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Wrong again: Fact-checking Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta’s 2021 state of the nation address

Every year, by law, any Kenyan president is required to tell the country about its progress and setbacks. But this needs accurate data.

  • When president Uhuru Kenyatta delivered his state of the nation address on 30 November 2021, he didn’t correct some inaccuracies Africa Check identified in his Mashujaa Day speech a month before.

  • Any Kenyan president is required to give a proper assessment of the state of the country each year. 

  • In this extensive report, we examine 15 claims in the address. We have again asked the president’s office for the source of the data.

On 30 November Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta addressed a joint sitting of parliament on the state of the nation, as required by law.

In his speech Kenyatta focused on the post-pandemic economy. He also claimed achievements in building roads, schools, electrification, healthcare and more.  

Did he get all his facts right? We took a closer look at 15 key claims he made, some recycled from his Mashujaa – Heroes’ – Day speech on 20 October, despite Africa Check having found them to be incorrect or misleading.

We have asked the president’s office for the sources of the data used in the speech and will update this report when we hear back.

Claim

“Kenya’s economy grew at 0.3% during 2020 despite the Covid-19 challenge.”

Verdict

Incorrect

“While most economies in the world shrank, Kenya’s economy grew at 0.3%,” Kenyatta said. He called this “positive” – if “minimal” – growth. 

It’s a claim he also made on Mashujaa Day.

Benjamini Muchiri, a senior manager at the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics directed us to the most recent economic survey for reliable data on growth. It was published in September 2021. 

The survey says Kenya’s economy shrank by 0.3% in 2020. World Bank data shows the same 0.3% contraction

And in a speech launching the survey, Kenyatta’s finance minister Ukur Yatani also said the economy was “estimated to have contracted by 0.3% in 2020”.

Yatani attributed this to lockdown-related restrictions and a reduced demand for goods and services. – Makinia Juma

Claim

“During the second quarter of 2021, real GDP recorded a phenomenal 10.1% growth.”

Verdict

Misleading

The national statistics office has the data to check this claim, John Kinuthia, a senior programme officer at the Kenya office of the International Budget Partnership thinktank told Africa Check.

The data agency publishes quarterly gross domestic product reports, most recently in October 2021. This shows that Kenya’s GDP at market prices grew by 10.1% in the second quarter compared to the same period of 2020. 

Uhuru Kenyatta delivers 2021 state of the nation address
Uhuru Kenyatta delivers 2021 state of the nation address. CITIZEN TV SCREENGRAB

The 10.1% is not “real GDP”, as the president claimed. It’s nominal GDP at market prices, unadjusted for inflation. Not taking inflation into account tends to distort the value of an economy. 

“The problem with the president’s statement is that we are missing the context,” Kinuthia said. “The ‘phenomenal growth’ was because we are comparing it to a period when the economy was locked down.” 

In the second quarter of 2020, Kenya’s economy shrank by -5.7%. This was mainly due to restrictive measures aimed at countering Covid-19.  

Because of their unprecedented nature, a sharp recovery would be expected when these measures were eased, as noted by the statistics office.

Prof Charles Wheelan is a senior lecturer at Dartmouth College in the US and author of Naked Statistics, among other works. 

“This is not a sign of robust new economic growth. It is a sign of recovery,” he told Africa Check. “It's not like getting a big raise at work. It's more like being unemployed for a spell and then getting your old job back. It's good – clearly better than the alternative – but not a huge sign of progress.”

The president was right that the economy grew by a higher than normal pace of 10.1% in the second quarter, but he left out important context. We therefore rate his claim as misleading. (Find out more about how we rate claims.) Alphonce Shiundu

Claim

“This is the highest growth ever recorded in one quarter in Kenya’s history.”

Verdict

Unproven

Data from the statistics bureau shows that the 10.1% growth in the second quarter of 2020 was the highest of any quarter in two decades – since 2000. 

We asked the bureau’s director-general Macdonald Obudho if there was earlier data. He said there wasn’t. 

“We do not have any data before that time. We were not generating quarterly GDP data before,” Obudho said.

Kenya gained independence in 1963, almost six decades ago. But the available quarterly GDP data only goes back to 2000. We can therefore only rate the claim as unproven. Alphonce Shiundu

Claim

“It is also the first time Kenya has hit a double-digit growth number.”

Verdict

Incorrect

For historical data, the International Budget Partnership’s Kinuthia directed us to the world development indicators, a World Bank database covering 217 economies – 189 member countries and 28 “other” economies.  

The data shows that Kenya’s economy grew by 22% in 1971 and 17% in 1972. The 10.1% rise in the second quarter of 2020 is therefore not “the first time” the country has had double-digit economic growth. 

