Is Kenya in financial trouble?

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BY NGUNJIRI WAMBUGU

Not according to the most recent Kenya Economic Update (KEU) issued less than two weeks ago (on October 15th).

This report says that Kenya’s economic performance remains solid with the growth rate expected to improve from 5.3percent in 2014 to 5.4pc in 2015. It is projected to rise further to 5.7pc in 2016. KEU attributes the growth to government investment in infrastructure, including railways, roads and energy, and strong consumer demand.

The foundation for growth remains strong, the report says, though prospects for higher growth have moderated from the impact of external shocks, including the recent crisis in China and weak global currencies.

The KEU report is prepared by the World Bank Group in partnership with Kenya’s National Treasury and members of the Economic Roundtable who include the Ministry of Devolution and Planning, Central Bank of Kenya, Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Vision 2030, Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, National Economic and Social Council, International Monetary Fund, Office of the Controller of Budget, Council of Governors, Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution, Kenya School of Government and the Centre for Parliamentary Studies and Training.

According to Diarietou Gaye, the World Bank’s Country Director for Kenya, “Kenya has the potential to become one of the best performing economies in Sub-Sahara Africa and also among middle income countries.”

However if one was to believe what we see in the media Kenya is in a serious economic crisis. Interest rates are going through the roof, the dollar is about to hit rock bottom, money is being looted left, right and centre, and our financial institutions are failing. Things are so bad – Kenya in actually broke!

This is despite the fact that just last month we had the Global Entrepreneurship Summit that saw hundreds of top American businessmen and women come to Kenya to seek out investment opportunities. In fact according to a JP Morgan Investment bank private note to clients; ‘The economic growth outlook for 2015 is positive … GDP growth is expected to remain strong on the back of sustained public investment in infrastructure across several sectors.

Key projects that will benefit include the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which will connect Mombasa to Nairobi. Other projects are also slated to build up infrastructure for agriculture, communications, transport, and energy …Kenya’s productive capacity is expected to improve significantly over both the short and long terms as a result of its targeted public investments to address prevailing infrastructure bottlenecks … ‘

The unbalanced gloom and doom stories are not exclusive to Kenya’s economic outlook.

We hear about how badly Kenya is doing under Jubilee as regards security; but no one is telling us that under the same Jubilee administration Kenya has more vehicles dedicated to security purposes than at any given time since independence. We hear complaints about Kenya Power but never hear that Kenya is now the world’s 8th largest geo-thermal producer. We hear complaints about electricity costs but never about how electricity consumer bills have come down by 25pc. We also do not know that the number of electricity users in Kenya has gone up by 41pc in the last 3 years, or that this administration has reduced electricity connection charges by 57pc.

We hear how Jubilee has failed to deliver laptops to primary schools but no one is telling us that 18,424 out of 21,458 primary schools are now connected to electricity and that the remaining schools will be connected by the end of this year. We hear about the inefficiency at the lands ministry but no one is telling us that more title deeds have been issued in the last three years than in all the years since independence, combined!

Today every narrative on Kenya is about how the glass as half empty. This is because Jubilee has ceded the responsibility of who tells the Kenyan story, especially locally, to Cord. Unfortunately Cord has no interest in a reality where Kenya is succeeding which is why the current perception of Kenya as a country that is failing in literally every single aspect exists; despite all the evidence available to the contrary.

Only Jubilee can fix this. For example the Presidency cannot be the only Jubilee institution that deals with political issues. Where are Jubilee Parliamentarians? Where are Jubilee political think tanks? Where are the political messages that challenge CORD’s narrative of hopelessness? Where is Jubilee’s political communications machinery? Why are we not hearing the positive narratives out there; the millions of individual Kenyans, and groups, succeeding? Why is Jubilee not contrasting these success stories with the negativity we are being fed on daily by CORD?

Jubilee must also appreciate that it is always easier to sell negative stories. They must therefore deliberately and strategically offer alternative positive stories so that Kenyans will have options on who and what to believe.

(Ngunjiri is a Director of Change Associates, a political communications consultancy)

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