President Kenyatta’s 11th COVID-19 Address: Has Kenya’s Economy Grown by 4.6%?

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During the Eleventh Presidential Address on the COVID-19 Pandemic in Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta said that the country had “done much better than expected” with regards to Kenya’s economic performance under the extraordinary pandemic circumstances.

In the speech made on August 26, the president said that the inflation rate is at 4.4% compared to an inflation rate of 6.3% at the same time last year. He also mentioned that the economy had grown by 4.6% compared to a growth of 5.5% last year.

Background

The first COVID-19 case in Kenya was announced on March 13. As of August, the country was 6 months into the pandemic.

During his second presidential address on the pandemic, President Kenyatta on March 25 ordered the execution of several measures which he said were aimed at “cushioning” Kenyans from “shocks arising from COVID-19”. Such included tax reliefs and reductions, suspension of Credit Reference Bureau (CRB) listing and slashing the National Executive members’ salaries, including his own.

Over 1.5 million Kenyans reportedly lost their jobs by the end of June amid organizations’ retrenchments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A Business Daily article reveals that “the number of people in employment fell to 15.87 million between April and end of June [2020] compared to 17.59 million the previous quarter.”

Verification

Contrary to President Kenyatta’s speech, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Gross Domestic Product report for the first quarter of 2020 indicates that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 4.9% and not 4.6%. The report that was published on June 30 confirms president Kenyatta’s part of the speech stating that Kenya’s GDP had grown by 5.5% within the same period in 2019.

While the president does not specify what period he draws the inflation rates mentioned in his speech, the rate of inflation is updated on a monthly basis. KNBS records indicate that the inflation rate for the month of August 2020 coincides with that in the president’s speech at 4.36%. This is also indicated in the Central Bank of Kenya’s (CBK) inflation rates chart.

According to the CBK chart, the rate of inflation was constant at 4.36% through July and August.

The 6.3% rate of inflation President Kenyatta mentioned in his August 26 speech was the inflation rate for the month of July 2019, which was rounded off from the rate of 6.27% as is stated by both the CBK and the KNBS. However, the rate of inflation for August 2019 was at 5%.

Verdict

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s eleventh address on the COVID-19 pandemic stating that the Kenyan economy has grown by 4.6% despite the pandemic is ambiguous and, therefore, misleading.

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Linda Ngari