And Dartmouth College’s Wheelan explained that “double digit growth” usually means “GDP growth (stripped of inflation) of 10% a year”. 

He added: “The government can credibly say that the economy appears to be undergoing a robust recovery. It's a stretch for them to say they are delivering double-digit rates of growth as that phrase typically is used in a context that suggests policies or developments that are permanently raising the productive capacity of a country, not merely bouncing back after a shock.”

We rate the claim as incorrect. Alphonce Shiundu

Claim

“When the Covid pandemic hit our country, we had an ICU bed capacity of only 180 beds countrywide ... We increased the ICU bed capacity by 502% during the Covid period.”

Verdict

Unproven

In his delivered speech, Kenyatta said the rise was from 180 to 651 beds. But the text version gives it as from 108 beds. Before the pandemic, he said, there was only an average of two ICU beds in each of Kenya’s 47 counties. 

We checked this exact claim in the president’s Mashujaa Day speech and found it to be unproven. Read our detailed findings as to why his numbers still do not add up. – Makinia Juma

Claim

“When I took the oath of office in 2013, Kenya’s total grid was 1,300 MW.”

Verdict

Incorrect

Kenya’s statistics bureau gives figures on the country’s power situation in its yearly economic surveys. The figures come from the electricity utility Kenya Power and the power-generating company KenGen

The 2014 economic survey says the country had 1,717.8 megawatts of total installed capacity in 2013, not 1,300 MW. 

Similarly, Kenya Power data shows that on 30 June 2013, two months after Kenyatta was sworn in, installed capacity was at 1,765 MW. The president understated the electricity available in 2013 by more than 400 MW.

The grid capacity was closest to the president’s claim in 2009, when it was at 1,311 MW. This was four years before he took office. Alphonce Shiundu

Claim

“But eight years later, Kenya’s total grid has doubled and it now stands at 2,600 MW.”

Verdict

Incorrect

In 2020, the country’s installed capacity was 2,836.7 MW, according to the statistics bureau’s most recent economic survey, released in September 2021.

Available electricity has increased by 1,118.9 MW since 2013. This is a 65% rise, close to two thirds. Capacity has not doubled. 

We also checked Kenya Power’s most recent report. This showed that on 30 June 2021, Kenya had 2,984 MW in its grid.

The increase from June 2013 to June 2021 is 1,219 MW or 69%. There’s no evidence that installed capacity has doubled since 2013. Alphonce Shiundu

Claim

“This translates to 325 MW installed every year under my administration. It also means that for every year, we installed 325 megawatts since 2013”.

Verdict

Incorrect

The increase from 2013 to 2021, according to Kenya Power’s most recent data is 1266.2 MW, an average increase of 158.3 MW a year. 

For Kenyatta’s administration to have installed 325 MW every year for eight years, the total increase would have had to be 2,600 MW. 

We rate the claim as incorrect. Alphonce Shiundu

Claim

“Only 2.3 million households had been connected to power when I took over in 2013.”

Verdict

Misleading

Kenya Power says it supplies electricity to “individual households, private industries, companies and government institutions”. 

Its 2013 report shows there were a total of 2,330,962 customers connected to electricity. But only 2.1 million were domestic customers, or households. That means about 200,000 were other customers.    

Kenyatta equates the total customer base to household connections. This gives a misleading picture of households’ access to electricity in 2013. Makinia Juma

Claim

“In eight years, we have tripled this number by connecting an extra 6.3 million households.”

Verdict

Exaggerated

Has the Kenyatta administration tripled the number of households connected to electricity? We sifted through Kenya Power’s annual reports, and found the numbers in the table below. 

Kenya Power customers 2013-2021

Year

Total customers 

Domestic customers 

Increase in domestic customers 

2012/13

2,330,962

2,059,340

 

2013/14

2,767,983

2,481,856

422,516

2014/15

3,611,904

3,305,934

824,078

2015/16

4,890,373

4,565,907

1,259,973

2016/17

6,182,282

5,839,865

1,273,958

2017/18

6,761,090

6,404,632

564,767

2018/19

7,067,861

6,682,137

277,505

2019/20

7,576,145

7,156,429

474,292

2020/21

8,278,203

7,852,051

695,622

     

5,792,711

Source: Kenya Power

The increase in domestic customers from 2012/13 to 2020/21 adds up to 5.79 million – not 6.3 million.

The number of households connected to Kenya Power’s grid did almost triple under Kenyatta’s administration. But the president overstates the increase by about 500,000.

His claim is exaggerated.  Makinia Juma

Claim

“We have connected approximately 787,000 households every year and with 2,000 connections a day since 2013.”

Verdict

Mostly Correct

The increase from 2013 to 2021, according to the most recent data, is 5.79 million – an average of 726,589 a year. 

