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Kenya in Motion 2000-2020

 | 
Marie-Aude Fouéré
, 
Marie-Emmanuelle Pommerolle
, 
Christian Thibon

Chapter 1

State, Economy and Development in Kenya

Hervé Maupeu
Traduction de Devon Winters, Ana de Oliveira et Daniel Persia

Texte intégral

1Since the 1960s, Kenya has been regarded as a bastion of capitalism. Kenyan elites have been relatively consistent in their vision of development, particularly with regards to the role that the state should play; indeed, as in other African countries, the public sector has always been a key driver of development. By “state,” we mean first and foremost an institutional or otherwise legal reality, which brings together within a single entity (internationally recognised) the structures of the three major powers (the executive, the legislative and the judiciary), the administration and ministries. This type of definition makes it possible to take some distance from the dominant Weberian approaches that emphasise the monopoly of the legitimate use of force over a territory and the exclusively bureaucratic characteristics of the administration. The Kenyan state has never perfectly controlled the entirety of its national space and the bureaucratic practices of administrative services coexist with neo-patrimonial dynamics. Tim Kelsall (2013, 12) presents the paradoxical nature of this mode of governance as such:

The system is held together by the personal distribution of material resources and perks (many of which are ‘rents’ in modern economic terminology) distributed and consumed as though they were the private property of the ruler and/or his staff. ‘Neo-patrimonialism’ refers to a political economy in which the basic authority system is combined with, or exists behind, some formal, impersonal elements of governance, such as a legal system that demarcates the public and private domain, or an administrative code with formal criteria for staff hiring and promotion.

2The ways in which the state works, notably in relation to the different economic sectors, are also affected if not determined by the forms of democratisation that shape the country. Thus, in recent years, electoral democracy has been supplemented by institutions and practices characteristic of control or surveillance democracies. It means, following Pierre Rosanvallon, that the multiplication of independent authorities responsible for fighting corruption, the organisation of counter-powers between the various political institutions, and the improvement of the independence of the judiciary have given more legibility to the action of the state, yet without eliminating patron-client practices, as we shall see.

  • 1 This World Bank classification is defined according to the gross national income (GNI) per capita o (...)
  • 2 According to the criteria of the African Development Bank.

3Under the leadership of East Africa’s most elaborate—and certainly most efficient—state, Kenya’s economy has changed significantly since independence. Throughout the 2000s, the economy grew at a strong and steady rate (usually above 5% per year), and since 2015 Kenya has moved into the lower middle-income bracket (annual income between 1,046 USD and 4,125 USD).1 But the wealth produced is very unevenly distributed. Only 20% of the population makes up the middle class.2 The poverty rate (according to ILO criteria) exceeds 40% of the population. Most importantly, Kenya ranked 155th out of 188 countries in 2017 on the Human Development Index.

  • 3 Routley completes her definition by specifying four characteristic attributes: “1- A capable auton (...)

4This chapter will explain how Kenya has put in place this type of economy by tracing the evolution of its economic policies and identifying key turning points. The Kenyan state has always been a “developmental state,” in the sense that contemporary approaches give to this concept. Thus, Laura Routley (2012: 8) considers that “a developmental state has sufficient state capacity to be effective in its targeted areas and has a developmental vision such that it chooses to use this capacity to work towards economic development.”3 We will present the different forms of interventionism of a state that has never fell into neither a market economy nor a marked liberalism unlike its neighbouring countries.

1. “Patron-Client Capitalism” during the First Decades of Independent Kenya (1963–1992)

5In the 1960s, all the African countries gaining independence chose sides in the cleavage imposed by the Cold War. Those who were behind the United States and aimed to pursue a policy of cooperation with the former colonial power generally opted for a capitalist political and economic system. Those who preferred the Soviet or Chinese paths, or who participated in the non-aligned movement, moved instead towards a form of socialism. But what kind of capitalism and socialism are we talking about? Paul Nugent (2004) rightly speaks of “African Socialism” and “Home-Grown Capitalism.” These African types of socialism and capitalism differed greatly from Western models. Some analysts even believe that in Africa, socialist and capitalist regimes functioned in a relatively similar way (with a one-party system, marked statism, personalisation of power…). We shall see that, in the 1980s, the political and economic systems of Kenya (in principle, capitalist) and neighbouring Tanzania (that followed socialism known as Ujamaa) were actually very similar. Beyond the rhetoric of those in power, these regimes can be distinguished by a series of precise criteria. Paul Nugent’s frame of reference can help us characterise Kenyan capitalism during this period. He focuses on four criteria: the importance given to self-reliance; the degree to which the state is perceived as the main vehicle for economic growth; the importance given to social equality; and the degree and forms of participation of the masses in political processes (Nugent 2004, 142-143). Drawing upon these elements of differentiation, one can define the particularities of the Kenyan system, which, according to Joel Barkan, constitutes a “patron-client capitalism” (Barkan 1984; 1994).

Capitalism vs Socialism during the Critical Juncture of the 1960s

  • 4 It is revealing that the manifesto of the regime of the time is entitled African Socialism and its (...)
  • 5 As early as the 1960s, political scientists brought to light how much African regimes relied on th (...)

6Proponents of neo-institutionalism, whether economists or political scientists, emphasise the idea of “critical junctures.” There would be moments in history of intense institutional change (modification of the frame of reference and ground rules) that determine the way economic, political and social structures function for the (often long) period that follows. Some call this “path dependency” (Collier & Collier 1991). In Africa, independence represents one such critical juncture. At that time, Kenya’s leaders opted for capitalism but without it seeming to be the obvious or only choice available. Jomo Kenyatta long used socialist rhetoric to justify his preference for a market economy.4 Two types of arguments have been used to explain how the African countries chose between the capitalist path and the socialist option. For some, the ideological preferences as well as the personality of the Heads of State made it possible to grasp these differences.5 For others, the characteristics of the national political field at the time of independence conditioned the choices available. In the case of Kenya in the 1960s, Joel Barkan emphasises three structural variables: the centrality of ethnicity in the political system; a particular colonial legacy linked to the fact that Kenya was a settlement colony; and the place of the Kenyan economy in East Africa (Barkan 1994, 14–16). Thus, both political divisions and the party system were organised around ethnic identifications. Jomo Kenyatta had to constantly negotiate with regional leaders with strong legitimacy. He also had to consider the interests of a powerful white community, especially as he could not do without British military aid because of the Somali secession attempts (Shifta War) of the North-East region and the uncertainties of its army (a tentative coup d’état in 1964). Moreover, the country’s economy was the most developed and diversified in the region. The Northern Corridor from Mombasa supplied the whole of Africa’s Great Lakes region, and since colonial times, Nairobi has been an important hub in finance, insurance and services. Thus, Kenya has had a competitive advantage in extending its capitalist experiment.

  • 6 This is not always the case (see the case of Cameroon analysed by Arriola).
  • 7 This is the first element of Arriola’s theory of the formation of opposition coalitions in contempo (...)

7Alongside these classical explanations, some specialists try out more general theories. This is the case of Leonardo Arriola (2013) who seeks to understand why African countries developed very different financial systems at the time of independence. Some established access to credit monopolised by state-owned banks. They often opted for a socialist regime.6 Others preferred more liberal banking systems, with a multiplicity of private banks. In this way they marked their predilection for capitalism. Arriola argues that when the Founding Father of the nation came from a constituency where the economy was based on exports, he favoured the proliferation of private banks, while those coming from a non-exporting constituency insisted on the need for the state to tightly control access to credit.7

State and Capitalism during the Kenyatta Era (1963–1978)

  • 8 About how the opposition to the Moi regime used the memory of the “milk and honey” era, see Maupeu (...)

8Kenya’s initial choice of capitalism is not indicative of its particular form because, as we know, capitalism is not the same from one place to another (Fulcher 2004, chap. 4; Thelen 2012). If we take Ian Bremmer’s very general definition, who considers that capitalism is “the use of wealth to create more wealth… and that, in general, in the capitalist economic system, most means of production (labour, land and capital) are owned by private actors and give rise to trade” (Bremmer 2010, 25), we can imagine how varied organisational arrangements can be. Of particular interest to us is the way in which the Kenyan state fits into economic relations and organises them (or not). In order to characterise these interactions, it is first necessary to explain some of the peculiarities of the administrative system of this country from the 1960s to the early 1980s. Over this period, the executive considered that an administration with marked Weberian characters (hierarchical system, bureaucracy, valuing merit and competence, not very corrupt…) was a major political asset in so far as it guaranteed its independence from local leaders. As soon as he came to power, Jomo Kenyatta abolished the federal-type constitutional system and imposed recentralisation based on a prefectural-type organisation. He simultaneously organised patron-client redistribution by putting notables in competition with each other to be elected in relatively free elections. In this respect, he established the basis of a representative democracy at constituency level and a rather satisfactory rule of law was guaranteed by a particularly efficient administration. In the social sciences, such a bureaucratic, autonomous and sovereign “Kenyatta state” was promoted by David Leonard (1991). His book presents the biographies of four senior officials who successfully led ministries or public enterprises. Most of them had started their careers in the colonial era and spread the spirit of British-style public service into their administration. In fact, the Africanisation of the Kenyan administration was very gradual and pragmatic (compared to Tanzania). Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, many senior officials of the Kenyatta time published their memoirs. Such autobiographies became a particularly popular literary genre in Kenya. They promoted the era of prosperity (and of Kikuyu dominance) that the Kenyatta period represented in retrospect, especially for those published during the economic recession of Moi’s regime (1978–2002).8

  • 9 See notably Thelen (2014, chap. 1).
  • 10 Munguti, Richard. 2018. “Authority Orders Posta to Pay Ex-workers Billions in Pension.” Daily Natio (...)
  • 11 Only the teachers’ unions have continually retained a strong influence.

9It is therefore necessary to explain how this very particular state is situated in relation to economic players. To do so, some classic typologies produced by the vast field of study of forms of capitalism (or “Varieties of Capitalism” scholarship, often known as VofC scholarship)9 are useful. They help to clarify what Barkan means by “patron-client capitalism.” In the main types of capitalism, a distinction is often main between the social model of capitalism, found mainly in Europe and Japan, and the liberal model, characteristic of English-speaking countries. It is difficult to compare the regulated market economies of Western Europe with the systems in place in postcolonial Africa. In Kenya, attempts to develop a welfare state has had limited effects. Basic health insurance quickly made it possible to cover most of wage earners with varying degrees of effectiveness. The public pension system proved to be underperforming, including for civil servants.10 Yet, the transition to a liberal system of social protection started only in the 1990s after a series of scandals regarding misappropriation of social security funds. Following Thelen’s analysis (2014), the European systems differ in three crucial levels: (centralised) negotiations on working conditions, labour market policies, and (specialised) training and its links with the economic world. On the first point, Kenya from the 1940s to the 1960s had labour unions with strong national federations that had shown great capacity to organise long strikes in the workplace (Mombasa strikes) and to mobilise on political agendas, especially at the beginning of the Mau Mau crisis (Cooper 1996; Durrani 2018). The leaders of independent Kenya took it upon themselves to quickly dismantle the power of the unions and put them under the control of the single-party state.11 Since then and for the most part, working conditions have largely been negotiated at the level of each company, using local representative structures. Regarding labour market policies, the Kenyan state promoted wage employment, which explains why, up to the 1980s, Kenya, along with South Africa, had one of the highest wage rates in Africa. In terms of educational policies, Kenya differentiated itself from its neighbours by promoting primary education but especially secondary education. It also supported technical training supposed to meet the demands of economic actors (Cooksey, Court & Makau 1994).

