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State of the Nation 2019: Did Kenyatta get his facts right?

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Under public pressure to rein in corruption, Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta promised an "all-out assault" as he delivered his sixth state of the nation address in April 2019.

But as he listed the achievements of his administration in parliament, was he on target with his facts? We checked.

The economy


“Our broad-based economic growth averaged 5.6% over the last five years...”



In 2013, the year the president took office, the Kenyan economy grew 5.9%, and 5.4% in 2014, according to data from the national statistics office.

The economic survey 2018 shows economic growth was 5.7% in 2015, 5.9% in 2016 and 4.9% in 2017.

The average over those five years works out to 5.56%. We therefore rate the president’s figure as correct. -Alphonce Shiundu


”... outperforming the average global growth.”



Kenyatta said the rate the Kenyan economy grew at had outpaced the world.

According to the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook update in January 2019, the world economy grew 3.7% in 2018, a slight dip from 3.8% in 2017.

Additional data shows global growth was 3.2% in both 2015 and 2016, and 3.4% in 2014. In 2013 this was 3.2%. This averages to 3.36% between 2013 and 2017, which is well under Kenya’s growth that same period. The figures appear to bear the president out.

But there’s more. Is Kenya doing better than the rest of the world? We asked Kwame Owino, the chief executive of think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, Kenya for context.

'Compare ourselves with our peers'

The numbers are expected, Kwame said. This is because mature economies grow at a slower rate, having exhausted the capital and gains they can get from technology. But the US with 2% growth still created significantly more wealth than Kenya did with a 5.6% growth rate.

Kenya therefore needed to grow even faster to close the public welfare gap, Kwame said. But the broader comparison distorts the picture.

“It is misleading. We should compare our growth rates with our peers, people within our range,” Kwame said.

For instance, according to World Bank data, in eastern Africa, over the last five years, Kenya’s economy has been growing faster than Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, but slower compared to Tanzania and Ethiopia.


“In 2018, provisional estimates show the economy grew by 6.1%.”



Kenya’s statistics agency expects the economy to grow 6% in 2018. This is according to the national treasury’s budget policy statement.

The economy grew 5.8% in the first three months of 2018, 6.2% in the second quarter and 6% in the third quarter of the year. This, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics said, was due to “favourable weather conditions and a stable macroeconomic environment”.

The Parliamentary Budget Office – a non-partisan office that advises lawmakers on the economy - mirrored this forecast in March 2019.

In a forecast the same month, the World Bank predicted 5.8% growth for the year. This would be due to “recovery in agriculture, better business sentiment, and easing of political uncertainty”.

For the economy to grow at 6.1%, growth for the last quarter will need to come in at 6.4%. But given the proximity of the other forecasts to the president’s figure, which he noted was provisional, we rate this claim as mostly correct. - Alphonce Shiundu



”We have made tremendous gains… over the last six years, with the number of electricity connections rising from 2.2 million in March 2013 to 7.1 million as at March 2019.”



The text of the president’s speech gave the number of connections as 2.264 million in March 2013 and 7.029 million in March 2019. But when he spoke he said “2.2 million” and “7.1 million”.

National utility Kenya Power’s 2018 annual report says it had an estimated 6.76 million customers connected to electricity. An earlier report says there were 2.33 million customers at the end of June 2013.

Kevin Sang, a spokesperson for Kenya power, told Africa Check the latest figures were 7 million customers connected to power.

What the president actually said is therefore mostly correct -Alphonce Shiundu.


“Installed capacity has increased from 1,768 MW in March 2013 to the current 2,712 MW.”



Kenyatta said clean energy plants had helped increase capacity, with wind projects in Lake Turkana and Ngong and a solar project in Garissa joining the grid in 2018.

The energy regulatory commission puts Kenya’s installed capacity in June 2013 at 1,765 MW. By June 2018 it had risen to 2,351 MW, according to data from Kenya Power. (Note: Installed capacity is the capacity of all the power plants if they run at 100%. Effective capacity is the actual available power.)

“According to our latest figures, the installed capacity is now 2,712 MW, while the effective capacity is 2,638 MW,” Kenya Power spokesperson Kevin Sang told Africa Check on 5 April 2019, the day after Kenyatta’s State of the Nation Address.We therefore rate the claim as correct.  -Alphonce Shiundu

County funding


”Since April 2013, more than KSh1.7 trillion shillings has been transferred to the counties.”



In 2010, a new constitution provided for the creation of 47 county governments. The law provides for equitable sharing of money with the counties of “not less than 15%” of all revenue collected by the national government.

The Division of Revenue Acts show the total allocations to county governments were KSh 1.76 trillion. However, not all this money was actually transferred. The sums actually sent to the counties are captured by the office of the controller of budgetThe treasury releases money to the county governments' accounts, but the controller of budget then finalises the transfer by allowing the counties to access the money.

