Yesterday, Kenya was celebrating 60 years of being a republic. If Kenya were a civil servant, this would be its retirement year. However, since it is a republic, it is still a young democratic nation compared to other global democracies whose existence spans centuries.
The fifth President of Kenya, William Samoei Ruto, led the Jamhuri celebrations at Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi, where it is stipulated that 30,000 Kenyans attended in person and many more celebrated nationwide.
In his opening remarks, he reiterated,
"According to the vision of our forefathers who fought for this country’s freedom, independence was intended to bestow on the gifts of political as well as economic self-determination. This anniversary gives us the opportunity to gather as a family and reflect together on how we have fared over the course of six decades.”
In this article, we shall understand the progress we have made on economic self-determination from the lens of the numbers that the president offered in his Jamhuri Day speech.
First, the president noted that inflation stands at 6.8%, which is relatively higher than we would like it to be as a nation. Nonetheless, it is a drop from 9.2% a year ago. That is tremendous progress for a year, but he noted work still to be done.
The GDP, too, has been growing. In the last six months, our GDP has grown by 5.4%, making Kenya the 29th fastest-growing economy, according to the World Bank.
The president noted,
“Our human capital… is probably the most potent arsenal to drive our economic progress… Our expenditure on training, learning, and education, in general, is a most appropriate investment in developing the human capital necessary for our economic progress.
The government has increased the total allocation to the education sector by an additional Ksh127 billion this year. Of the Ksh127 billion, Ksh46 billion will go to the New Higher Education Financing Model. Nine billion Kenya shillings will go to the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TVETA) and will be used to hire an extra 2000 tutors.
Furthermore, Ksh47 billion will be directed to the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to hire 56,000 new teachers, among other interventions. At the same time, Ksh24 billion will be allocated to building more classes for junior secondaries. Additionally, Nairobi will get Ksh1billion to build 3,500 classrooms.”
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Agriculture is the backbone of the nation.
“Agriculture plays a central and pivotal role in our economy, contributing to food security, supplying raw materials for agro-processing and value addition, manufacturing for domestic and export markets, creating jobs and wealth,” the President reiterated.
Food costs consume 54% of households’ income in Kenya. The government has worked to cut the food import bill by half, and it currently stands at Ksh500 million. The government also plans to increase our exports. Hence, they are adding six more special economic zones alongside 47 county aggregation and industrial parks. In Nairobi, 20 fresh produce markets are being constructed among the 400 markets being constructed across the country.
For a nation to thrive, you ought to have a healthy nation. The government has introduced Universal Health Coverage (UHC) to this effort.
“Our universal health coverage plan seeks a paradigm shift in healthcare provision, from curative to a largely preventive and promotive approach,” said President Ruto.
The outstanding achievement of the UHC is the reduction of minimal contributions for the vulnerable Kenyans from Ksh500 to Ksh300.
Additionally, the government has recruited over 100,000 community health promoters who will be used to enhance healthcare provision at the grassroots level.
As previously noted, Kenya’s greatest asset is its workforce. To provide jobs, the government has sought to kill two birds with one stone: build affordable houses and provide jobs to hundreds of thousands who will be involved in building the houses.
The president reported that over 120,000 Kenyans are employed in 33 construction sites. Thirty-one more sites are under evaluation and will begin next month, bringing on board more job opportunities. The government's strategic focus is to build hundreds of thousands of units and create millions of jobs.
The President also took note of the potential that lies in exploiting digital opportunities. He has, therefore, signed an amendment to the National Government Constituency Development Fund that requires all the 1450 wards in the country to have an ICT hub to provide young people with training and digital job opportunities.
Additionally, the government has distributed 23,000 computers to students, which they are using to monetize their digital skills. This will continue as the government works with counties to make vocational centres accommodate ICT Hubs to enhance the digital job footprint in Kenya.
The current ‘hustler’ government had committed to providing more financial inclusion to even those left out of the financial system due to a lack of assets or capital. Therefore, they launched the Hustler Fund a year ago.
The Hustler Fund has become the largest financial inclusion program, disbursed Ksh42 billion to over 21 million borrowers. The fund has seen a 75% repayment plan and two billion saved. The savers are set to earn a 12% return on their savings, which the government will match at a ratio of one shilling for every two shillings saved.
The fund has 7.7 million regular borrowers; this year, 1.2 million have received a limit enhancement. In addition, the government is planning to roll out additional financial products next month to provide more debt facilities for existing mama mboga and bodaboda Saccos.
Moreover, the new NSSF contribution model increased monthly contributions by 4.5 times. The fund will raise an additional Ksh400 billion in the next five years, tripling the value of the fund from Ksh300 billion to over Ksh1 trillion by 2027.
The efficiency of the fund has also improved with retirement benefits released within ten days as opposed to 82 days previously, and the target is to take it down to one day by next year. The Fund also aims to expand coverage to 15 million Kenyans in informal industries.
The best way to sum up the Jamhuri celebrations is by words echoed by the President himself.
“It is clear that we have made undeniable progress on many fronts and, as a result, our nation may be said to have come a long way in the right direction… However, we have not made as much progress with our economy… Our generation must, therefore, take up the unfinished work of actualising economic prosperity as our contribution to perfecting Kenya’s national sovereignty. We owe this to those who made huge sacrifices to bestow on us a nation of promise, and we owe it to one another: To the youth, women, children of Kenya and each one of us.”