10It is thus clear that, from the beginning of independent Kenya, the timid push for the development of social capitalism aborted. However, it is difficult to speak of “liberal capitalism.” Of course, labour law was rather much in line with this type of economic system, but those in power were too preoccupied with controlling economic forces to really allow a “liberal” system to develop. Is it then “state capitalism” in the sense of “a system in which the state plays a leading economic role and uses the markets primarily for political gains” (Bremmer 2010, 33)? Today, the concept of “state capitalism” is associated with countries such as China or Russia, but Bremmer detects forms of state capitalism in African countries such as South Africa and Nigeria. To a lesser extent, some characteristic elements of this type of capitalism can be found in the Kenyan system of the 1960s-1970s, especially if one adds to Bremmer’s definition the idea that the state uses the markets for political purposes by using patronage. This brings us back to the idea ofpatron-client capitalism.” At that time, the state intervened strongly in the economy, especially through three types of policies: the Africanisation of certain sectors, the redistribution of land, and the development of public enterprises.

  • 12 Leo (1984) estimates that the Kikuyu captured 40% of these territories even though they represented (...)
  • 13 Almost until his death in 2004, Dixon Kihiga Kimani was the Kikuyu patron of the Rift Valley and se (...)
  • 14 It is during this period that the idea of a Kalenjin identity—federating several groups of the Rif (...)

11Firstly, the Africanisation of the economy aimed at reserving certain areas for Kenyan citizens, in fact “African,” and excluding economic actors from certain communities, particularly Indians, who were forced to sell some of their businesses. These measures benefited very specific clienteles. For example, many shops on Nairobi’s busy River Road were sold to notables from Murang’a, the political stronghold of Dr Julius Kiano, the minister in charge of this question. The Kenya National Trading Corporation was also working to reserve certain types of imported goods to African agents. Again, businessmen of certain communities (in this case, Kikuyu and Swahili) are said to have benefited particularly from these privileges (Ochieng, 1995). Secondly, the land policy of the Kenyatta era has been a major legacy of this regime whose shock waves still carry on until this day (Onoma 2010; Joireman 2011; Boone 2014). The Million-Acre Scheme remains one of the symbols of this policy of redistribution of land in the White Highlands. During the British period, some areas of the Rift Valley were reserved for white farmers and managed directly by the state, while an indirect administration regime prevailed in other parts of the country. During the decolonisation negotiations, it was foreseen that the settlers could, if they wished, sell their land at a favourable price. Fifteen years later, 95% of these farms had changed ownership. Nearly half of this land was subdivided and resold to smallholder families as part of settlement schemes. More than a third of these operations benefited the Kikuyu.12 This temporarily eased tensions within a community that was emerging from a full-blown civil war between different factions—the Mau Mau crisis had not just been an anti-colonial war. Throughout the Kenyatta era, the various organisations managing the distribution of land kept a captive clientele, in particular because no title deeds were distributed, in principle until each family had finished paying back its loans. The leaders of these groups thus became particularly powerful political entrepreneurs. The best known of them was Dixon Kihiga Kimani, the only Kenyan politician to be elected in three different constituencies (all in the Rift Valley: North Nakuru [1974–1979], West Laikipia [1992–1997], and Molo [1997–2002]).13 The Kikuyu were not the only ones to benefit from the subdivision of settlers’ farms. There were also Luo, Luhya and Kisii settlement schemes, not to mention the ethnic groups that occupied these areas when the British arrived. Not surprisingly, the latter (or at least some of their dignitaries) felt that all this land had to come back to them. Jean Marie Seroney (MP of Tinderet), in particular, mobilised crowds, especially during the affirmation of the Nandi Declaration (1969), which proclaimed the exclusive right of the Nandi to these territories.14 This earned him imprisonment, ending his political career. He was not followed by the key Kalenjin leaders whom the Kenyatta regime was clever enough to include within the country’s leadership team. Daniel arap Moi was appointed Vice-President and many politicians from the region were able to easily acquire large estates through loans from state-owned banks—loans that were not always repaid. Half of the settlers’ farms were sold off without being subdivided, most often to people close to the regime.

12Lastly, patronage was pervasive among the many public companies that were set up during this period. The public enterprise formula was intended to allow more equal access to public goods such as water or electricity. These structures were also meant to make certain sectors more attractive, in particular agriculture. But very quickly, the management positions in these public companies became honorary positions to be distributed according to the political interests of those in power. The bosses of these companies often used their position to develop real patron-client machines through which they hired their dependents or those who could be useful to them. We will see later that this type of management has had economic and political effects, especially from the 1980s.

  • 15 The major influence of Michael Cowen (1996) mostly relies on the many grey literature articles he p (...)
  • 16 The Kenyan debate continued to irrigate contemporary thinking. Dominique Connan (2014), in a non-Ma (...)

13The analysis of Kenyatta-era capitalism has given rise to much discussion, notably what has been called the “Kenyan debate”—one of the great controversies of the golden age of academic Marxism. It is difficult to summarise without distorting them the dozens of books and the many articles published on this subject. At a time when the dependency paradigm was dominant in Marxist circles, these scholars asked whether economic development was financed by domestic or foreign capital. Michael Cowen and Gavin Kitching showed how some African entrepreneurs were able to generate surpluses in many agricultural sectors—surpluses they could reinvest in different other sectors. Based on research made in the national and regional archives, they described the emergence of what they called an African petite bourgeoisie (Kitching 1982; Cowen 199615). Other authors focused more on postcolonial economy. They described a highly inegalitarian development that excluded in particular the peasantry, even though the growth relied heavily on agriculture. Essentially, they believed that Kenyan entrepreneurs were rather autonomous from international capital. These entrepreneurs used the multinationals more than they depended on them, often by relying on the normative capacities of the state and the negotiation possibilities of the political elites (Leys 1975; Langdon 1987; Swainson 1987).16

14At this point, and especially in desc ibing post-Kenyatta era capitalism (after 1978), it is important to refer to debates on the measurement of economic growth and its causes. In the early 1980s, talented young economists used Kenya as a ground to defend their neo-institutionalist approach. In doing so, they opposed the neo-classics, very dominant on American campuses, which they criticise for not properly taking institutions into account and for not considering the role of politics in the functioning of economies. Robert Bates (1981) explained Kenyan prosperity by the fact that its leaders refused to give in to the “urban bias,” unlike most other presidents on the continent. According to Lipton (1977), African regimes had little legitimacy and their state little capacity for action. To preserve their power, these regimes were working to meet the immediate needs of the citizens they considered the most dangerous and in particular urban dwellers. Thus, they sought to artificially lower the price of food by controlling the marketing of agricultural goods, thus buying social peace at the cost of impoverishing the countryside. Robert Bates believed that countries where elites invested heavily in agriculture refused to sacrifice the rural world to the cities. Such countries generally opted for a capitalist system. For its part, Morten Jerven (2016) advocated for more nuanced conclusions. He showed that economic growth rates had so far been relatively poorly calculated (lack of reliable data in many sectors; difficulty in comparing between countries, notably between Kenya and Tanzania because of different methodologies in public statistics…). Above all, he believed that it was difficult to measure the economic influence of political regimes. Doing so would necessitate differentiating institution by institution and sector by sector. In fact, the neo-institutionalists who studied the economic crisis of the 1980s in East Africa largely shared these concerns. Bates (1989) described how former President Moi skilfully took advantage of the famines that occurred during this period to gain control of the grain industry. This branch of agriculture struggled to recover after several decades of mismanagement and patronage. During the same period, the coffee sector, dominated by the Kikuyu, became the target of the Head of State who saw political competition there that he needed to counter (Chege 1987; Bart, Charlery de la Masselière & Calas 1998). This is the period when the economic (and to some extent, political) situation of capitalist Kenya and socialist Tanzania were dangerously close together. In both countries, public deficits shot up as well as inflation. Over-employment was high in both states, but the quality of public services was deteriorating dramatically as a result of corruption and lack of investment. Joel Barkan’s following diagnosis is sound:

In both countries politics took precedence over economics, though for different reasons. In both countries the state pursued redistributive policies and interfered with the operation of markets, resulting in a dramatic showdown of economic growth. In both countries, the ruling elite sought to monopolise political power and shackle civil society (Barkan 1994: 21).

15A push of authoritarianism then dismantled many democratic gains; and international aid—so important in the public budgets of both countries—began to dry up. Under pressure from international donors, the two neighbours accepted (with great reluctance and lack of sincerity) structural adjustment plans and reforms aiming at democratising their regimes.

2. Uncertain Democratisation and Kleptocracy during the Second Phase of the Moi Era (1992–2002)

16From 1992, the governing elite made concessions and adopted reforms that were characteristic of the democratisation process of this period: legalisation of multipartyism, recognition of a certain freedom of speech, especially in the media, possibility of creating civil society organisations… During this transition phase, when the regime was shifting from a type of authoritarianism that was not saying its name to a democracy not yet consolidated, the economic cost of the political control over the population increased tremendously. In order to stay in power, the ruling elite needed more material resources at a time when the state had become poorer and the national economy was in deep recession. They put in place a mode of governance that many analysts have referred to using the term “kleptocracy.” This concept proves to be heuristic when we specify its components: high-level corruption reaches unprecedented levels and diversifies; the political control of the economy is accentuated by using largely illegal methods; militias often supported by the police intervene violently and terrorise the population; structural adjustment plans and state reforms are negotiated but poorly implemented, which creates the illusion that the state operates in accordance with the modalities in force at an international level. These four dynamics make up the system.

17Corruption at the highest reaches of the government is nothing new, as we have seen. It aimed to finance political life while massively enriching the elites—in short, it fuelled neopatrimonialism. Yet, democratisation opened up a period of strong uncertainties which incited the governing elite to an unprecedented gluttony. The Goldenberg case is the symbol of this practice and this period.