This works out to 1,990 connections a day since 2013, when Kenyatta’s administration came to power.

The claim is mostly correct. Makinia Juma

Claim

“My administration increased the equitable share allocation to county governments from the constitutionally mandated 15% to 32%.”

Verdict

Misleading

Kenya’s constitution provides for the equitable sharing of money between the national government and the 47 counties. The counties became operational after elections in March 2013.

These units of government should receive “not less than 15%” of all revenue collected by the national government.

“The 15% is the minimum that has to be sent to the counties but, the principle is, the allocations to counties should cover the devolved functions,” the International Budget Partnership’s Kinuthia told us.

The Commission on Revenue Allocation assesses the cost of county functions and recommends how funds are shared between national and county government. The recommendations are either adopted or changed by the Division of Revenue Act, if approved by Kenya’s parliament

The allocations from 2013 to 2021 are in the table below.

ALLOCATIONS TO KENYA COUNTIES 2013-2021

Year

Equitable share (KSh billion)

(%) of most recent revenues audited and approved by parliament

Year of most recent audited revenues

2013/14

190

27.9%

2011/12

2014/15

226.7

43%

2009/10

2015/16

259.8

33%

2012/13

2016/17

280.3

30%

2013/14

2017/18

302

32%

2013/14

2018/19

314

33.6%

2013/14

2019/20

316.5

30.5%

2014/15

2020/21

316.5

23.3%

2016/17

Source: Division of Revenue Acts from the National Council for Legal Reporting 

Going by the equitable shares, the average county allocation over the eight financial years for which allocations have been made works out to 31.6% of the most recent audited revenues.

But the “most recent audited and approved revenues” are at least three financial years behind, giving a misleading picture the percentage allocation looks rosy, but the actual amount is low, Kinuthia said. 

Ideally, the revenues from the previous financial year should be audited and approved by the national assembly in time for the next budget, but this has not happened. 

The president’s numbers may appear correct, but they only give a partial picture. He omits the context of the 15% as a minimum, the role of the CRA in costing the functions before the sharing is done, and the fact that there's at least a three-year lag between the allocations and the most-recent audited and approved revenues. 

In the end, it paints a misleading picture. Alphonce Shiundu

Claim

“In the last eight years KRA has collected KSh10.8 trillion cumulatively in revenue.”

Verdict

Correct

Kenyatta said the country’s taxman – the Kenya Revenue Authority – had collected KSh10.8 trillion since 2013. He added that the amount was “equivalent to Kenya's GDP”. 

We checked the authority’s data for total revenue collected since 2013.

Financial year

Revenue collected (trillion Kenyan shillings)

2013/14

0.96

2014/15

1.1

2015/16

1.21 

2016/17

1.37

2017/18

1.44 

2018/19

1.58

2019/20

1.61

2020/21

1.67

Total tax revenue 2013/14 to 2020/21

10.83

Source: Kenya Revenue Authority. Numbers rounded off.

Kenya’s GDP was KSh10.8 trillion in 2020/21, according to the statistics bureau. The World Bank’s figure is KSh10.5 trillion for 2020. 

Available data indicates that the Kenya Revenue Authority did collect KSh10.8 trillion in the eight financial years from 2013/14 to 2020/21. The amount is equivalent to the country’s GDP in 2020.

We rate the claim as correct.  Makinia Juma

Claim

“The police to population ratio today is at its highest level ever, as prescribed by the UN standard.”

Verdict

Incorrect

The police-population ratio indicates the number of police officers serving a community, relative to its size. For example, if a community has one police officer serving 100 people, the ratio is 1:100.

Kenyatta made the same claim on Mashujaa Day. But when we fact-checked it, we found it to be incorrect. Our report explains why.

What data there is shows that while the ratio has improved over the eight years of the president’s term, it was at its highest in 2018.

There’s also no “prescribed” United Nations “standard” for a policing ratio. Experts have previously told Africa Check that such a recommendation would have little meaning, given countries’ significant differences in police functions and capabilities, and the security challenges they face. 

Instead, the quality of policing is a better indicator. Makinia Juma

Claim

“KMC outlets are collecting KSh1 million daily … This KSh1 million translates to KSh30 million every month, and KSh3.6 billion annually in just one outlet.”

Verdict

Incorrect

Kenyatta said the Kenya Meat Commission, the state-owned meat processor, has an outlet that “collects KSh1 million” every day after the military controversially took over its management. The military had turned it around, he said.

The KSh1 million a day translated to an average of KSh30 million a month, he said. But is it KSh3.6 billion a year? 

Here’s the maths. Multiplying KSh30 million (one month average) by 12 (months in a year) comes to KSh360 million, not KSh3.6 billion. 

The president’s figure is 10 times off the mark. Alphonce Shiundu

Further Reading

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