Kenya’s general election will be contested by a large number of hopefuls, but in reality it’s a two-horse race between Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance and Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party.

Unsurprisingly in a country in which the executive continues to wield a dominant influence, coverage of the campaign has focused on the personalities and records of Odinga and Kenyatta.

What does their candidacy tell us about Kenyan politics in 2017?

The first and most obvious lesson from the 2017 election campaign is that dynastic politics is alive and well in Kenya. Despite all of the contestation, efforts and plotting of rival leaders hoping to push their own ambitions, 2017 will be fought between a Kenyatta and an Odinga, just like the elections of 2013 and the Little General Election of 1966.

The second is that ethnicity only gets you so far. In 2013, Odinga outperformed rival presidential candidate Musalia Mudavadi within his own Luhya community. This was possible because while Odinga was seen to be a credible opposition leader, Mudavadi’s dalliance with Kenyatta – with whom he formed an extremely short-lived alliance – raised concerns that he was a State House puppet. Kenyatta’s recent rehabilitation as the dominant leader among the Kikuyu community following his electoral humiliation in 2002 also demonstrates this point well.

So who are the two leading contenders?

Odinga, the opposition stalwart

Raila Odinga is the son of Oginga Odinga, a prominent independence leader and Kenya’s first vice president who never realised his dream of occupying State House. Like his father, Raila has campaigned tirelessly against considerable odds, and has so far been unsuccessful. He narrowly lost elections in 2007 – when many believe he was rigged out – and in 2013.

Odinga’s great ability is to be able to mobilise well beyond his own Luo community, and to sustain his political party – the Orange Democratic Movement for a decade. Given that most Kenyan parties collapse within a few years, this is some achievement.

The breadth of Odinga’s support base is also impressive. In 2013 he performed well among Luhya voters in Western Kenya, Kamba voters in Eastern Kenya and also at the Coast.

Odinga’s capacity to mobilise support across ethnic lines has two sources. On the one hand, he receives some votes “second hand” as a result of the efforts of his allies from other regions and ethnic groups to direct rally their communities to his cause.

On the other hand, he’s built a strong reputation for representing historically economically and politically marginalised communities. Indeed, while he has never secured the presidency, he has contributed to political reform. Most notably, Odinga played an important role in bringing about constitutional reform in 2010 that introduced devolution and hence a degree of self-government for the groups in his coalition.

Kenyatta, born to power

In contrast to Odinga, Uhuru was born into power as the son of the country’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, and secured the presidency in the 2013 general election having previously failed to do so in 2002.

Kenyatta’s supporters like to say that he was born in State House, and hence born to power, although this is not actually true. But it is true that he has spent his life close to the machinery of government, and his family’s political influence and wealth give him a clear advantage in the elections. His gift is to be able to look and sound presidential when he has an important speech to make, despite his playboy lifestyle.

Although it’s tempting to see Kenyatta’s rise to power as inevitable, this is not the case. In 2002, he failed to mobilise support among his own community because he had been selected by the outgoing Kalenjin President Daniel arap Moi to be his successor. He was then widely seen to be a proxy for Moi’s interests. At that point, his political career appeared to be over.

It was not until Kenyatta developed a reputation for defending Kikuyu interests by allegedly funding and organising militias in the violence that engulfed the 2007 elections that he emerged as the dominant figure within the Central Province. It is for this alleged role that he faced charges (that were subsequently dropped) of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. This, and his electoral alliance with his co-accused – the influential Kalenjin leader William Ruto – were critical factors in his victory in 2013.

The 2017 race

During the campaign Kenyatta and Odinga have been a study in contrasts.

While Odinga stresses his intention to shake things up, Kenyatta presents himself as a safe pair of hands who will protect the status quo.

While Odinga plays up his image as the representative of the excluded, promising to deepen devolution and invest in poorer areas, Kenyatta emphasises building a national infrastructure and maintaining economic growth, arguing that the gains of the rich will trickle down to benefit all Kenyans in time.

These images are further entrenched by the criticisms that each leader makes of the other. Jubilee caricatures Odinga as an unprincipled thug who cannot be trusted with the fine art of government. For its part, the National Super Alliance charges that Kenyatta is out of touch and only interested in serving the interests of the wealthy within his own community.

Some complain that these differences are more rhetorical than real, one thing is clear. In fact Kenyans have a real choice to make at the ballot box.