Box 1: The Goldenberg affair (1990–1992)

In 1990, Kamlesh Pattni, the young heir (he was twenty-five years old) to a gold and gem trading business, met James Kanyotu, the head of the Special Branch and a very close friend of President Daniel arap Moi. He explained that Kenya could export much more gold and thus have access to more foreign currency if the state could adopt more incentive policies. Following discussions with the Head of State, it was decided that gold exports would benefit from public export compensations of 35%. A new company, Goldenberg International Limited, co-owned by Kanyotu and Pattni, was granted a monopoly over gold and diamond exports (Hornsby, 2012). In a country that does not have any diamond reserves and hardly exploits gold, this company did not a priori have a promising future. Except that the governing elite saw in it the possibility of discreetly diverting public funds to finance the general election of 1992. This first multi-party competition for decades was expected to be very contested and therefore very expensive.
In the beginning, Goldenberg imported gold that it re-exported by overvaluing the volumes traded, but soon it made clearing requests that did not correspond to any merchandise. Transactions were done through so-called “political” banks that dealt exclusively with the affairs of the country’s ruling elite: Trade Bank, Delphis Bank,a and especially the Exchange Bank created and owned by Kanyotu and Pattni. According to Pattni’s statements during the official investigation in 2004, Goldenberg reportedly received nearly 170 million USD from the state.b Part of this sum had been handed to Youth for KANU’92, the lobby group responsible for redistributing mone  during the election campaign (Maupeu 2000). The entire political class were generously spoiled, including the opposition. For example, Oginga Odinga received nearly 20 million KES that was allegedly used to finance the Migori and Ndhiwa by-election (Oloo 2007, 116).
The macroeconomic effects of this financial scandal were enormous. Daniel Branch sums up the situation perfectly: “Writing in July 1993, John Githongo remarked that Goldenberg ‘is shaking the very foundations of Kenya’s economy’. The shilling plummeted, losing about half its value against sterling in the eighteen months leading up to the public revelations about Goldenberg in mid-1993. The increase in money in circulation drove inflation to an annual rate of over 40 percent in August 1993” (Branch 2011, 220).
As early as 1993, the opposition and the media exposed the mechanisms of this gigantic corruption case.c The IMF and the World Bank called for a public inquiry into the matter. The government rejected this request but the Exchange Bank was dissolved and the head of the Central Bank of Kenya was replaced. Despite a political changeover in 2002 and an official inquiry in 2004, most protagonists went unpunished.
Is Goldenberg unique in the history of Kenya? Can this corruption case be compared to the scandals that were revealed in the regimes that followed? This is one of the questions that torments Michela Wrong in her study of the Anglo-Leasing Company scandal instigated by President Kibaki’s close acquaintances in the early 2000s. If we compare these two cases of high-level corruption, what should first be emphasised is that the amounts embezzled are not the same at all. It is difficult to reach the heights of Goldenberg. However, Michela Wrong (2009, 166) estimates the cost of overbilling by the Anglo-Leasing Company at close to 5% of GNP and 16% of state expenditure for 2003–04, in a context of solid economic growth, whereas Goldenberg took place in a phase of intense economic crisis. In the case of the 1990s scandal, the mechanisms for misappropriating public money were complex. From the 2000s, the techniques of high-level corruption became much more basic (over-invoicing, rigged public procurement tenders…). The media now disclose such cases with great efficiency. Yet, parliamentary and judicial inquiries are generally conducted without leading to convictions. Since 2018, the fight against high-level corruption has seemed to be more engaged but it is still too early to diagnose a change in policy.

a. Delphis Bank belonged to Ketan Somia who had many common economic interests with the Moi family, Nicolas Biwott and Vice-President Saitoti.
b. This is just the tip of the iceberg as Kanyotu and Pattni developed multiple speculations as part of Goldengerg: it is said that the Exchange Bank speculated on currencies; and the two schemers played on multiple compensation funds (Wrong 2009, 62–63).
c. The bulk of the information came from David Munyakei, an employee of the Central Bank of Kenya. On the story of one of the most important whistle-blowers of contemporary Kenya, see Kahora (2008).

  • 17 In addition to the Ndungu Commission, other parliamentary committees provided specific indications (...)

18In addition, the political class took over many plots of land and public buildings. According to Jacqueline M. Klopp (2000), such appropriations were a means of finding resources in areas beyond the control of international bodies. However, these practices did not go unnoticed and many NGOs and other civil society organisations informed the public. Several parliamentary committees described the diversity and massive nature of these thefts. The Ndungu Land Commission (2003), in particular, highlighted that these illegal allocations of public land were made mainly in the 1990s and during election periods. It showed that the entire administrative system supposed to regulate real estate was involved. The level of corruption in this area was such that all property rights were weakened. Many Kenyans had the just feeling that their property title could be challenged at any time. Furthermore, banks were aware that many loans were based on fragile foundations when their clients gave, as a guarantee, land that the Parliamentary Commissions17 showed it was illegally acquired.

  • 18 In 1992–93, these killings resulted in nearly a thousand deaths and several hundred thousand inter (...)

19The privatisation of public land in a patron-client logic was linked with another characteristic of Kenya’s kleptocracy: the use of extremely violent militias, especially during election periods. During the 1990s, many areas of public forest, particularly in the Mau Forest or on the slopes of Mount Elgon, were opened up for settlement for the benefit of populations close to the ruling party. At the time of the elections, communities deemed favourable to the opposition were massacred or forced to evacuate these constituencies (Klopp 2001).18 Their plots of land were often taken over by families who voted “correctly.” And this happened in a context where many politicians used abundantly the rhetoric of autochthony (against supposed allochthons, or foreigners).

20During this first decade of democratisation, the very high-ranked political elite stood out as essential economic actors. Thus, Moi, Biwott and several other Kalenjin politicians bought out the branches of the many multinationals that were pulling out of Kenya. They also invested in the media, transportation and the petroleum products distribution sector (Thomas 1997; 1998). They were suspected of being directly linked to more or less illegal traffic, e.g. speculation on sugar imports, especially during periods of risk of famine; cultivation and trade in drugs….

  • 19 See Thomas (1997) who adapts to the Kenyan situation the concept theorised by Bayart, Ellis & Hibo (...)
  • 20 Branch & Cheeseman (2010) use this concept several times but without specifying its exact content.

21These different characteristics of the Kenyan kleptocracy are what some have called “criminalisation of the state.”19 Others prefer to speak of “informalisation of political life.”20 But these elements of governance were complemented by institutional reforms of the state in order to keep the financial support of the Western powers. Since the early 1980s, Kenya has negotiated many structural adjustment plans (SAPs). It accepted the loans but did not comply with the majority of conditionalities that the IGOs sought to impose. We know that the IMF, like the World Bank, explain the “permanent crisis” (van de Walle, 2001) situation of the African economies as governance problems. The centralisation of power, the notion of imperial presidency, the alleged failure of development policy by the state are called into question in favour of policies of liberalisation of the economy (including privatisation of public enterprises, sharp staffing decreases within the civil service, autonomy of the central banks, more orthodox monetary policy…) and rationalisation of administrative work.

  • 21 On the various tactics of the Kenyan state during the negotiations with the IMF and the World Bank, (...)
  • 22 According to the World Bank (2001), this failure is due to the usual wage increases that teacher un (...)

22Kenya has regularly eluded some of the constraints of the SAPS and donors have continued to lend to the country because the political leaders have made themselves indispensable to the United Nations system, for example in 1991–92 when more than 400,000 refugees crossed over the border with Somalia. At other times, Kenya exploited the lack of coordination between the IMF and the World Bank.21 Thus, privatisation of public enterprises was limited (and it often benefited the Kalenjin elite) and the state structures controlling most agricultural sectors were not liberalised, particularly in the sensitive, grain sector. However, the state administration underwent severe reforms. The Civil Service Reform Program (CSRP) I of 1993 was supposed to improve the productivity of the state by injecting many techniques of the New Public Management into this heavy machine. The main objective was to massively downsize the workforce through a program of voluntary retirement and the abolition of more than 26,000 posts. The civil servant identification system was improved to combat the scourge of “ghost workers.” But CSRP I did not have the expected results and the state did not become more efficient.22

  • 23 Kempe Ronald Hope (2013) recalls in particular that growth was negative (-1%) in 1992 and 0% in 199 (...)

23The SAPs, like the administrative reforms, are commonly presented as failures. Nevertheless, can we speak of a “lost decade,” because of a particularly low rate of economic growth?23 Morten Jerven (2014: 120) is more reserved: “It is not obvious that Kenya performed badly during the Moi era and it is even less obvious that it did so because of economic policy. During the Moi era, Kenya performed considerably better than the African average.”

3. In Search of a Developmental State

24With the political alternation of 2002, the economic situation improved rapidly. Investors had more confidence in the Government of National Unity that was put in place. More orthodox macroeconomic policies also allowed a return of growth which went from 1% in 2002 to 7% in 2007. The ambitious Kenya’s Vision 2030 program launched in June 2008 set medium-term goals. In the words of President Mwai Kibaki, this program was “a roadmap for accelerating the transformation of our country into a rapidly industrializing middle-income nation by the year 2030” (quoted by Adam & al. 2010, 1). The political and administrative actors and, to a lesser extent, the business community perceived it as a change of reference. They looked to Asia for their new model of development. Elsje Fourie (2015), who interviewed the designers of Vision 2030, highlights their fascination for Singapore and Malaysia as well as China. In a conception close to the modernisation theory of the 1950–1960s, they believe that a number of steps and recipes need to be followed to catch up with the Asian Tigers. Where the IMF and the World Bank recommended slimming down the state, democratising political regimes and relying primarily on private actors to develop an economy open to globalisation, the Asian model emphasises the crucial importance of the state in guiding an economy that is placed at the service of the national project—not necessarily a democratic one.

  • 24 We are only talking about the economic component of this plan. The growth thus created is meant to (...)

25Without deluding ourselves about this doctrinal change, this episode must be situated in “the history of extraversion” (Leguil-Bayart 1999) of the state in Africa. Kenyan leaders, like those in neighbouring countries, are seeking to gain some leeway in relation to the Western powers and the United Nations system. They want to depend less on international aid since they can borrow amply from Chinese banks that do not impose political conditionalities and whose more or less transparent procedures favour the financing of certain patron-client networks. This new strategy takes the form of massive investments in large-scale projects (Fouéré & Maupeu 2015): modernisation of the North Corridor (Mombasa-Africa of the Great Lakes) by developing highways, fully renovating the rail transport system, developing Internet cabling…; creation of a new transport corridor, LAPSSET (Lamu Port—South Sudan—Ethiopia Transport); increase in electricity production and its widespread distribution throughout the country… This also requires a strong use of public-private partnerships (PPPs).24

  • 25 Mathaura, Francis. 2018. “Vision 2030 Holds the Key to a Better and More Inclusive Kenya.” Saturday (...)
  • 26 Mbataru, Patrick. 2015. “Mega Projects Have Little Impact on the Poor.” Sunday Nation, 9 August. h (...)
  • 27 Ndii, David. 2016. “Mega Projects and Hollow Men: What $50 bn Can Do for a Nation.” Saturday Natio (...)
  • 28 Kariuki, James. 2015. “Big Projects Recipe for Kenya’s Growth: Study.” Daily Nation, 13 August.
  • 29 Ndii, David. 2017. “Forget About Mega Projects and Address Everyday Woes.” Saturday Nation, 29 July (...)

26Vision 2030 has long made unanimity among Kenya’s elites. Francis Muthaura, the head of Civil Service, at the launch of the program, explained this popularity by two factors. First, Vision 2030 was conceived during the first Kibaki presidency, when the government included the main tendencies of the political spectrum. Many leaders of the opposition participated in its genesis. In addition, this national development project closely associated all the representative groups of the private sector.25 However, since 2015, the focus of this program on “mega projects has given rise to increasing vivid criticisms. The debate has been led by experts from the opposition. Patrick Mbataru recognises that infrastructure development promotes long-term growth, but regrets that these building projects are monopolised by large Chinese companies and do not include local companies.26 The influential analyst David Ndii warns against over-indebtedness and recommends putting the focus on infrastructure that improves the lives and productivity of small-scale producers.27 This led major international financial analysis firms, such as Frost & Sullivan, to release reports that defend the relevance of the Kenyan government’s strategy.28 Yet, during the 2017 election campaign, the opposition rallied around a position hostile to the mega infrastructure projects29 that would prevent state investment in the social sector.

