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Kenyan billionaire Jimi Wanjigi wants to be president, but were his TV interview facts on the money?

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Kenyan billionaire Jimi Wanjigi wants to be president, but were his TV interview facts on the money?

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21st October 2021

By: Africa Check

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With less than a year to Kenya’s elections, controversial businessman Jimmy Wanjigi discussed his presidential ambitions at length for the first time, on national TV.    

In the 29 August 2021 interview on Citizen TV, Wanjigi answered questions about his businesses, political history, subsequent fallout with the current government, and more.

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Kenya’s general elections are set for 9 August 2022.

To make his case, Wanjigi cited statistics as evidence of the government’s economic mismanagement.  We checked seven of his claims.

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Claim: “When Kibaki left power, of every KSh100 of Kenyan revenue collections, KSh18 went to [repaying] debt.”

Verdict: Correct

We asked Wanjigi’s office for the source of his figures. Spokesperson Isaac Njuguna said the claims were accurate and the data from the official Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.  

He also sent us the bureau’s 2020 poverty report.

In the interview, Wanjigi said debt repayments had drastically increased and were choking the country’s business environment. 

He said the sharp increase had been in the last nine years of president Uhuru Kenyatta’s government, a trend not seen under his predecessor, Mwai Kibaki.  

“When Kibaki left power, of every KSh100 of Kenyan revenue collections, KSh18 went to [repaying] debt,” Wanjigi said.

Kibaki left office on 9 April 2013. Kenya's total public debt was then KSh1.8-trillion, according to data from the Central Bank of Kenya and the national treasury. The most recent data shows that by June 2021, this debt had grown to KSh7.7-trillion.

To verify the level of debt at the end of Kibaki’s term, John Kinuthia, a senior programmes officer at the Kenyan office of budget transparency think tank International Budget Partnership, advised us to check the treasury’s annual debt management reports.

The 2013 debt report says 18.7% of revenue went to repaying debt in the last financial year of Kibaki’s term, ending in June 2013.   

“Wanjigi’s KSh18 figure out of every KSh100 for 2013 was not that far off,” Kinuthia said. 

We therefore rate the claim as correct. – Makinia Juma

Claim: “Today KSh75 [out of every KSh100] goes to debt service.”

Verdict: Exaggerated

We asked Benjamini Muchiri, a senior manager at Kenya’s statistics bureau, where to look. He directed us to the treasury’s public debt register. The most recent publicly available version is for the 2019/2020 financial year. 

This shows that at the end of the financial year, in June 2020, 41.4% of revenue was used to repay debt. 

The International Budget Partnership’s Kinuthia said the data varied from year to year.  

For example, in June 2019 debt repayment took 58.8% of revenue.  

Even projections for debt payment in a financial year were different to what was actually spent, Kinuthia added. 

The Parliamentary Budget Office estimated that debt service for the 2020/21 financial year would be 66% of revenue, or KSh66 out of every KSh100.

In 2020 the International Monetary Fund had a similar figure of 68%, but this year revised it to 47.6%.  

We have not seen any data that supports Wanjigi’s claim that 75% of revenue currently goes to debt repayment, even if it is clear that since 2013, debt servicing has risen sharply. —Makinia Juma

Claim: “If you look at the growth patterns, the Kibaki period was phenomenal. We went from a negative 1% [growth rate under] Moi.”

Verdict: Exaggerated

Mwai Kibaki took over from Kenya’s second president, Daniel arap Moi, on 30 December 2002. 

For historical growth data, senior Kenya National Bureau of Statistics manager Benjamin Muchiri directed us to the bureau’s annual economic surveys and to central bank data.

The World Bank’s data portal was also a good source, he said, as it is compiled from the national accounts of member countries.

According to the bureau’s economic surveys, Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.4% in 2002. The central bank had this at 0.5%, the same as the World Bank. GDP is a widely used measure of the total value of goods and services produced in a country in a specific period, usually a year.

We found no evidence that Kenya had a negative growth rate in 2002. The data shows that while Moi’s 24-year rule was marked by low growth, only 1992 saw economic contraction, at -7%.  