Election outlook

The greater resources available to Kenyatta, along with the more professional team around him, mean that the opposition faces an uphill battle. Moreover, government interference with the media – which is regularly intimidated – means that while election reportage is vibrant some of the stories that would most hurt the government don’t make it on to the front pages.

It’s therefore not surprising that, at the time of writing, Kenyatta enjoys a small but significant lead in the polls. A series of surveys conducted by different companies using different samples have put him on around 48% of the vote, with Odinga on around 43%. These polls suggest that about 8% of Kenyans remain undecided. This suggests that Raila can still win, but to do so he will have to capture the vast majority of “floating voters” in the last month of campaigning.

However, if undecided voters divide equally between the two main candidates, Kenyatta looks set to end up on something like 52% – surpassing the 50%+1 threshold for a first round win – with Odinga on 47%.

Given this, the record of no sitting Kenyan president ever having lost an election may survive for a while yet, despite the momentum behind the opposition. Although the country has made real democratic strides with its new constitution, the advantages of incumbency remain formidable.

Nic Cheeseman, Professor of Democracy, University of Birmingham

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Kenya recently announced a ban on one of the most common materials used in the country’s packaging sector - plastic bags. This includes the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging.

This isn’t the first time the East African nation has tried to do this and the directive comes about 10 years after the first attempt. That one failed, primarily because of a lack of consistent follow up on the agreed implementation plan.

My research on the management of plastic waste in urban Kenya shows that this new ban is not realistic. The policy direction is not based on the local context or any extensive research regarding implications of the ban. It doesn’t consider the impact that it will have economically or give due consideration to other environmental alternatives.

Kenya’s plastic bag industry

Plastic materials offer a number of advantages over other conventional packaging materials. They are malleable, light, low cost and can be produced in a variety of shapes and sizes. Because of this, every year over 260 million tons of plastics are produced globally. Of this, nearly one trillion plastic bags are made and used. This makes them an important feature of the packaging sector.

Plastic bag manufacturing forms a sizeable portion of the plastic manufacturing sector. It has a long history dating back to the 1930s. Today there are over 30 plastic bag manufacturers with a combined capital investment worth over USD$77.3million (Ksh5.8 billion). They employ up to 9,000 people, both directly and indirectly. Some 100 million plastic shopping bags are given out every month by supermarkets. This is a massive contribution to the plastics sector and to the country’s economy.

Plastic bags also have an extremely important role in the average person’s daily life as they stand out for their excellent fitness for use, resource efficiency and low price. For Kenya, where 56% of the population live on less than a dollar per day, plastic bags support the “kidogo” economy - synonymous with the majority. This economy is based on the small amounts people buy - for example one cup of cooking oil, or a handful of washing powder or squeeze of toothpaste. To take these home they need the small plastic bags.

Pollution

But because plastic bags are resistant to biodegradation, they cause long-term pollution to various natural environments from oceans to soil. Of the 4,000 tons of single use plastic bags produced each month, about 2,000 tons end up in Kenya’s municipal waste streams. Half of these are lightweight bags with a thickness of less than 15 microns.

Because of these issues, a variety of policy measures can be introduced to manage plastic waste. These include a ban on the production of certain plastics, levying taxes, mandatory recycling targets and adoption of anti-plastic bag campaigns.

Kenya has chosen the path of a ban on use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging. But my research shows that plastic waste recovery and recycling is a better strategy for sustainable plastic waste management. This is particularly true for developing economies because employment opportunities can be created within the recycling chain.

One option that won’t work is substituting plastic bags with biodegradable ones. First, the tear strength of biodegradable packaging bags is low compared to their petrochemical counter parts. They also have a high rate of water absorption. Most developing countries are also not equipped with the technological capacity to produce biodegradable material. Lastly, they are still not cost effective. The cost of most bio plastic polymers fall in the range of USD$2-5 per kg, compared to approximately USD$1.3 per kg for the usual petrochemical polymers. These factors make biodegradables a poor substitution.

Which is why the solution lies with plastic recovery and recycling.

Recovery and recycling

The reuse and recycling of plastic waste makes much more sense – particularly since Kenya doesn’t have a petrochemical industry needed to make plastic. Raw materials for the plastics and polythene industries are imported from overseas.