27With ten years of hindsight, the effects of the Vision 2030 program are gradually becoming apparent. In 2018, the anniversary of the program was not widely celebrated. Undeniably, the Kenyan economy has changed but tensions remain intense. Peter Kagwanja, who was involved in the genesis of this development strategy, underlines the multiple indicators of economic growth as follows:

  • 30 Kagwanja, Peter. 2018. “Kenya’s Vision 2030 Caught Between the Rock and a Hard Place.” Daily Natio (...)

Kenya’s economy has expanded from GDP of Sh 1.3 trillion in 2002 to Sh 7.8 trillion in 2017, with its GDP per capita expanding from Sh 27,000 to Sh 166,000. Its paved road network has expanded from 8,938 kilometers to 11,796. (…) The country’s electric power has grown from 1,142 MW to 2,264 MW, increasing its capacity to power industrialisation and enabling to connect 5.9 million households to the national electricity grid, up from 0.48 million in 2002.30

28Let’s add that some large-scale infrastructure projects have been completed: the high-speed train between Mombasa and Nairobi; the modernisation of the port of Mombasa, which has tripled its cargo handling capacity in ten years; a new deep-water port is under construction in Lamu; and the expansion of airports allows twice as many passengers as in 2002. The state budget increased considerably, as has its tax-raising capacity from 202 billion KES in 2002 to 1,365 KES in 2017. This rapid development of the economy has been accompanied by anxieties and sometimes conflicts. New patterns of inequality are emerging. This is clearly visible in the regions affected by the large-scale works policies, and therefore primarily in the vast north and the north-east of the country, the agro-pastoral areas that until then had remained on the fringes, if not totally apart. The LAPSSET project (Lapsset Corridor Development Authority) aims to integrate these areas into the nation and to connect them to neighbouring countries through a network of infrastructure.

LAPSSET as a Major National Integration Policy of the North-East

29The ambitious LAPSSET program, inaugurated in 2012, is now facing external and national constraints that were not anticipated. Adrian Browne summarises the situation as follows:

In its original and most ambitious imagined form, the LAPSSET corridor project would be transformative, enormously expensive, and very invasive, linking a major new port development on Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast to South Sudan and Ethiopia with an oil pipeline, railway and highway. Current circumstances make it unlikely that the pipeline will reach South Sudan or that the railway will be completed within this decade (Browne 2015, 5).

30LAPSSET was designed primarily to develop an oil economy by making the best use of South Sudan’s reserves, as well as of new deposits discovered in north-eastern Kenya and Uganda. Ethiopia saw it as a way to export the electricity generated by dams on the Nile. Since 2014, the fall in international oil prices has called into question the viability of the project. Above all, the geopolitics of the region have undermined the whole program. South Sudan has been locked in a long-lasting civil war and has had no short-term need for a new pipeline. In 2017, Uganda and the company Total decided to build a pipeline passing through Tanzania to the port of Tanga. This plan was less costly than the LAPSSET solution, more viable from the point of view of the safety of the areas crossed, and it could contribute to the development of a central corridor between Dar es Salaam and the Great Lakes region of Africa that would be highly desirable for better integrating regionally Burundi and Rwanda in particular. The last nail in the LAPSSET coffin came from the Horn of Africa. Reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea as well as the agreements with Somaliland to develop a transport corridor between their deep-water port and Ethiopia made the port of Lamu less attractive. Finally, Ethiopia has never been so accessible. It cleverly negotiated multiple accesses to the sea without depending on a single country.

31Thus, one can understand why LAPSSET has so far reached few achievements. Yet paradoxically, the problems come less from ongoing or finished projects than they do from more distant and nebulous projects.

32Hassan H. Kochore (2016) studied the social effects of the construction of the Isiolo-Moyale road which had just been completed at the time of his research. He wanted to test the validity of the thesis commonly accepted in academic circles according to which “technologies that lead from capital cities to the regions (…) are seen to have the power to bring development, progress, national inclusion and security” (Kochore 2016, 394). On the one hand, Kochore confirms the enchanted vision of the consequences of road infrastructures. Along this road, the distribution and quality of public services improved, particularly in terms of security, a particularly sensitive problem in this part of Kenya. Strong economic growth was quickly felt (better profitability of livestock; development of trade…). Moyale and especially Marsabit experienced exponential urbanisation. All the populations of these areas felt more attached to Kenya, but have they really become Kenyan? Kochore brings a nuanced answer to this question. Like Adeline Masquelier, he believes that the roads represent “an iconic space that condenses the histories gone by” (Masquelier 2002, 830). He shows that the state penetration also produces anxieties linked to the conflictual past that these populations have had with state power since colonial times.

33In fact, all along the LAPSSET route, the project and the initial construction sites it brought about became issues that easily could cause tension. In Lamu, the development of a new port led to increased land speculation and antagonisms over the influx of labour from other parts of Kenya. Since the 2013 local elections, political elites have dangerously used the ideology of autochthony and reignited tensions with the communities from the hinterland that have farmed there since the 1960s. Local cells of the Somali Al-Shabaab movement have skilfully used the frustrations of the region and multiplied the attacks in Mpeketoni, targeting exclusively the Christian families of farmers from the Kenyan highlands. On the island of Lamu itself, the project to build a coal-fired power plant has met with a lot of resistance and given rise to various types of manifestations.

  • 31 Jebet, Vivian. 2018. “Isiolo Leaders Allege Diversion of Lapsset Route, Want Details of Map.” Dail (...)

34In the LAPSSET project, the corridor is supposed to split at Isiolo where one route goes to Ethiopia and the other to the west to South Sudan. The construction of the city’s airport in an area disputed by two counties has for years been the cause of intense armed tensions between Boran, Meru and Somali youth gangs. In the city itself, each community tries to control land (by obtaining land titles) and to ethnically homogenise the neighbourhoods where they are dominant. Relations between the local authorities and the LAPSSET administration are often tense because the exact routes of the corridor’s roads tend to change under the pressure from different pressure groups.31 Beyond the geopolitical complexity of LAPSSET, economists opt for an optimist reading of the ambitious Kenyan policy for large-scale works, notably giving credit to the progress of the SGR project.

Mombasa-Nairobi-Naivasha-Kisumu Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), the Spearhead of the Large-Scale Construction Policy

  • 32 Marete, Gitonga. 2018. “Questions on Viability of SGR Refuse to Go away after China Cuts Funding.” (...)

35In East Africa, large-scale infrastructure projects are usually integrated into a transport corridor system (Fouéré & Maupeu 2015). The construction of a new railway between Mombasa and Malaba, on the Ugandan border, which is to continue towards Rwanda, DRC and South Sudan, aimed to revitalise the northern corridor, which remains the main access route to the Great Lakes. But it competes with the corridor from Dar es Salaam, on which major investments have been made and which Uganda has favoured. Uganda plans to route both its railway and its pipeline through Tanzania, as this provides shorter and easier access to the Indian Ocean. This calls into question the viability of the SGR beyond Nakuru—as illustrated by China’s reluctance to fund the section between Naivasha and Kisumu.32

  • 33 The Kenyan system allows travellers to be transported at nearly 120 km/h and goods at 80 km/h. This (...)
  • 34 Notably, Juma, Victor. 2014. “Making of a Mega Scandal? Why Railway Figures Do Not Add up.” Sunday (...)
  • 35 The boss of this Commission in 2014–2015, Maina Kamanda, became the Minister of Transport.

36However, the Makadara Express that has been running between Mombasa and Nairobi since June 2017 was initially presented as an economic success that could bring to the country more than one point of annual growth. The construction of this route has been the biggest state investment since independence and President Uhuru Kenyatta saw it as the symbol of the success of his first term. In fact, this program revealed certain characteristics of the governance style of the government team in place. In 2009, Kenya rejected the low-cost option advocated by the World Bank of renovating the existing railway. A new route—diesel powered—was chosen whereas neighbouring countries such as Tanzania and Ethiopia favoured electrical systems that allow for faster travel.33 Shortly after construction began, controversies arose over the legality of the call for tender used to choose the companies involved in the construction. In Parliament, two committees investigated this issue. The Public Investments Committee raised doubts regarding how the public works contract bidding was organised. Its hearings mainly disclosed a lot of information. There was no competitive bidding because the Chinese state financed the bulk of the project through a 3.23 billion USD loan. The China Road and Bridge Corporation that was chosen was apparently blacklisted by the World Bank. It was selected for both the project management and the construction, while the recommended practices encouraged dissociating the two. And the cost of the project proved to be much higher than its Ethiopian equivalent. It is said the rate of the bank loans signed were uncompetitive.34 Many elected members of the Public Investments Committee saw this as evidence of high-level corruption. Conversely, the Parliamentary Committee on Transport, Public Works and Housing considered that the procedures had been respected and that there was no reason to suspect embezzlement.35

37Some political scientists interpret the different positions of the two commissions as the result of factions within the political elite. The Public Investments Committee was dominated by the camp of Vice-President William Ruto, who himself expressed reservations about the SGR tender. During the hearings, those close to him engaged in the most virulent attacks. The Transport Commission, just like the very lucrative Ministry of Transport, was run and controlled by people from the Central Province linked to the Kibaki and Kenyatta networks. This suggests that the leaders close to Ruto benefited too little from the patron-client redistribution linked to the SGR and made it known…

  • 36 Njagi, John, and John Ngirachu. 2014. “Graft Team Opens Probe on Rail Deal.” Daily Nation, 8 Januar (...)

38Two other anti-corruption agencies (the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Public Accounts Committee) investigated the SGR construction contracts.36 Since the 2010 constitution, several Independent Administrative Authorities have specialised in the fight against corruption. The new charter also guarantees a more independent judiciary. Yet despite this institutional progress, very large public works contracts remain opaque and neither administrative actors nor parliamentary commissions can effectively control the procedures.

  • 37 Kairu, Pauline. 2014. “Land Owners Along Rail Route Want Fresh Valuation.” Sunday Nation, 28 Decemb (...)
  • 38 Maundu, Pius. 2015. “Workers at New Railway on Strike.” Daily Nation, 9 April. https://nation.afric (...)
  • 39 Karambu, Immaculate. 2015. “Uhuru Faults SGR Contractor on 40pc Procurement Quota.” Daily Nation, 5 (...)
  • 40 Wafula, Paul. 2018. “Exclusive: Behind the SGR Walls.” The Standard, 8 July. https://www.standardme (...)
  • 41 In 2018, the company that manages the rail freight has lowered its prices twice in order to compete (...)

39Yet, the Mombasa-Nairobi line was built in due time, despite tensions at the time of the purchase of the land necessary for this route,37 strikes by local workforce,38 and discontent by politicians that the obligation to use local companies (for 40% of the supply) was respected.39 The management of passenger transport was entrusted to a Chinese company accused of failing to effectively train its Kenyan employees and of having racist practices.40 Freight transport began in early 2018. It was planned that at least one third of freight and in particular the heaviest containers would be transported by rail in order to avoid overloading the rapidly deteriorating roads. But the success of this policy depended and will continue to depend heavily on the competitiveness of the rail transport prices.41

Water and Large-Scale Works

  • 42 During Jubilee’s (the President’s party) election campaign in 2017, Uhuru Kenyatta promised to buil (...)

