that of a total of 17.7 million young people, 3 million aged 15 to 34 fell into this category. 

When the 15 to 24 age group is considered, those excluded from the labour market was 1.7 million. 

The World Bank counts youth as those aged 15 to 29. In Kenya, 2.5 million NEET people are in this age group. But none of these numbers support the deputy president’s figure.

The development lender says: “The NEET group is particularly at risk of both labour market and social exclusion, because this group is neither improving their future employability through investment in skills nor gaining experience through employment.” Makinia Juma

Claim

“Eighty percent of all our business is in the space of micro, small and medium enterprise.”

Verdict

Unproven

Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises were key to his economic plan, Ruto said, adding that they were “80% of all our business”. 

These businesses are defined as having up to 99 employees. But the national statistics office did not have data on the total number of businesses in the country, Robert Nderitu, its head of production statistics, told Africa Check.

The most recent data is the 2016 micro, small and medium enterprise survey, Nderitu said. This says the lack of a national business register is a shortcoming.

President Uhuru Kenyatta made the same claim in March 2020. We found it unproven when we fact-checked it, due to this absence of data. 

We have not found any new data to change that verdict. – Alphonce Shiundu

Claim

“Today 15 million Kenyans are blacklisted on credit reference bureau.”

Verdict

Unproven

In November 2021 Business Daily reported that in January that year, 14 million Kenyans were negatively listed by credit reference bureaus

This means they could struggle to get credit or negotiate favourable repayment terms.

The newspaper referred us to the credit information sharing (CIS) system, which works with Kenya’s three licensed credit reference bureaus, as the source of its figure. 

Jared Getenga, CIS chief executive, told Africa Check to contact the country’s regulator. “The data is with the central bank,” he said.

A top central bank official promised to share the data. We will update this report with the numbers. 

But before we get them we can only rate Ruto’s claim as unproven. – Makinia Juma

Claim

“15 million Kenyans … is actually half our working population.”

Verdict

Mostly Correct

Ruto added that the number of people negatively listed with credit reference bureaus, which he gave as 15 million, is “actually half” of the “working population” in Kenya. 

The working age population is the total number of potential workers in an economy. The national data agency gives this as the population aged 15 to 64.

A related term, the labour force, “consists of all persons in the working age population who are either employed or unemployed”. 

According to the most recent labour survey, there are 28 million people aged 15 to 64 in Kenya. While we could not establish if 15 million Kenyans are negatively listed, the deputy president’s figure still comes close to half of the working age population. – Makinia Juma

Claim

“25% of our GDP is contributed to by agriculture.”

Verdict

Exaggerated

As he pledged massive investments in agriculture to boost employment and food security, Ruto claimed agriculture makes up one-quarter of Kenya’s gross domestic product or GDP.

A country’s GDP is the measure of the size of its economy. It is the market value of all goods and services produced in a country in a given period, usually a year.

Agriculture (specifically the growing of crops), animal production and other support activities contributed 18.8% to Kenya’s GDP in 2019. This is according to the statistics bureau’s most recent economic survey

The agency estimates this share to have risen to 20.4% in 2020.

When combined with fishing, fish-farming and forestry, the share rose to 21.2% in 2019 and a provisional 23% in 2020.

Ruto’s figure is at least two percentage points – or about KSh200 billion – off the mark. We therefore rate it exaggerated. Alphonce Shiundu

Claim

“[Kenya] is the largest producer of milk in the continent. We produce five billion litres of milk.”

Verdict

Mostly Correct

Increasing the productivity of dairy cattle could “turn around the fortunes” of dairy farmers, Ruto said

Eric Vall is a researcher at Cirad, the French agricultural research centre for international development. He works with the Africa Milk project, which seeks to increase milk production in four countries: Senegal, Burkina Faso, Kenya and Madagascar.

The most recent reliable data on the continent’s milk production is on the statistics website of the Food and Agriculture Organization, Vall told Africa Check.

FAO is a United Nations agency that works to reduce hunger. 

According to its website, in 2020 Kenya produced 4.05 million tonnes of cow milk, second only to Ethiopia with 4.7 million tonnes. But in 2018 and 2019, Kenya was the continent’s leading producer of milk from cows. 

While Ruto dwelled on the productivity of cows, his statement about milk production was not specific to the animals. Kenya is the leading African producer of milk from cows, camels, sheep and goats, with over 5.5 million tonnes, or 5.5 billion litres, in 2020.  

Data from the Kenya Dairy Board, a state agency that governs milk production and marketing, shows that total production of milk from cows, camels, goats and sheep was 5.5 billion litres in 2019. 

We therefore rate this claim as mostly correct. Alphonce Shiundu

Claim

“We import KSh180 billion worth of food items into Kenya.”

Verdict

Mostly Correct

According to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), to import means “to bring or cause to be brought into the partner states from a foreign country”.

Officials at the national statistics bureau directed Africa Check to their quarterly balance of payments reports.

The most recent report has the value of imports for 2019, 2020 and the first three quarters of 2021. The data shows Kenya spent KSh183.95 billion on food and drink imports in 2019 and KSh173.94 billion in 2020, when the pandemic slowed business. 

In the first three quarters of 2021, the total is KSh155.42 billion at an average of KSh51.8 billion every quarter. At this pace, the amount is likely to exceed Ruto’s estimate. We rate the claim mostly correct. – Grace Gichuhi

Claim

“Intra-trade in East Africa is about either 18% or close to 20%.”

Verdict

Incorrect

The East African Community (EAC) is a regional political and economic bloc with six partner states: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

By “intra-trade in East Africa”, Ruto meant exports and imports between community members. 

Lillian Kiarie from the communications department at the East Africa Business Council directed us to the bloc’s most recent trade report.

The EABC is made up of private firms from across the member states.

The bloc’s total trade was valued at US$55.3 billion in 2019 and $51.9 billion in 2020, with intra-EAC trade at $6.3 billion in 2019 and $5.99 billion in 2020. 

This works to 11.4% in 2019 and 11.5% in 2020. The claim is incorrect. 

But intra-EAC exports do work out to 20% in 2019 and 18% in 2020.  Tess Wandia

Further Reading

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