Plastic waste recycling is not a recent phenomenon in Kenya - it dates back to the 1960s. A 2001 survey showed that over 90% of Kenya’s plastic manufacturing industries have internal reprocessing capacity for their own waste and rejects.

Trading in plastic waste has been practised in Kenya since the 1980s. Waste pickers and small-scale traders started to sell unprocessed plastic waste directly to plastic producers for use as a raw material in the manufacture of new plastic products.

This plastic waste collection, by informal actors, presents a more realistic and sustainable solution to plastic waste management in Kenya. The waste becomes a source of raw material for the production of plastic materials, creating an interdependent relationship between solid waste management systems and plastic production.

Kenya needs to create an integrated plastic waste management system. It already has three well established categories of plastic waste recycling industries. These need to be properly linked to plastic waste collection and separation chains.

It would need the support and coordination from government, industry and civil society at all levels. Including:

  • Separating plastic waste from other waste streams and the further separation of various plastic materials for effective use of different polymer wastes in production.

  • The protection of waste pickers and those who add value including washing and sorting to plastic waste

  • The allocation of space for waste separation centres

  • Technological and financial support for waste processing

  • Education outreach programs

  • Plastic product marketing to popularise the diverse products

  • Introducing deposit and return systems in supermarkets

  • Improved transport logistics or plastic products and plastic waste so that such can reach their destinations in time.

The ConversationKenya would be better off pursuing waste management strategies. These include waste separation and the development of rules that require plastic industries to take back certain quantities of plastic waste from the solid waste management system to enhance recycling.

Leah Oyake-Ombis, Part-time lecturer and Director of ALISE Consulting Group, University of Nairobi

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The report, commissioned by ICAEW and produced by partner and forecaster Oxford Economics, provides a snapshot of the region's economic performance. The report focusses specifically on Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, South Africa and Angola.

According to the report, the African continent accounted for 41% of Kenya's exports in 2016 while Europe and Asia each accounted for approximately a quarter of total exports. Uganda held the position of Kenya's largestKenyan exports by destination
single export destination accounting for 11% of total exports during 2016.

Agricultural products such as tea and flowers made up the bulk of exports. However, whilst the country has an advantage in terms of value-added compared to regional African peers, this story is not replicated beyond Africa. Receipts from these commodities are largely determined by factors such as global commodity prices and domestic weather conditions (affecting production), and not necessarily the state of world trade.
Michael Armstrong, ICAEW Regional Director, Middle East, Africa and South Asia said: "Kenya stands to benefit from stronger growth in the East Africa region as it is well positioned to take advantage of rising demand for manufactured goods. Furthermore, its location and relatively developed transport infrastructure will allow the country to act as the gateway into the East Africa region."

The EAC is considered the most progressive trade bloc in Africa. Collaboration on regional infrastructure has reached a level rarely seen on the continent with construction of the $26bn Lamu Port - Southern Sudan - Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor underway. Furthermore, a Single Customs Territory (SCT) system will take effect across the EAC from July 31, facilitating trade between member states by electronically connecting countries' custom clearance systems. A pilot programme involving certain goods and entry points has generated positive results, and if implemented successfully, the SCT could significantly stimulate trade in the region by reducing the cost of doing business.

However, the bloc is not without its challenges as the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) recently cautioned against the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EAC and the European Union (EU) in its current form, which does not bode well for the EPA's implementation. Kenya stands to lose the most without the agreement as it is not classified as a least-developed country, it would not receive duty-free and quota-free access under the EU's Everything-But-Arms initiative.

Non-tariff barriers are another major concern for EAC member states. A monitoring tool identified 19 non-tariff barriers that remain unresolved, ranging from restrictions on Kenyan beef exports to Uganda, to the requirement that companies exporting to Tanzania should register, re-label and retest goods already certified by other partner states.

After accepting his nomination as the presidential candidate of the main opposition coalition recently, Raila Odinga likened himself to Joshua, the biblical figure who led the Jews to the Promised Land.

Odinga was appealing to people disaffected with the performance of the Jubilee government. But he was also appealing to the religious sensibilities of the Kenyan electorate where Christianity has a strong presence.

Religion is omnipresent in Kenya. The line between religion and politics is often thin. This is well illustrated by the fact that gospel music serves as an important vehicle for political mobilisation. Most of the National Super Alliance’s campaign rallies feature a rendering of the popular gospel song “Mambo yabadilika” (things are a-changing).