40In keeping with the Vision 2030 policy, the Kenyan government focused on water resources development. This involved planning the construction of many large dams on the main rivers of the country. All regions are due to benefit from these infrastructure works generally aimed at producing electricity and developing irrigated agriculture.42 For example, the Thiba Dam (Kirinyaga county) is expected to double rice production in the region. And the High Grand Falls Dam on the Tana River, in Kitui and Tharaka Nithi counties, should bring nearly 250,000 hectares of irrigation to the Kitui, Garissa and Tana River counties.

  • 43 Apollo, Silas. 2017. “Ministry Rolls out Dam Projects to Boost Food Production.” Daily Nation, 26  (...)
  • 44 Report of the Auditor-General on the Financial Statements of National Irrigation Board. 30 June 201 (...)
  • 45 Lwanga, Charles. 2018. “Kilifi MCAs Move to Push State out of Galana-Kulalu Project.” Business Dai (...)

41At the local level, these projects are presented as vectors of general development because they are expected to have a positive impact on many areas. For example, the Thwake Multi-Purpose Dam in Makueni and Kutui counties is aimed to intensify economic and social exchanges between the two counties. Roads are to be built and economic structures (especially cooperatives) are to be promoted that will affect both counties. At the national level, the dams are due to contribute to producing more electricity but also to strengthening food security43 which, as we will see later, has been one of the main objectives of Kenyatta’s second presidential term. But the management of large irrigated areas will be complicated. Thus, for decades, the rice-growing region of Mwea has been plagued by a number of setbacks that the Thiba Dam will not necessarily solve. The Galana-Kulalu Irrigation Project, officially inaugurated in early 2014, is intended to develop irrigation on more than one million acres in the Tana River and Kilifi counties, but this program is increasingly looking like a white elephant. A report from the Auditor-General noted massive misappropriation of funds.44 Many NGOs denounce the negative impact of this project on the environment and, above all, the local communities reject this structure that has been imposed upon on them.45

  • 46 Komu, Nicholas. 2018. “How Greed for Water and Impunity Pushing a Community to the Brink.” Daily Na (...)
  • 47 Gachane, Ndung’u. 2018. “Now Wa Iria Slaps Nairobians with Water Levy as Revenue Row Escalates.” D (...)
  • 48 Komu, Nicholas. 2018. “Water Row: Leaders Break Ranks with Jubilee.” Daily Nation, 5 October.

42The many conflicts over water use illustrate Kenya’s difficult management of its resources as common goods because multiple communities claim to embody the public interest. In the mountains, too much water is collected by the local populations and these water towers are drying up, threatening the survival of all the rivers in the country.46 In order to supply the capital city with drinking water, a vast system of water conveyance from the slopes of Mount Kenya is currently being built, but the governor of Murang’a county promised to stop these works if 25% of the water sale is not returned to the local authority, on the grounds that the Ndakai-ini Dam (the main water supply for Nairobi) is located in the Murang’a county.47 In a context where decentralisation is proving to be particularly popular, local elected representatives are called upon to best defend the interests of their communities, particularly with regard to the central state.48 The demands of Kikuyu leaders are nothing exceptional. For example, Kipsigis elected representatives are campaigning for the tea multinationals operating in their region to pay 25% of their profits to their county. The political class has obviously learned from the Turkana experience. We will see below that the Turkana obtained that 25% of the revenue from oil produced in their region go back to the population.

Kenya and the Oil Economy

  • 49 Keprop, Victor. 2018. “Ethiopia Begins Production Tests at Ogaden Oilfield.” The East African, 30 J (...)
  • 50 These are the estimates retained by the World Bank in its recent reports.
  • 51 IEA (Institute of Economics Affairs). 2018. “How much Oil? Why East Africa’s Bounty Is neither Sign (...)

43In the 2000s, the main countries of East Africa moved towards becoming gas or hydrocarbon producers. Tanzania has huge gas reserves, especially in the south-east of the country. Ethiopia signed contracts to build a gas pipeline for transportation to the port of Djibouti. In 2018, it launched the first production tests of the Ogaden oil.49 Uganda has the largest oil reserves in the region. They are estimated at 6.5 billion barrels, while South Sudan is estimated to have nearly 3.5 billion barrels and Kenya has only a meagre potential of 754 million barrels.50 As the Institute of Economic Affairs points out, oil in the whole of East Africa accounts for only 0.63% of world reserves.51 Apart from Uganda, no country in the region can hope to become self-sufficient in fuel. However, this sector triggers a very strong interest in many circles. Political elites see it as a great opportunity for political financing and personal enrichment. The media, many NGOs, associations and other civil society groups, not to mention pressure groups, fuel numerous debates that interest and shape public opinion. Some countries in the region are continually postponing the exploitation of their resources. This is the case of Tanzania and Uganda. Others, on the contrary, are starting small scale production. Ethiopia comes to mind, as does Kenya, a country that has been striving since 2018 to truck its first barrels to the port of Mombasa over more than 1,000 km. In this area, political calculations count as much as economic logic.

  • 52 Otuki, Neville. 2018. “Oil Billions Not Our Major Aim for Now, Says PS of Export Plan.” Daily Nati (...)

44The debates and tensions in this sector differ from one country to another. In Uganda and Tanzania, it is the Heads of State themselves who engage in an often tough dialogue with multinationals. They negotiate concessions on revenues, tax rates and calculation, infrastructure financing, and refinery development. In Kenya, oil is not the preserve of the President, especially as the main discussions are about the sharing of the income between the central state, local governments and local communities living in the production areas. In 2014, the preparatory work on the legislation to govern the sector envisaged that almost 40% would go to the counties and populations of the production area. A significant part of the revenues was also to be incorporated into an investment fund for medium and long-term investments. This idea was inspired by Norwegian practices adopted by some African producers, such as Ghana, to avoid the famous “resource curse.” After an initial bill was passed by Parliament which the President refused to validate, the government agreed in 2018 to a sharing formula granting 75% to the state, 20% to the county, and 5% to the local communities. But when the state starting transporting the first barrels of oil to the coast, it was immediately blocked for several weeks as local elites were unhappy with the terms of the income sharing. These elites also demanded an improvement in the security situation and infrastructure. In early July, an agreement was signed and the first oil barrels were delivered. The government justified this early exploitation strategy by the desire to test the supply of logistics and to determine the price of this crude on the world market.52 This would also be a way of getting private investors interested in the construction of the pipeline between Turkana and Lamu.

45In recent years, public policy on oil production has been structured around multiple actors with different visions. The state is trying to establish itself as the undisputed leader but so far, these tensions highlight above all the lack of transparency. Another sector of the oil economy where there are strong suspicions of corruption is transport. Transporting imported petroleum products (gasoline…) faster, cheaper and in larger quantities is becoming a vital economic issue. For ten years, domestic demand for refined oil has exploded. In neighbouring landlocked countries, economic growth is fuelling strong energy needs. Kenya has an interest in satisfying these markets. So far, gasoline has been the third most important export product after tea and cut flowers (13% of export earnings). But here again, competition from the central corridor through Tanzania has been fierce.

46The development of this sector depends on the efficiency of one public enterprise (wholly-owned by the state): the Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC). Long presented as a sleeping beauty, it has been real dynamic in recent years. The 40-year-old Mombasa-Nairobi pipeline was rebuilt at a cost of 484 million USD. It can carry over one third more oil compared to the old structure. A new pipeline between Sinendet (Nakuru County) and Kisumu was inaugurated in 2018. It complements an older facility and allows the volume being transported to be tripled. This will have positive effects on the development of the whole of Western Kenya, a region that is rapidly urbanising and has a high demand for petroleum products. In addition, it will facilitate export to Uganda.

47KPC is also promoting a decentralisation strategy for the pipelines. In the short term, several structures are expected to reach seven counties in the periphery and, most importantly, it is planned to develop large fuel depots with a volume of 20 million litres in the main cities of Kenya. In a country where the price of oil is different from region to region, these investments by KPC should significantly lower the price of transport and limit seasonal speculation.

  • 53 Olingo, Allan. 2018. “No Pledges for Region’s Pipeline, Open Sky Deals.” The East African, 30 June– (...)

48Nevertheless, KPC’s policy faces resistance. First, its projects are regularly delayed because of multiple anti-corruption procedures. In a sector that handles a lot of money, and suspicions of misappropriation of funds are permanent. In addition, pressure groups hostile to these large-scale construction works use the control commissions to curb the development of the oil infrastructure. It is common knowledge that the road transport of fuel is controlled by large families of the political elite (notably the Moi clan for transport from Eldoret to Uganda) who do not appreciate the multiplication of pipelines. Finally, at the regional level, the Mombasa-Busia line should be extended across the border to Uganda and Rwanda. This project, strongly supported by the World Bank and Kenya, is met with indifference from neighbouring countries.53

49The policy of large-scale construction promoted by Presidents Kibaki and Kenyatta has borne fruits. At least vital infrastructure has been built. But it is not certain that this policy of large-scale public investment will last.

4. Uhuru Kenyatta and the Big Four Agenda (2017–…)

  • 54 On the subject, see the analyses of one of the finest commentators of Kenyan political life, Opanga (...)

50Upon his re-election at the end of 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced his intention to place his second term in office under the umbrella of a new national development program, the Big Four Agenda. He aimed to focus public spending on certain areas deemed crucial: low-income family housing, universal health insurance, guaranteed food security for all Kenyans, and increased production capacity of domestic industries. This new program was presented as a personal initiative of the Head of State to make his mark. Throughout 2018, the media resituated the promotion of the Big Four Agenda within the growing divide between the President and the Vice-President. An anti-corruption campaign was launched and particularly affected William Ruto’s camp.54 The Kenyatta team was intent on presenting Ruto as the preeminent representative of the sins of the previous era and thus of rampant grand corruption. In this context, the Big Four Agenda program was supposed to restore the reputation of the Head of State… and give him room for manoeuvre in his upcoming succession. In many ways, the 2022 election campaign has already begun. It is still too early to give informed opinion on this new frame of reference for Kenyan public policy. We can only suggest a number of questions: does this program call into question the policy of large-scale works that characterised the first term in office of Uhuru Kenyatta? Is the Big Four Agenda compatible with the major decentralisation reform implemented since 2013? Should we believe in this development project or is it just a political communication exercise?

End of the Large-Scale Works Policy?

  • 55 Olingo, Allan, and Victor Kiprop. 2018. “Ethiopia Reaches Out to Djibouti and Kenya to Partner on (...)
  • 56 The high level of public debt of all East African countries brings the risk of debt crisis, which l (...)
  • 57 Marete, Gitonga. 2018. “Questions on Viability of SGR Refuse to Go Away After China Cuts Funding.” (...)
  • 58 In 2014, Kenya raised 2.8 billion USD in Eurobonds. In early 2018, it took over 2 billion USD, offi (...)