           Amounts to Kenya counties 2013-2019 (billions of shillings)
YearTotal AllocationTreasury transfers to countiesApproved by budget office

SOURCE: TREASURY, CONTROLLER OF BUDGET, PARLIAMENT *As of 28 February 2019. **Budget office, half-year 2018/19

The amount transferred to the counties as per the latest available figure is KSh1,503.87. The president’s amount is thus off by KSh190 billion. We therefore rate the claim incorrect. -Vincent Ng'ethe

READ MOREHow Kenyatta mangled his numbers on Kenyan counties’ development spend



”Our aggressive push of this [universal access to basic education] agenda has this year seen us achieve 100% transition rate.”



This claim stems from a 2017 campaign promise to achieve a 100% transition rate from primary to secondary school by providing free secondary education. According to the economic survey 2018, the transition rate in 2017 was 83.1%.

A recent education ministry report puts the rate at 93.14% on 22 February 2019. In March Amina Mohammed, then the cabinet secretary for education, tweeted that the transition rate was “93% and rising”.

The rise from 83.1% to 93.14% can be attributed to the free-day high school subsidy, and the work of provincial administration – chiefs and their assistants – to ensure all students who sit their final primary school exam get into secondary school. This is according to Amos Kaburu from Uwezo, a literacy and numeracy programme at Twaweza East Africa.

Dr John Mugo, who has researched education in Kenya, said that while the transition rate had risen, it was unlikely to have reached 100%.

First, he said, secondary education is not fully compulsory, as no law forced parents to ensure their children go to high school. It’s also not completely free. There are still direct costs such as for uniforms, transport and food. And the opportunity cost – the loss of possible income and domestic labour provided by children – is not considered.

Providing free tuition without also giving legislative and other support to parents in different social contexts would not guarantee a 100% transition rate, Mugo told Africa Check. -Alphonce Shiundu



“2.5 million passengers have travelled using Madaraka Express since its inception in May 2018.”



The president flagged off the maiden passenger train on the standard gauge railway in May 2017, not May 2018 as in his speech.

In 2017, some 699,055 passengers travelled on the train, according to December 2018 economic data from the national statistics agency.They brought in receipts of KSh627 million.

In 2018, revised official data showed that the train carried 1,665,627 passengers, bringing in KSh1.6 billion in revenue. This, Rosemary Bowen, an official with the statistics agency, told Africa Check.

The first two months of 2019 recorded 226,027 passengers. Since its launch in May 2018 the train has carried 2,590,709 passengers and earned revenue of KSh2.5 billion.

This number of passengers also counts repeat passengers, Bowen said. “It is not unique passengers.” In November 2018, a passenger recognised as the
 two millionth passenger said she was a frequent user of the service. - Vincent Ng’ethe


”Since its inception 3.881 million tonnes of cargo have been transported on the standard-gauge railway line.”



Data from the national bureau of statistics showed that 5 million tonnes of cargo had been moved by December 2018 - about 1.1 million tonnes of cargo more than the President stated.

We asked about the discrepancy. The agency said the data had been revised. Transportation of cargo did not start until January 2018. That year, the cargo service moved 2.9 million tonnes, earning revenue of KSh4.1 billion. In the first two months of 2019 some 662,419 tonnes of cargo were transported.     

This brought the total to 3.6 million tonnes. With March 2019 not accounted for, we rate the president’s number of 3.8 million tonnes as mostly correct. - Vincent Ng’ethe



”Over 175,000 Kenyans have already registered under the voluntary scheme known as ‘boma yangu.”



Providing affordable housing is a key priority for Kenyatta’s legacy. As part of this, the president noted that more than 175,000 Kenyans have registered for a plan to allocate houses.

Citizens are first required to sign up through a portal at no cost. This then allows them and their employers to contribute some of their income, up to a maximum of KSh2,500 a month. There’s also a voluntary contribution that is not capped.

When the building of houses starts, the applicants will through a “regular, fair and transparent system free of any human intervention and contact” be allocated houses. This will depend on a number of factors such as when they listed, “family status as well as demand across the housing categories”.

As of 4 April 2019 there were 186,256 registered applicants. While this is 11,000 more people, it is “over 175,000”. The president actually missed the chance to announce a larger figure. - Alphonce Shiundu

READ MORE: 500,000 or 200,000? President’s numbers for mortgages in Kenya both wide of the mark

Small businesses


“The micro, small and medium enterprises sector employs approximately 14.9 million Kenyans.”



According to the 2016 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Survey, MSMEs as they are known are enterprises “having between 1 and 99 employees”.

Micro-enterprises have less than 10 employees; small enterprises have between 10 and 49 employees while medium-sized enterprises have between 50 to 99 employees.

The survey, from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, showed these businesses employ 14, 898,300 people. Some 42.2% of the businesses were licensed while 57.8% were unlicensed.

The president’s claim is correct based on the most recently available public data. -Vincent Ng’ethe

Note: We are still checking more claims ranging from energy to agriculture and education. Keep checking back.


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