Mambo yabadilika.

Odinga, as well as President Uhuru Kenyatta who is seeking re-election under the Jubilee Party in the August 8 polls, have sought to endear themselves to the main religious communities. Kenyatta even had members of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, the National Muslim Leaders Forum and the Jamia Mosque visit State House where they pledged their support for his re-election bid. Religion and politics are entwined, each to some extent complicit in the providential authority of the other.

Odinga and Kenyatta aren’t alone. In their quest for the votes of the religious constituencies, all political aspirants have sought to present themselves as people of faith.

But other equally important dynamics shape political relationships in Kenya. Religious symbols operate cheek by jowl with what political scientist Jean Francis Bayart has referred to as the “politics of the belly”. A third factor makes for an even headier mix – ethnic affiliations. Combined, these three factors distort democracy, and the way in which elections are run in the country.

Eating campaign money

On a recent visit to western Kenya during the party primaries I was struck by how voters’ actively sought cash handouts from politicians. And there is no shortage of candidates ready to offer money to the electorate as an inducement to vote for them. A young man who gave me a ride on his motor cycle taxi spoke with pride about his busy schedule these days – “eating campaign money” by night and working by day.

Elderly men and women were seated along village lanes looking out for election candidates who might offer them “something small.” They were open to offers from whichever politician turned up. The amounts they got ranged from around 100 shillings ($1) to 1,000 shillings ($10), often not enough even to feed a family for a day. But the money counts for a lot in the context of extreme poverty.

I also attended an election campaign rally in which a candidate presented what seemed to be a well thought out blueprint for the development of his local ward. At the conclusion of the presentation, one person in the audience broke the silence with a bold demand for more tangible results:

That is enough speech-making, can you now talk to us?

“Talking to us” was easily understood to mean that it was time to give cash gifts to seal the bond.

Demands like this are not unusual during election campaigns in Kenya. They have been a regular feature of elections as long as anyone can remember. One can only imagine what this year’s campaign will be like on the back of a severe drought that has deepened inflation and led to economic hardships.

Building a democratic culture in the context of extreme hardships is a big challenge. As in many African countries undergoing democratic transitions amid conditions of high poverty, economic circumstances hinder or dissuade people from participation in the political process.

Politics of the belly

So what’s the relationship between religion and handouts? They interact and influence each other in myriad ways. Politicians distribute goods for the bellies of their clients in return for political loyalty. In this context democracy as a competitive process in which citizens freely elect their leaders is thrown out of the window.

The Kenyan Muslim leaders’ assurances of support for Kenyatta needs to understood against this background. The leaders – hint, hint – expressed gratitude to the president for

appointing the highest number of Cabinet secretaries and Principal Secretaries from the (Muslim) community.

A common pattern of religious accommodation in post-colonial East African states has been documented. Reflecting trends in Kenya, various religious groups have worked with governments and parties, irrespective of their political philosophies and ideologies.

It is also important to locate religion and politics in Africa within the broader context of ethnicity which has been sustained, and even strengthened, through the political distribution of goods and wealth.

The logic here is not based on universal ideas of human rights and citizenship but rather on networks of tribal patronage and clientilism. Politicians offer their ethnic clients certain material and symbolic gestures such as invocation of tribe, money, jobs in exchange for political support. It is an insecure means of organising support, admittedly, and one that is constantly at risk of corrupt indulgence in order to fund private benefit.

Thus Bayart’s politics-of-the-belly casts a long shadow on the deployment of culture in African states. It demonstrates that religion has followed patterns established by the politics of ethnicity in which merit and common good does not matter.

The current campaign confirms these various forms of symbolic and symbiotic relationships within Kenyan politics. Religious services and rhetoric, money tokens and ethnicity are an integral part of the political system. They will likely again be the main influence in the coming election.

Kenya’s political elite has historically been formed in mission schools, mostly within their ethnic groups and subject to ethnic expectations. Thus it’s an elite formed by – and crippled by – ethnic pride. Religious actors have not escaped a similar elite formation. Thus Kenya’s children of God are rarely Kenyans at large.

Joseph Wandera, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies, St Paul's University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Safaricom has launched a tap-and-go M-Pesa card intended to ease mobile money payments in a bid to grow revenues.