51The Head of State announced that there would be no new large-scale construction projects during his last term. Priority was given to completing the works already started. It is true that roads, dams and public buildings started years ago and abandoned are commonplace. However, the President’s promises only engaged him because mega projects have a strong international dimension. In this area, Kenya’s decisions are conditioned by a regional context from which it cannot escape. Thus, it should take into consideration Ethiopia’s firm desire to develop programs of interest to both countries (Moyale Joint City and Economic Zone Project; the Lamu–Garissa–Isiolo–Moyale and Moyale–Hawassa–Addis Ababa roads…).55 Moreover, Kenya benefits greatly from its geographical position on the Northern Corridor (Mombasa-Africa of the Great Lakes) but the modernisation of this major axis requires heavy investments involving several countries.56 The development of the LAPSSET corridor implies that Kenya be responsive to the needs of its neighbours as well as their schedules. Nevertheless, Kenya has limited room for manoeuvre. It cannot easily envisage any new large-scale projects in the medium term. Chinese loans seem to be drying up. In September 2018, China refused to participate in the financing of the construction of the railway between Nairobi and the Ugandan border even though Chinese companies had developed the section between Mombasa and Nairobi.57 In fact, Kenya is the most indebted country in the region. It is seeking to reduce its dependence on Asian loans. This was the objective of using Eurobonds, but it was done at a high political cost.58

52For years, the governing team argued that the policy of large-scale construction was a source of economic growth. The opposition believed that, if it produced growth at all, it was unequal growth. Above all, these massive investments prevented the development of social policies, particularly in the area of social protection. Apparently, the elite in power today are now listening to these criticisms. In doing so, they are joining a certain economic orthodoxy which believes that:

genuine public assets, the transport infrastructures generate externalities, as positive as they are negative (noise, accidents, pollution, destruction of landscapes, shared uses, etc.) and do not seem to offer a short-term economic return for the sponsoring authorities. This lack of immediate economic benefits—apart from those related to the construction itself, for the state operated enterprises potentially involved—is nevertheless counterbalanced by a political benefit (Carcanague & Hache 2017, 56–57).

  • 59 Warutere, Peter. 2018. “Harmonise Relevant Laws for Equitable Growth.” Daily Nation, 31 May. https (...)
  • 60 Muraya, Beth. 2018. “Will the Big Four Agenda Usher in Transformative Economic Growth?” Sunday Nati (...)
  • 61 Namlola, Juma. 2018. “Saccos Told to Cash In on Uhuru’s Big Four Agenda.” Daily Nation, 19 Februar (...)
  • 62 Warutere, Peter. 2018. “Diaspora Remittances Can Fund ‘Big 4’ Affordable Housing Plan.” Daily Natio (...)
  • 63 The digital industries know they will benefit from the new state program. And the President even as (...)

53Yet, this political benefit has now been much reduced. Several polls show that these large-scale construction works do not bring significant gains in popularity. Material benefits for the political elite also tend to run out: the bribes that finance political life are reaped in the preparatory phase of these large-scale works. In this context, the country leaders seem to be more open to the idea of fostering “equitable economic growth.”59 In this respect, the Big Four Agenda remains true to the objectives of Kenya Vision 2030: it aims to make Kenya a middle-income country.60 Above all, it allows for a redistribution that was no longer the priority of Kenya’s development policies. Several segments of civil society expressed support for this change in state priorities. Cooperatives, in particular SACCOS (Saving and Credit Cooperative Societies), indicated that they wished to participate actively in the public policies emerging from this new framework. Indeed, it seems difficult to develop social housing programs without involving SACCOS, the main providers of this type of housing.61 Kenyans in the diaspora could also fund this public policy. Their representative groups are making this known and calling for adapted tax policies.62 The Big Four Agenda also offers the prospect of new revenue for many economic agents.63

54After a long career in politics, Uhuru Kenyatta has finally revealed his social streak. Yet, some analysts are sceptical and look for Kenyatta’s hidden agenda.

The Big Four Agenda as a Way to Recentralise?

  • 64 Vidija, Patrick. 2018. “84% of Kenyans Support Devolution. Ipsos.” The Star, 6 April.
  • 65 “Kiambu County to Give Free NHIF Cover to 24,000 Families.” 2017. Daily Nation, 24 October; “Kisum (...)
  • 66 On the Lake Region Economic Bloc, which brings together 8 counties from western Kenya, see: Luvega, (...)
  • 67 Even if the majority of counties are run by elected members of Jubilee (the President’s party), th (...)
  • 68 This is the case of Kitui. Mutua, Kitavi. 2018. “How Kitui Mineral Wealth Can Drive Uhuru’s Big Fou (...)

55The constitution of 2010 attempts to bring public decision-making closer to Kenyan citizens, notably through a decentralisation reform introduced in 2013. Despite corruption scandals and frustrations caused by new local governments in counties, the vast majority of Kenyans still support this level of governance.64 Most neighbourhood policies, which fundamentally affect the daily lives of citizens, fall under their jurisdiction. The four areas of the Big Four Agenda cut across the areas entrusted to the counties. Counties inherited health management and some of them have started to implement health insurance for all those living in their territories.65 Food security, which also falls under their jurisdiction, tends to become a responsibility shared with the national government. In 2016–17, during the election campaign, a long-lasting drought affected the country, putting many people at risk. The response of the national executive was late and the counties of the semi-desert areas proved to be ineffective, forcing the central state to take over and therefore to appear as the leader in this public policy. Economic assistance is a shared competence, but all governors particularly value their role in this area. In addition, some counties have come together to form economic blocs that pool resources to have a more incisive economic policy.66 In this context, the success of the Big Four Agenda depends on the establishment of strong collaborations between the national and local levels. In June 2018, the Governors’ Summit declared its willingness to work with the National Executive on these issues.67 Some counties negotiate directly with the Kenyan government to be involved in certain policies of the new agenda.68

56For the moment, the doctrine of Kenya’s leadership on the place of local governments in the implementation of the Big Four Agenda is not known. For years, both Kenyatta and Ruto have expressed their hostility towards decentralisation. Since they have been in power, they have toned down their rhetoric but they are still suspected of having dark agendas against this reform. Some go as far as to suggest that the Big Four is their Trojan horse for devitalising decentralisation… But other observers believe that the Head of State may have an interest in working with the counties. He would thus establish patron-client networks that would allow him to manage his own succession from a position of strength, particularly against his Vice-President, even if he himself cannot constitutionally stand for re-election.

Should We Believe in the Impact of the Big Four Agenda?

  • 69 Githae, Wanjohi, et Patrick Lang’at. 2018. “Uhuru Swaps Departments as Focus Shifts to Big Four Ag (...)
  • 70 For a detailed presentation of these false pretences in the 2018-2019 budget, Kisero, Jaindi. 2018. (...)

57There are indications that the President is serious about the success of his new development program. Thus, many ministerial departments as well as several public institutions involved in the Big Four were moved to new ministries and new senior officials were appointed. These rearrangements are generally interpreted as the executive’s desire to lock down these crucial administrative services by putting them under the control of those in power.69 However, the national budget presented in mid-2018 did not clearly prioritise the four areas to be developed. Some MPs called it an “illusionist budget” in that some of the usual entries (especially in education) were labelled “Big Four Agenda enablers” to make it appear that the new budget was given a significant place to the new agenda.70 This reminds us of the technical constraints of all modern states budgets, which are subject to large amounts of expenditure and have little room for manoeuvre to change to envelopes allocated. Changes are made in the medium-term, but in a democracy, citizens must be convinced of the state’s ability to change the daily lives of the country’s inhabitants. Political communication must therefore persuade public opinion of the sincerity of those in power in their project of change. It is still too early to know whether the message is getting through and whether public action is going in the direction announced.

Conclusion

58Since independence, Kenya has continuously experienced what has been called a developmental state. Even in times of recession, the country recorded economic growth rates above the continental average. The characteristics of its economic system have changed significantly: the majority of wealth is now produced by the service sector, agriculture is modernising and remains largely in the hands of small-scale producers… This was done under the leadership of the state but the ways in which it intervenes in the economy and in society have evolved according to external constraints, the administration capacity to be truly engaged, and the forms of governance of the successive regimes.

59Until the mid-1970s, Jomo Kenyatta consolidated the strong state inherited from the colonial era, to which he added an important neo-patrimonial dimension. The political and administrative elites became heavily involved in all sectors of the economy, notably agriculture. Because of genuine political pluralism, especially at the local level, the political class had to take citizens’ demands into account, demands which were expressed, notably, during relatively free elections.

60During the two decades of Daniel arap Moi’s regime (1978–2002), those in power benefited from a narrower social base than their predecessors and came to rule the country with increasingly authoritarianism. They captured the developmental state for their own benefit and gradually established a real divorce with the economic forces and civil society.

61The presidencies of Mwai Kibaki (2002–2013) and Uhuru Kenyatta took place under the seal of democratisation, despite chaotic periods—in particular, the 2007 general elections and the short three-month civil war that followed. A new social contract was established between the state and the economic forces; it expressed in particular in the Kenya Vision 2030 program. During these fifteen years, the state superstructure developed at the same pace as the economy. Its efficiency improved considerably under the effects of the New Public Management techniques to which national elites largely converted. Yet, neo-patrimonialism still rules from the national to the local level, thanks in particular to the decentralisation reforms implemented from 2013 onwards.

62Under the tutelage and often the activism of the developmental state in its various facets, the economy modernised and in 2015. Kenya became a middle-income country. This undeniable success highlighted the level of inequality that persisted and which, according to some, threatened the order that had been created. Such inequality took diverse forms but two of them gave rise to controversies and public policy. Indeed, the debate focused, on the one hand, on territorial inequalities that are understood through ethnicity and, on the other hand, on inequalities between social groups.

63Since the 1950s, the political system has been structured around the idea of territorial injustices that needed to be addressed. Small ethnic groups that feared being left behind joined together in a partisan structure that negotiated with larger ethnic groups deemed dominant. The democratisation of the 1990s exacerbated these tensions and strongly ethnicised political life. Following the 2007 crisis, institutional responses were adopted: a decentralisation reform gave the regions substantial material resources and real decision-making power; a special fund was created so that the poorest counties would have more money available; recruitment in the public service had to respect a certain ethnic balance, etc. Strong territorial inequalities persist but the political elites took stock of the frustrations of the peripheries and put in place policies that were appreciated.

64Inequalities between social categories have been relatively hidden from the political debate. Of course, the opposition and some of its leaders, like Raila Odinga, present themselves as the heroes of the poor. But politics is read more though the lens of ethnicity than in terms of the social question. Anti-poverty policies have failed. The development of universal social protection is still in its infancy, and in this area, Kenya (and East Africa in general) is lagging behind Southern Africa countries. We have seen that the Big Four Agenda, which is to serve as a benchmark for Uhuru Kenyatta’s last term in office, is aimed to provide solutions. For the time being, the poorest sections of the population barely appear in the public sphere, except through the multifaceted violence of the youth. The needy remain in what Kristin D. Phillips (2018) calls a “citizenship of subsistence.” They try to survive food crises (if not famines) by becoming part of patron-client networks that act as a fragile form of social security.

  • 71 The share of debt in Gross Domestic Product is 58%. See Douet, Marion. 2018. “Au Kenya, la forte au (...)

65Since its inception, the Kenyan developmental state has been able to create economic growth but this prosperity is very unevenly distributed; it does not bring social justice, and therefore its legitimacy still remains fragile. Here again, great hopes are placed in decentralisation as it is expected to bring the state and its public services closer to the citizens. But will Kenya have the means for this ambition? Since 2018, several reports from the World Bank and the IMF have warned of the sharp increase in public debt across East Africa. In Kenya, this debt rose from 15.4 billion EUR to 42.7 billion EUR during Uhuru Kenyatta’s first term in office,71 in particular due to the policy of large-scale works. Thus, the state has lost much of its room for manoeuvre.

