Fact-Checking William Ruto’s Chatham House Speech: No, Half of Kenya’s Workforce Is NOT on CRB

Deputy President William Ruto on Monday, March 7, 2022 delivered a speech at the United Kingdom’s Chatham House. This came as part of his overseas tour to present his presidential bid, party manifesto, and his Bottom-Up economic approach to international allies and potential diaspora voters.

“That election (August 9, 2022 election) is a decisive election, also called a transit election. We could either transit into a progressive Kenya or we could regress,” Ruto said at the convention themed; ‘Kenya’s 2022 Elections: Prospects and Challenges for Shared Prosperity’.

When telling apart how his leadership would distinguish him from his political rivals, the deputy president broke down Kenya’s economic situation. 

Piga Firimbi fact-checks some of the claims he made at his presentation:

15 million Kenyans are NOT blacklisted with the Credit Reference of Bureau (CRB)

“Because of the challenge of access to credit, we have a huge problem of predatory lenders and because of predatory lenders, today, 15 million Kenyans are blacklisted on Credit Reference of Bureau,” DP Ruto said.

“15 million Kenyans blacklisted is actually half our working population. That tells you there is a serious problem of access to credit,” he added.

FALSE: 15 million is NOT the number of Kenyans blacklisted in the CRB, but the number of blacklisted accounts.

This figure made headlines in February 2021 when the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) announced it would be lifting a six-month moratorium that was previously ordered by President Uhuru Kenyatta, implying that loan defaulters should no longer be listed with the CRB as part of the state-accorded COVID-19 financial relief initiatives.

Sam Omukoko, CEO of Metropol- a CBK accredited CRB- clarified that the figure refers to the number of blacklisted CRB accounts and not the number of Kenyans blacklisted. This was also debunked in an article published on the Business Today news website. There is a chance that one Kenyan could own up to ten CRB accounts according to Mr  Omukoko. 

“On average, Kenyans have about five accounts borrowing from banks, SACCOs, MFIs (Micro-Finance Institutions), so you may find an account in the bank is in default but an account in the SACCO is performing well. That’s the kind of thing that we are talking about,” Mr Omukoko said at an interview on KTN’s Fact-Finder show.

“It was not about the number of people who have defaulted and listed in the credit reference bureau,” he added.

Piga Firimbi found that the number of the said accounts lies between 14 million to 16 million. According to reports published in February 2021, the blacklisted CRB accounts were 14,035,718.

“The number of loans accounts in arrears for more than 90 days had jumped to 14,035,718 by January this year, up from 9,673,258 in August 2020,” a Business Daily report states.

This appears to have increased to 16 million accounts according to a recent post by the Credit Information Sharing Association of Kenya (CIS Kenya) on December 2021.

Around 3 million individuals are on the CRB listing according to Mr Omukoko. The latest CIS Kenya communication states that there are 4 million blacklisted citizens on CRB.

This DOES NOT translate to half of the workforce as claimed by the deputy president. It is about 16 per cent of the workforce based on the latest KNBS labour force report which shows that about 19 million citizens (precisely 19,106,156) are in the labour force.

FALSE: Not 4 million young people are jobless

“4 million of our young people, out of school, out of college, out of university have no jobs”, DP Ruto said, “We’re going to deliberately (he emphasised) invest in areas that are labour-intensive, that create jobs.”

Claims on the number of unemployed youth have been a point of contention, based on tenable factors like the varying definitions of the term youth, disparities in telling apart unemployment from joblessness as well as elusive elements like undocumented employment, especially in the informal sector.

However, by the Kenyan constitution’s definition of youth (aged 15 to 34) and adding the number of unemployed citizens in this age group based on the latest Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) labour force report, there are 3 million youth categorised in the Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) group.

KNBS further states that the unemployment rate is measured based on the strict definition of not working, seeking work and available to work. The grand total of those in this group is 1.2 million. After summing up those aged 15-34 years in the unemployment category, Piga Firimbi found there are 959,889 unemployed youth.

TRUE, “We produce 5 billion litres of milk,” but Kenya is NOT exactly the sole largest milk producer in Africa

The claim that Kenya produces 5 billion litres of milk is backed by data from the Ministry of Agriculture’s national dairy development policy paper here. “Kenya produces about 5.2 billion litres of milk annually,” the paper states. Similarly, the Kenya Dairy Board’s data on annual milk production indicates that Kenya produced 5.5 billion of milk in 2019.

This paper also rightfully puts it that Kenya is one of the largest milk producers in Africa. There is no report that singles out Kenya as the single largest milk producer in Africa as might come off MISLEADING in William Ruto’s speech.

Reports show that Kenya, alongside Sudan, South Africa and Egypt ranks among the top milk producers in Africa.

NO, 25% of the GDP is NOT in agriculture

The deputy president, who also has a doctorate in Ecology and is a former minister of agriculture further claimed that agriculture contributes to 25 per cent of the GDP. 

According to the KNBS 2021 Economic report, agriculture is the leading economic contributor, accounting for 23 per cent of the economy.

Other sectors that contributed significantly to the economy in 2020 were Transportation and Storage (10.8 per cent); Real Estate (9.3 per cent); Wholesale and Retail Trade (8.1 per cent); Manufacturing (7.6 per cent); Financial and Insurance Activities (6.5 per cent); and Construction (7.0 per cent).

Ruto also tabled his three main propositions for his presidential bid.

One, democracy and constitutionalism, where he echoed his opposition to the BBI (Building Bridges Initiative), to which he said: “They want to bring back an impugning power to the presidency.”

“The second item on the ballot is our political culture,” he added. In this proposition, he challenged the formulation of political parties based on personalities. 

“This contest should be built around a national political party rather than personalities or individuals.” He called out the ruling government for failing to have a clear distinction between the government and the opposition, “Today in Kenya we don’t if the government is in the opposition or it is the opposition that is in the government.”

He finally proposed rebuilding strong institutions, with a focus on the criminal justice system.

“We believe, the criminal justice system should be truly independent by not just having constitutional independence, but also financial independence to discharge their responsibilities,” he said.

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