The M-Pesa card will allow customers to make payments at retail point-of-sale (PoS) terminals by tapping their tags on them and inputting their security codes after a real-time pop-up prompt. “M-Pesa 1 Tap will reduce the number of steps a customer needs to take to pay for goods and services from the current eight to just one,” Safaricom chief executive Bob Collymore said.

“It will supplement the number of initiatives that we’ve taken to expand the M-Pesa ecosystem in the past few years.” The card, which is near-field communication (NFC) enabled, has been rolled out in Nakuru — with a nationwide launch scheduled for July. Its variants include a phone sticker and a wristband.

Normal M-Pesa charges will apply. Customers will not be required to show cashiers their “confirmation” messages as proof of payment. Kenya’s economy is still mainly reliant on cash payments with plastic cards and mobile money services such as M-Pesa, Airtel Money and Orange Money still lagging behind.

Safaricom’s move to ease M-Pesa payments through the cards is an attempt to grow its income from retail payments and boost mobile money revenue which stood at Sh55.1 billion in March, a 32.7 per cent year-on-year growth. The telco has issued the devices to 13,000 customers in Nakuru and 600 retailers in the town have acquired the NFC-compatible PoS machines.

 

Credit: Nation Group Kenya

Mauritius' SBM Holdings is bidding to buy a stake in Kenya's Chase Bank, SBM's chairman said, which will give it greater presence in the East African economy after acquiring Fidelity Bank last year.

"SBM is bidding yes. Fidelity is a very small bank. Chase is interesting for our Africa strategy," Ki Chong Li Kwong Wing, chairman of SBM Holdings told Reuters in a text message. The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) wants to find a strategic investor for Chase but has not specified what size stake it will sell.

It said this week that 12 parties, including local and foreign banks, had expressed interest in the bank, which is not associated with JP Morgan Chase & Co.

Regulators placed the mid-sized Chase Bank under receivership in April 2016 after an unexplained loss of billions of Kenyan shillings. Chase is in the hands of the Kenya Deposit Insurance Corporation (KDIC), a state body that protects depositors in case of a bank failure. In November, SBM Holdings acquired Kenya's Fidelity Bank in a deal valued at Sh100 shillings ($0.98) and said it would inject Sh1.45 billion of fresh capital into it.

 

Credit: Business Daily Africa

Kenya has approved the import of 5 million bags, or 450,000 metric tons, of yellow corn from Ukraine as a drought slashes its own output of the grain.

 The imports, the first of the variety since 2011, will be brought in by private companies and sold to animal feed millers, said Johnson Irungu, Director of Crops at the Ministry of Agriculture, in an interview on Thursday. Imports will be sought immediately, he said.

Arrival of the corn from Ukraine will free up more locally grown white corn for human consumption, said Jacques Pienaar, an analyst at South Africa’s Commodity Insight Africa. Corn yields in Kenya this season have halved because of the drought, the National Drought Management Authority said on Feb. 6. The imports will cost $260 to $270 a ton if landed at the port of Mombasa, according to Pienaar. That would mean a total cost of about $119 million.
“It will basically help” ease pressure on white corn supplies, Pienaar said by phone. “It will definitely make a dent.”

 

- Bloomberg

Kenya may lift the import ban imposed on Uganda chicken and eggs in the next one week, after experts from the two countries met to assess the measures taken against an epidemic of bird flu.

This will, however, depend on the final tests carried out by a group of experts drawn from the two countries. They will conclude the exercise in the next one week. Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said the two teams are doing a risk assessment of the Avian flu outbreak in Uganda to determine if it has been contained.

Mr Bett did not confirm when the ban would be lifted, but officials told the Sunday Nation that it could be as early as this week. Kenya imposed the ban last month after a highly infectious strain of bird flu was reported in Uganda. But Uganda has assured Kenya that it has contained the outbreak, adding that most farms that export eggs to Kenya are located more than 10km from the quarantined area.Uganda Kenya

According to Mr Bett, the team will table its reports this week.

“Any further decision will be based on the team’s report. I’m happy that both parties acknowledged the danger posed by the disease and the need to work closely in arresting its spread,” said Mr Bett, who led a team from Kenya that met President Yoweri Museveni. Uganda’s Agriculture minister, Mr Vincent Ssempija, urged Kenya and other neighbouring countries not to worry about bird flu, adding that the situation was under control.