66The Kenyan developmental state has many similarities with the states in neighbouring countries, although some are more interventionist (Ethiopia, Rwanda), others more focused on social justice (Tanzania), and still others more neo-patrimonialist (Uganda). It is likely that greater regional integration would be of great benefit, at least at the economic level and particularly in the development of the large-scale transport corridors. For many years, competition and suspicion have prevailed over cooperation, especially when it comes to Kenya—a country that would highly benefit from integration.

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Oruko, Ibrahim. 2018. “State Told to Work with Counties for Big Four Success.” Daily Nation, 5 June. https://nation.africa/kenya/news/politics/governors-tell-state-to-work-with-counties-for-success-of-big-four-agenda-51230 [archive].

Otuki, Neville. 2018. “Oil Billions Not Our Major Aim for Now, Says PS of Export Plan.” Daily Nation, 31 May. https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/economy/Govt--Early-oil-export-not-a-profit-venture/3946234-4587156-12xfs2b/index.html [archive].

Vidija, Patrick. 2018. “84% of Kenyans Support Devolution. Ipsos.” The Star, 6 April.

Wafula, Paul. 2018. “Exclusive: Behind the SGR Walls.” The Standard, 8 July. https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/kenya/article/2001287119/exclusive-behind-the-sgr-walls [archive].

Wanzala, Ouma. 2018. “Cash Crunch Hits EAC Integration Projects.” Daily Nation, 26 June. https://nation.africa/kenya/news/cash-crunch-hits-eac-integration-projects-59296 [archive].

Warutere, Peter. 2018. “Diaspora Remittances Can Fund ‘Big 4’ Affordable Housing Plan.” Daily Nation, 10 May. https://nation.africa/oped/opinion/Diaspora-remittances-can-fund--Big-4---housing-plan-/440808-4553158-format-xhtml-jctg13z/index.html [archive].

Warutere, Peter. 2018. “Harmonise Relevant Laws for Equitable Growth.” Daily Nation, 31 May. https://nation.africa/kenya/blogs-opinion/opinion/harmonise-relevant-laws-for-equitable-economic-growth--49308 [archive].

Notes

1 This World Bank classification is defined according to the gross national income (GNI) per capita of each country. In 2017, Kenya’s GNI was 3,250 PPP USD. There are other typologies that take GDP per capita into account. In 2017, Kenya’s GDP was 1,678 USD according to the IMF and 1,507 USD according to the World Bank. Tanzania’s GDP per capita was 936 USD and Uganda’s GDP 604 USD.

2 According to the criteria of the African Development Bank.

3 Routley completes her definition by specifying four characteristic attributes: “1- A capable autonomous (but embedded bureaucracy); 2- A political leadership oriented towards development; 3- A close, often mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship between some state agencies and key industrial capitalists; 4- Successful policy interventions which promote growth.” Maia Green (2014, 16) thinks that the developmental state must be distinguished from what she calls the “development state.” The latter has much worse results in the economic and social fields than the first; and it is formed in close interaction with international development agencies. According to Green’s criteria, the Kenyan state has characteristics of both types of state. Thus, it remains the 6th recipient of international aid in Africa (4% of GDP in 2016).

4 It is revealing that the manifesto of the regime of the time is entitled African Socialism and its Application to Planning in Kenya (1965). Within the dominant party, KANU (Kenya African National Union), a strong minority headed by Oginga Odinga argued for a more egalitarian economic system and sought support from the Eastern European countries.

5 As early as the 1960s, political scientists brought to light how much African regimes relied on the personalisation of power. Nevertheless, from one country to another, the Founding Fathers of the nations played more or less important roles. All studies on Ujamaa emphasise Julius Nyerere’s role in bringing the Tanzanian political system into its socialist path and in defining its particular content (Maguire 1969; Pratt 1976; Bjerk 2016). In Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta did not have the same room for manoeuvre and his biographical analysis is less interesting than in the case of Tanzania.

6 This is not always the case (see the case of Cameroon analysed by Arriola).

7 This is the first element of Arriola’s theory of the formation of opposition coalitions in contemporary Africa. The author thinks that political alternation—condition of a consolidated democracy—requests the constitution of multi-ethnic coalitions of the opposition forces. In political cultures where patronage prevails, these coalitions can only occur with the financial support of businessmen who engage politically only when their material interests are not directly threatened by the ruling elite. According to Arriola, this is only possible in countries where access to credit is not politically locked up by the state. These coalitions would only be found in countries where many private banks thrive.

8 About how the opposition to the Moi regime used the memory of the “milk and honey” era, see Maupeu (2008).

9 See notably Thelen (2014, chap. 1).

10 Munguti, Richard. 2018. “Authority Orders Posta to Pay Ex-workers Billions in Pension.” Daily Nation, 26 April. https://nation.africa/kenya/business/posta-to-pay-4-000-ex-staff-more-benefits-36724 [archive]; Openda, Joseph. 2018. “Retired Teachers Resume 18-year Pension Battle.” Daily Nation, 27 July.

11 Only the teachers’ unions have continually retained a strong influence.

12 Leo (1984) estimates that the Kikuyu captured 40% of these territories even though they represented about 20% of the Kenya’s total population.

13 Almost until his death in 2004, Dixon Kihiga Kimani was the Kikuyu patron of the Rift Valley and served as an intermediary between the Kikuyu of this province and the big men of the Central district, which is the cradle of the Kikuyu community.

14 It is during this period that the idea of a Kalenjin identity—federating several groups of the Rift Valley (in particular, the Nandi, Kipsigis, Pokot, Sebei, Sabaot, Keyo, Marakwet and Tugen)—took hold and served as a vehicle for the defence of their common interests, particularly in relation to land. See Lynch (2011).

15 The major influence of Michael Cowen (1996) mostly relies on the many grey literature articles he published in the Working Papers of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) of the University of Nairobi, in which he provided significant quantitative data on different agricultural sectors during the colonial period. The Kenyan debate developed in complement and in dialogue with the equally rich “Tanzanian debate” (Shivji 1976; Saul 1979; Hyden 1980, amongst many others).

16 The Kenyan debate continued to irrigate contemporary thinking. Dominique Connan (2014), in a non-Marxist historical perspective, studied the autonomy of current entrepreneurs compared to the autonomy of the state. Lisa Mueller (2018) believes that a new middle class—less dependent on the state than the previous bourgeoisie—is the essential vector of protest in Africa today.

17 In addition to the Ndungu Commission, other parliamentary committees provided specific indications of misappropriation of public lands. We can think in particular of the Njonjo Land Commission (1999) and the Akiwumi Commission of Inquiry into Tribal Clashes (1999).

18 In 1992–93, these killings resulted in nearly a thousand deaths and several hundred thousand internally displaced persons’ (IDPs). These ethnic cleansings mostly took place in the Rift Valley, considered the stronghold of the ruling elite of President Daniel arap Moi. In 1997–98, several hundred deaths were recorded, mostly on the Coast and on the outskirts of the Rift Valley. The lieutenants of the regime had understood that the violent technique previously tested by their bosses made it easy to win parliamentary elections.

19 See Thomas (1997) who adapts to the Kenyan situation the concept theorised by Bayart, Ellis & Hibou (1998).

20 Branch & Cheeseman (2010) use this concept several times but without specifying its exact content.

21 On the various tactics of the Kenyan state during the negotiations with the IMF and the World Bank, see Murunga (2007).

22 According to the World Bank (2001), this failure is due to the usual wage increases that teacher unions obtain before each general election. In addition, shortly before the 2007 poll, a strong wave of recruitment of new officials called into question the effects of the reform.

23 Kempe Ronald Hope (2013) recalls in particular that growth was negative (-1%) in 1992 and 0% in 1993 and 1997. He uses data from the World Bank that many economists currently challenge.

24 We are only talking about the economic component of this plan. The growth thus created is meant to serve particularly ambitious social objectives: achieve the Millennium Development Goals (in the area of education, health, access to running water, sanitation facilities); develop housing for the general public; fight for true equality between the sexes… (Otieno & Nd’ung’u 2010).

25 Mathaura, Francis. 2018. “Vision 2030 Holds the Key to a Better and More Inclusive Kenya.” Saturday Nation, 9 June. https://nation.africa/kenya/blogs-opinion/opinion/vision-2030-holds-the-key-to-a-better-and-more-inclusive-kenya-52474 [archive]

26 Mbataru, Patrick. 2015. “Mega Projects Have Little Impact on the Poor.” Sunday Nation, 9 August. https://nation.africa/kenya/blogs-opinion/opinion/mega-projects-have-little-impact-on-the-poor-1118308 [archive].

27 Ndii, David. 2016. “Mega Projects and Hollow Men: What $50 bn Can Do for a Nation.” Saturday Nation, 30 January. https://nation.africa/kenya/blogs-opinion/opinion/mega-projects-and-hollow-men-what-50-bn-can-do-to-a-nation-1165482 [archive].

28 Kariuki, James. 2015. “Big Projects Recipe for Kenya’s Growth: Study.” Daily Nation, 13 August.

29 Ndii, David. 2017. “Forget About Mega Projects and Address Everyday Woes.” Saturday Nation, 29 July. https://nation.africa/kenya/blogs-opinion/opinion/forget-about-mega-projects-and-address-everyday-woes-430904 [archive].

30 Kagwanja, Peter. 2018. “Kenya’s Vision 2030 Caught Between the Rock and a Hard Place.” Daily Nation, 17 September. https://nation.africa/kenya/blogs-opinion/opinion/vision-2030-caught-between-the-rock-and-a-hard-place-87604 [archive].

31 Jebet, Vivian. 2018. “Isiolo Leaders Allege Diversion of Lapsset Route, Want Details of Map.” Daily Nation, 19 September.

32 Marete, Gitonga. 2018. “Questions on Viability of SGR Refuse to Go away after China Cuts Funding.” Daily Nation, 17 September. https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/news/Questions-on-viability-of-SGR-refuse-to-go-away/539546-4761886-5fq1awz/index.html [archive].

33 The Kenyan system allows travellers to be transported at nearly 120 km/h and goods at 80 km/h. This leads to substantial time savings compared to the old arrangement. Apparently, a system of electrification of the lines was planned but it was called into question (Olingo, Allan. 2018. “Kenya Halts Plans for Electric Trains.” The East African, 27 January–2 February).

34 Notably, Juma, Victor. 2014. “Making of a Mega Scandal? Why Railway Figures Do Not Add up.” Sunday Nation, 26 January. https://nation.africa/kenya/news/making-of-a-mega-scandal-why-railway-figures-do-not-add-up-942286 [archive].

35 The boss of this Commission in 2014–2015, Maina Kamanda, became the Minister of Transport.

36 Njagi, John, and John Ngirachu. 2014. “Graft Team Opens Probe on Rail Deal.” Daily Nation, 8 January.

37 Kairu, Pauline. 2014. “Land Owners Along Rail Route Want Fresh Valuation.” Sunday Nation, 28 December.

38 Maundu, Pius. 2015. “Workers at New Railway on Strike.” Daily Nation, 9 April. https://nation.africa/kenya/news/workers-at-new-railway-on-strike-1083358 [archive].

