By Edward Chisanga
Mapongezi, President Ruto.
I hope this means congratulations, Mr. President.
Perhaps not entirely his fault, but attribution equally to the devasting effect of Covid 19. That’s how I would characterize Kenya’s outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta’s handling of the economy he leaves behind, as his final term of office finally reaches the appropriate stopping point this year. His flaw is that he leaves a legacy of caring more about choosing his successor than the sick economy he leaves behind.
I congratulate you, President Ruto, in particular because I was deeply grieved at the mental suffering and embarrassment you went through as an ‘ostracized Vice President’ by your own President, a distressing precedent in Africa only he understands. In the midst of all afflictions and adversities, you moved forward, confident of your innocence and Kenyans’ support. I read, “Ruto, the ambitious 55-year-old clawed his way to the center of power by playing on his religious faith and humble beginnings selling chickens by the roadside. Your predecessor easily clawed his way by playing on a silver spoon in his mouth.
If your predecessor had positives, congratulations. But, Odongo Kodongo sites Uhuru’s negatives. He states, “The country’s performance on job creation was weak, with unemployment rates worsening by 2.93% from 2.81% in 2013 to 5.74% in 2021. Weak job creation is explained by the not-so-robust economy. Between 2013 and 2021, Kenya’s economic growth of GDP averaged 4.4% while tax revenues stagnated at approximately 14.8% of GDP. Uhuru and Ruto’s most prominent economic legacy is runaway public debt, whose growth has not been commensurate with economic performance.”
He’s leaving you with eroding GDP per capita
Let me compliment Odongo by providing more detail on three economic indicators to illustrate my verdict on the outgoing President Kenyatta. I use (i) Inflation, (ii) Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita and Foreign Direct Investment. My methodology is to largely use Unctadstat statistics.
First, during Kenyatta’s rule, the annual inflation rate in Kenya accelerated for the sixth consecutive month to 8.5% in August 2022, slightly below market forecasts of 8.6% but remaining above the ceiling of the central bank’s target range (World Bank). Second, for the available data I show Kenya’s growth of per capita GDP. Experts explain that GDP per capita is the economic output of a country per person. In this case, it is about Kenyans. It explains the prosperity of a country by economic growth per person in this case in Kenya. It measures the amount of money earned per person in Kenya. If it’s important, it means that it must grow.
But Figure 1 below shows that its growth during Kenyatta’s terms was mixed. In particular, trend in growth shows a downturn from 3% in 2018 down to minus 2.5% in 2020. Therefore, President Kenyatta leaves office with shuttered and ailing GDP per capita that debilitates Kenyans’ purchasing power. This should have been his major concern instead of grooving for a successor…. a miscalculation that has left him politically wounded, perhaps permanently.
He’s leaving you with diminishing Foreign direct investment
Third, he leaves an economy with evanescing foreign direct investment (FDI). He inherited robust inward FDI of over $2 billion from his predecessor in 2011-2012 shown in Figure 2 below but only to let it slip his hands, down to less than $500 million in 2021. Complementing local investment with FDI is key for poor countries like Kenya to integrate in global value chains and networks. While Covid19 may be used as an excuse, the longer trend shows slump in FDI many years prior to. A legacy tug of this nature must worry African leaders more than imposing a successor.
Africans should not allow Presidents to chose their successors
In another African country in the West, an outgoing President is busy searching for a successor instead of worrying about the sick economy he’ll soon leave behind. I read that the World Bank said, “In 2022, Nigeria is expected to have one of the highest inflation rates in the world and the seventh highest in Sub-Sahara Africa.” IMF projected 18 and 22% inflation for Nigeria in 2022. Meanwhile, according to Unctadstat data, Nigeria’s GDP growth in 2020 shrank to minus 1.8% and GDP per capita down to minus 4.3%.
In Zambia itself, calls for the so-called selected successors have been heard before. Despite having an obscure history of leadership, one former President found himself in State House largely due to this reasoning. This country and others in Africa are not monarchical. They’re merit-driven. In particular, its most ignominious for economic-failing African Heads of State who have disappointed their people to seek successors. But even if a successful one chose a successor, how would he be sure that he would succeed like him? The warning to them is, “Dare try to foist one, you’ll be embarrassed by another ‘Ruto.’ ‘Rutos’ are not only in Kenya; they’re found in every African country. Your priority should be to account for good economic governance.