He said commercial poultry farms had been placed under strict surveillance. “These farms are located far from the 10km quarantine radius range around Lake Victoria. The commercial farms can produce safe poultry products for local and export markets,” said Mr Ssempija. On January 18, Kenya banned poultry imports from the neighbouring country following an outbreak of avian influenza.

At the time, Mr Bett said the government had taken adequate measures to secure Kenya from the viral infection. More than 32 million chicken in Kenya were said to be at risk of contracting the disease.

Kenya has been on high alert after the deadly viral disease was detected in dead birds worldwide. After the discovery, the Uganda Government activated its emergency plan for epidemics control after confirming one strain of the disease — one of three types that affect humans, animals and birds, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Avian flu is an infectious disease from birds and is caused by type A strains of the influenza virus. It can be transmitted to human beings, causing severe respiratory infections. The flu is characterised by a sudden onset of high fever, aching muscles, headache, severe sickness, non-productive cough and sore throat within two to five days, and up to 17 days, of infection.

In the very young, it can lead to pneumonia and death. It affects mainly the nose, throat, bronchi and occasionally the lungs. It is treatable with an antiviral drug called Tamiflu. Humans contract the disease through close contact with infected poultry or with objects contaminated by their faecal matter, according to WHO.

 

Credit: Nation Media Kenya

Kenya plans to import maize from Mexico to ease the current supply shortage that has seen the price of flour hit a five-year high, making it the first time in nine years that East Africa’s largest economy will be buying the staple from outside Africa.

Agriculture secretary Willy Bett said the Kenyan government has been in talks with its Mexican counterpart, who has confirmed the North American nation has enough stocks to supply the export market.

“We have looked around and established that Mexico is the one with sufficient white maize that can meet our needs. We shall be finalising the plans next week and decide the amount and timeline for the shipment,” Mr Bett said, even as he insisted that the consignment will be imported by gazetted millers in order to keep out traders who may want to make a killing from the crisis.

Treasury secretary Henry Rotich said his ministry was working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure all the required documents are in place to facilitate imports. Maize from outside East Africa is usually subject to import duty but the Treasury can waive the tax, especially in times of emergencies. Kenya has traditionally imported most of the grains it needs to bridge the deficit from Uganda and Tanzania.Kenya Map

But Tanzania has recently restricted export of maize while Uganda does not have enough supplies for exports, having had a poor harvest last season. In addition to its two East African neighbours, Kenya has imported maize from Malawi and Zambia, who have also restricted exports in the wake of poor harvest in the past two seasons. The poor harvests have been associated with harsh weather resulting from La Nina, which hit Southern Africa last year.

The ministries of Devolution, Agriculture and Treasury were last week working on a report that is expected to offer details on the planned importation. President Uhuru Kenyatta last week received a preliminary report on the drought situation and will be meeting the team on January 27 when the final document is expected to be ready. An acute shortage of maize in the country has in recent weeks seen the price of a 2kg packet of maize flour rise to more than USD1.10 (Sh113) in Nairobi and to highs of USD1.2 (Sh121) at Nakumatt supermarkets, up from USD.90c (Sh90) in January last year.

The maize flour price inflation crisis is underlined by the fact that as late as last month a 2kg packet retailed at an average of Sh97, meaning prices have shot up by about 10 per cent in just a month.

Kenya was last hit by a maize flour crisis in 2011 when a 2kg packet retailed at USD1.4 (Sh140) in the wake of a serious shortage of maize. This was the highest maize flour price to have been registered in a decade. Millers said the rapid rise in the price of maize flour was being driven by the fact that a 90kg bag of maize is now selling at USD34 (Sh3,400) compared to USD28 (Sh2,800) last year.

The government expects the number of those affected by hunger to rise from 1.5 million last October to two million at the end of this month. The Treasury plans to release Sh16 billion between February and July in support of those stricken by drought and the millions who are facing starvation. The government will release Sh9 billion between February and April in the second phase of response to the drought while additional Sh7 billion will be released between May and July.

Speaking last week, Mr Rotich said the Treasury might be forced to restructure the supplementary budget in order to allocate more funds to the fight against drought. “We are currently monitoring the situation and depending on the situation, we might have to direct more funds towards measures aimed at easing hunger on affected regions,” said Mr Rotich. 

 

- Nation Media Kenya

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