Wanjigi’s claim is inflated, but the economy did grow consistently under Kibaki. – Dancan Bwire

Claim: Kenya had a 7% GDP growth rate in 2007.

Verdict: Correct

The economic survey data for 2010 shows growth in 2007 was at 7%. Kenya’s central bank recorded 6.9%, as did the World Bank. 

The data shows consistent growth from 2002 to 2007. 

We therefore rate Wanjigi’s claim as correct. In 2008 growth tanked to 0.2% following the global financial crisis and the effects of a disputed election, before rebounding to 8.4% in 2010. – Dancan Bwire

Claim: “When this government took over, do you know what the poverty rate was? It was 36%. Today it is 52%”

Verdict: Incorrect

Wanjigi’s team attributed this claim to a 2020 report by the national data agency, which they shared with us. It was co-authored by UN Women and Unicef.

But the agency does not compile annual poverty rate statistics, the International Budget Partnership’s Kinuthia told Africa Check. 

Its most recent statistics were released in 2018 and have data for 2015/16. This data defines “overall poverty” as households and individuals whose monthly expenditure “is less than KSh3,252 in rural and peri-urban areas and less than KSh5,995 in core-urban areas”. 

It gives the national poverty headcount rate as 36.1%, a fall from the 2005/06 rate of 46.6%.

When Kenyatta took office in 2013, the available data puts the poverty rate at 46.6%, 10 percentage points higher than the 36% Wanjigi claimed.  

Multidimensional index looks beyond income   

But is the current poverty rate 52%? We asked Paul Samoei, a senior manager for research and development at the Kenya statistics bureau who works on poverty data. 

He said the index in the 2020 report was not a measure of the overall poverty rate. 

“The multidimensional index looks beyond income to include access to safe water, education, electricity, food, and six other indicators,” he said. 

A closer look at the 2020 report shows that it uses data from the 2015/16 survey. The statistics bureau also warns that the findings should be interpreted with caution, due to survey design limitations. 

Given these facts, we rate Wanjigi’s claim as misleading. – Makinia Juma

Claim: “Livestock today [accounts for] 4% of our agricultural GDP. It employs a few 100,000 people.”

Verdict: Misleading

We asked Dr Timothy Njagi, a development economist and research fellow at the Tegemeo Institute, an agriculture policy think tank hosted at Egerton University, where we could find data to verify this claim.

He directed us to the statistics bureau’s economic survey. This shows that in 2020, animal production made up 3.6% of national GDP, not 4% of “agricultural GDP”. 

Wanjigi seemed to have mangled his numbers, Njagi said. 

Does livestock employ around 100,000 people? There is no official data on the number of people employed in the agricultural sector because Kenya has never done an agricultural census, Njagi said. 

And most smallholder farmers practise mixed farming, engaged both in livestock and crop production. Double counting would therefore be a concern with any estimate, he said. – Dancan Bwire

Claim: “In 2013 president Uhuru Kenyatta won that election. Didn’t you see the difference in votes? The difference was 800,000 votes.”

Verdict: Correct

In 2013, Kenyatta narrowly beat Raila Odinga, an outcome the opposition leader unsuccessfully challenged in court.

Wanjigi said he ran a tallying centre that confirmed Kenyatta’s victory.

He said: “Kenyatta won that election. Didn’t you see the difference in votes? The difference was 800,000 votes. I believe the competitors went to court and what happened? They lost.”

Chris Kerkering is litigation manager at the Katiba Institute, a nonprofit organisation that promotes knowledge of the constitution and its use in society.  

For a candidate to be declared winner of a presidential election in Kenya, they must have 50% plus one vote in their basket. 

“The candidate also has to have 25% of the votes in each of more than half of the counties cast in their favour,” said Kerkering.

He pointed us to the electoral commission’s data for the 2013 elections, which shows that Kenyatta narrowly pipped Odinga by a slim margin, winning 50.07% of the vote.

The data shows Kenyatta got 6,173,433 votes, and Odinga 5,340,546 – a difference of 832,887 votes.

The claim is therefore correct. – Grace Gichuhi

Researched by Africa Check

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