39 Karambu, Immaculate. 2015. “Uhuru Faults SGR Contractor on 40pc Procurement Quota.” Daily Nation, 5 December.

40 Wafula, Paul. 2018. “Exclusive: Behind the SGR Walls.” The Standard, 8 July. https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/kenya/article/2001287119/exclusive-behind-the-sgr-walls [archive].

41 In 2018, the company that manages the rail freight has lowered its prices twice in order to compete effectively with road transport. The state is encouraging importers to use the train by organising the customs clearance of goods at Embakasi, near Nairobi.

42 During Jubilee’s (the President’s party) election campaign in 2017, Uhuru Kenyatta promised to build 57 dams during his tenure, at least four of them being large dams (or “mega dams”).

43 Apollo, Silas. 2017. “Ministry Rolls out Dam Projects to Boost Food Production.” Daily Nation, 26 December. https://nation.africa/news/Govt-rolls-out-57-dam-project-to-boost-food-production/1056-4242428-format-xhtml-bvfav0/index.html [archive].

44 Report of the Auditor-General on the Financial Statements of National Irrigation Board. 30 June 2016. Nairobi: Republic of Kenya.

45 Lwanga, Charles. 2018. “Kilifi MCAs Move to Push State out of Galana-Kulalu Project.” Business Daily, 1 March. https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/news/counties/Kilifi-MCAs-stop-Galana-Kulalu-project/4003142-4324908-148c21lz/index.html [archive].

46 Komu, Nicholas. 2018. “How Greed for Water and Impunity Pushing a Community to the Brink.” Daily Nation, 25 August. https://nation.africa/kenya/news/how-greed-for-water-and-impunity-pushing-a-community-to-the-brink-80648 [archive]. The removal of forests in these water towers also helps to dry up the waterways.

47 Gachane, Ndung’u. 2018. “Now Wa Iria Slaps Nairobians with Water Levy as Revenue Row Escalates.” Daily Nation, 14 September. https://nation.africa/kenya/news/wa-iria-slaps-nairobians-with-water-levy-as-revenue-row-escalates-86672 [archive].

48 Komu, Nicholas. 2018. “Water Row: Leaders Break Ranks with Jubilee.” Daily Nation, 5 October.

49 Keprop, Victor. 2018. “Ethiopia Begins Production Tests at Ogaden Oilfield.” The East African, 30 June–6 July. https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/tea/business/ethiopia-begins-production-tests-at-ogaden-oilfield-1397200 [archive].8.

50 These are the estimates retained by the World Bank in its recent reports.

51 IEA (Institute of Economics Affairs). 2018. “How much Oil? Why East Africa’s Bounty Is neither Significant nor Exceptional.” The East African, 9–15 June. https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/tea/business/how-much-oil-why-east-africa-s-bounty-is-neither-significant-nor-exceptional--1395812 [archive]..

52 Otuki, Neville. 2018. “Oil Billions Not Our Major Aim for Now, Says PS of Export Plan.” Daily Nation, 31 May. https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/economy/Govt--Early-oil-export-not-a-profit-venture/3946234-4587156-12xfs2b/index.html [archive].

53 Olingo, Allan. 2018. “No Pledges for Region’s Pipeline, Open Sky Deals.” The East African, 30 June–6 July. https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/tea/business/no-pledges-for-region-s-pipeline-open-sky-deals-1397178 [archive].

54 On the subject, see the analyses of one of the finest commentators of Kenyan political life, Opanga, Kwenda. 2018. “Big Four Agenda and 2022: Reasons Uhuru Is Unhappy with His Deputy.” Sunday Nation, 10 June. https://nation.africa/kenya/blogs-opinion/opinion/big-four-agenda-and-2022-reasons-uhuru-is-unhappy-with-his-deputy-52754 [archive].

55 Olingo, Allan, and Victor Kiprop. 2018. “Ethiopia Reaches Out to Djibouti and Kenya to Partner on Mega Projects.” The East African, 12 May. https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/tea/business/ethiopia-reaches-out-to-djibouti-and-kenya-to-partner-on-mega-projects--1393546 [archive].

56 The high level of public debt of all East African countries brings the risk of debt crisis, which leads these countries to limit their spending ambitions. Wanzala, Ouma. 2018. “Cash Crunch Hits EAC Integration Projects.” Daily Nation, 26 June. https://nation.africa/kenya/news/cash-crunch-hits-eac-integration-projects-59296 [archive].

57 Marete, Gitonga. 2018. “Questions on Viability of SGR Refuse to Go Away After China Cuts Funding.” Daily Nation, 17 September. https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/news/Questions-on-viability-of-SGR-refuse-to-go-away/539546-4761886-5fq1awz/index.html [archive]. Since a few years, many African countries have had great difficulty repaying their loans.

58 In 2014, Kenya raised 2.8 billion USD in Eurobonds. In early 2018, it took over 2 billion USD, officially to give the country a little air to breath during the repayment of public debt. The opposition believes that some funds disappeared and would have served as a bail out with regards to the exorbitant cost of Jubilee’s election campaign (the party of the President). Mwaniki, Charles. 2018. “Kenya Raises $2bn in Fresh Eurobonds Issue.” Business Daily, 22 February. https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/markets/capital/Kenya-says-fresh--2bn-Eurobond-oversubscribed-seven-times/4259442-4315350-14pr01l/index.html [archive]. On the doubts held by the opposition, see the always brilliant and enlightened analyses by David Ndii: Ndii, David. 2015. “If It Looks, Quacks and Walks Like a Duck, It Is the Lies About Eurobond.” Saturday Nation, 19 December. https://www.nation.co.ke/kenya/blogs-opinion/opinion/if-it-looks-quacks-and-walks-like-a-duck-it-is-the-lies-about-eurobond-1155142 [archive].

Recently, China seemed less willing to invest in Kenya, as Kenya is getting closer to the US (e.g. agreements to rebuild the road infrastructure between Mombasa and Nairobi…) and the UK.

59 Warutere, Peter. 2018. “Harmonise Relevant Laws for Equitable Growth.” Daily Nation, 31 May. https://nation.africa/kenya/blogs-opinion/opinion/harmonise-relevant-laws-for-equitable-economic-growth--49308 [archive].

60 Muraya, Beth. 2018. “Will the Big Four Agenda Usher in Transformative Economic Growth?” Sunday Nation, 10 June.

61 Namlola, Juma. 2018. “Saccos Told to Cash In on Uhuru’s Big Four Agenda.” Daily Nation, 19 February; Ibid. 2018. “Co-operatives Key to Government’s Big Four Agenda.” Saturday Nation, 7 July; Mwololo, Millicent. 2018. “Sacco Turns Home Ownership Dream into Reality.” Daily Nation, 19 July. https://nation.africa/kenya/life-and-style/dn2/sacco-turns-home-ownership-dream-into-a-reality-68454 [archive]; Mwololo, Millicent. 2018. “Cooperatives to Deliver 500,000 Social Housing Units.” Daily Nation, 19 July. https://nation.africa/lifestyle/dn2/Cooperatives-to-deliver-social-housing-units/957860-4670584-format-xhtml-1o51vjz/index.html [archive].

62 Warutere, Peter. 2018. “Diaspora Remittances Can Fund ‘Big 4’ Affordable Housing Plan.” Daily Nation, 10 May. https://nation.africa/oped/opinion/Diaspora-remittances-can-fund--Big-4---housing-plan-/440808-4553158-format-xhtml-jctg13z/index.html [archive]. Kenyans in the diaspora transferred nearly USD 2.5 billion to their home country in 2018.

63 The digital industries know they will benefit from the new state program. And the President even asked them to invest in these sectors (Lang’at, Patrick. 2018. “Technology to Drive My Big Four Promises, Says Uhuru.” Daily Nation, 28 February). The chemical industries specialising in agriculture sponsor Farm Clinics in several provincial universities (where farmers explain their agricultural problems and where they are offered solutions) and nowadays place them under the mentorship of the Big Four agenda (Maina, Nelson. 2018. “Farm Clinics at Heart of Big Four Agenda.” Daily Nation, 7 July. https://nation.africa/kenya/business/seeds-of-gold/farm-clinics-at-heart-of-big-four-agenda-63688 [archive]). No one is fooled, many economic actors are positioning themselves to take advantage of future state spending (Ngugi, Brian, and Neville Otuki. 2018. “Faceless Cartels Lie in Wait for the Big Four Projects.” Daily Nation, 30 April).

64 Vidija, Patrick. 2018. “84% of Kenyans Support Devolution. Ipsos.” The Star, 6 April.

65 “Kiambu County to Give Free NHIF Cover to 24,000 Families.” 2017. Daily Nation, 24 October; “Kisumu County Ready to Pilot Universal Healthcare.” 2018. Daily Nation, 27 March; Komu, Nicholas. 2018. “Tharaka Nithi Launches TN-Care.” Daily Nation, 14 September. https://nation.africa/kenya/brand-book/tharaka-nithi-launches-tn-care-medical-cover--111570 [archive].

66 On the Lake Region Economic Bloc, which brings together 8 counties from western Kenya, see: Luvega, Derick, et Gaitano Pessa. 2018. “Eight Governors from Lake Region to Drum Up Support for Economic Bloc.” Saturday Nation, 9 June. https://nation.africa/counties/Governors-to-drum-up-support-for-economic-bloc/1107872-4602644-format-xhtml-byxs3c/index.html [archive].

67 Even if the majority of counties are run by elected members of Jubilee (the President’s party), the Governors’ Summit is led by an opponent of the regime and this body is particularly demanding if not suspicious of a national executive still suspected of not playing the game of the 2010 constitution sincerely. Oruko, Ibrahim. 2018. “State Told to Work with Counties for Big Four Success.” Daily Nation, 5 June. https://nation.africa/kenya/news/politics/governors-tell-state-to-work-with-counties-for-success-of-big-four-agenda-51230 [archive].

68 This is the case of Kitui. Mutua, Kitavi. 2018. “How Kitui Mineral Wealth Can Drive Uhuru’s Big Four.” Daily Nation, 19 June. https://nation.africa/counties/kitui/How-Kitui-mineral-wealth-can-drive-Uhuru-s-Big-Four/3444936-4619212-mxlyqp/index.html [archive].

69 Githae, Wanjohi, et Patrick Lang’at. 2018. “Uhuru Swaps Departments as Focus Shifts to Big Four Agenda.” Sunday Nation, 18 February. https://nation.africa/kenya/news/politics/uhuru-swaps-departments-as-focus-turn-to-big-four-agenda-14174 [archive].

70 For a detailed presentation of these false pretences in the 2018-2019 budget, Kisero, Jaindi. 2018. “Mistake: Rotich Budget Lumped ‘Big Four’ with Usual Spendings.” Daily Nation, 20 June. https://nation.africa/blogs/Henry-Rotich-Budget-lumped--Big-Four--with-usual-spending/1949942-4620960-13t2pwb/index.html [archive].

71 The share of debt in Gross Domestic Product is 58%. See Douet, Marion. 2018. “Au Kenya, la forte augmentation de la dette publique inquiète la population.” Le Monde, 13 October.

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