Elections in Kenya – The Numbers

We sought to establish the real numbers behind Kenyan electioneering in this blog. It may seem a simple task at the onset, but it gets complex as we dig deeper. What makes it complex is not gathering information on IEBC budget and spending but compiling/estimating data on the spending by candidates in their campaigns. 

The IEBC Perspective

For the just concluded 2022 elections, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) had a budget of Ksh. 40.9 billion. To appreciate the significance of this budget, we decided to calculate some simple ratios:

Comparative Review

According to a report done by Quartz Africa, Kenya has one of the most expensive election processes. The table below shows the cost per voter in recent elections in the region:

However, it is important to note that the 2017 numbers in Kenya also include the re-run of the presidential elections. The initial general election, including the presidential elections, was conducted in August 2017. However, the Supreme Court annulled the presidential election due to illegalities and anomalies in the election process. The subsequent presidential election was held in late October of the same year at an additional cost to the IEBC.

Additionally, it is worth noting that each country has a different electoral process. For example, Rwanda’s electoral system includes the President, eighty Chamber of Deputies, twenty-six Senators, and local elections where members of sector and district councils are chosen.

Out of these positions, the electorate directly votes for the President, fifty three members of the Chamber of Deputies and locally at the cell level. The rest of the positions are won through appointment or indirect election from respective councils. According to the East African, a total of 538 candidates vied for 80 parliamentary positions in the 2018 elections in Rwanda. In comparison, the total number of parliamentary positions in Kenya (Senator, Women Representative, Member of Parliament) were 384, with 2,831 interested candidates.

The New York Times states that one of the reasons the elections in Kenya are so expensive is due to general mistrust from the electorate. This has forced IEBC to invest heavily in the voting process. The New York Times goes on to report that the ballot papers used in the 2022 elections have more security features than the local currency note, such as invisible ink, watermarks, embossing and microprinting.

But this is not the whole picture

The election period also brings with it massive campaign spending from candidates seeking to fill the various available positions. Aljazeera  reports that to curb exorbitant campaign spending, IEBC had proposed to further place a cap on spending by candidates based on the Campaign Finance Act passed in 2013. The Campaign Finance Act was supposed to be first implanted in the 2017 elections but got push back from Parliament. For the 2022 elections, IEBC wanted to amend the Act, which would have placed the limit on campaign spending by the presidential candidates at Ksh. 4.4 billion and a cap on political party budgets at Ksh. 17.7 billion. Parliament rejected the proposal by the IEBC in 2021.

The current limits on campaign spending are as follows:

Actual Estimated Spending

We sought to estimate how much was spent in the campaigns leading up to the August 2022 elections.

Our methodology:

We used data from IEBC, Transparency International and our own research to estimate on how much candidates would spend. We broke it down as follows:

  1. Major candidates

2.We then took into account the 80/20 rule to assume that, on average, the minor candidates would spend 20% of the amount a major candidate spends at any position. For the MCA position, we lowered the threshold to 10%. Therefore, the average spending by minor candidates was as follows:

The table below illustrates our calculations:

Our estimated total campaign spending for all elective seats was Ksh 61.7 billion.

The graph below shows the total spending for each elective seat:

As the data above shows, the parliamentary position would have attracted the most campaign spending at 48%. This was followed by the presidential position at 20% of the total spent.

What does this mean?

Based on the above calculations and considering the assumptions made, it would seem that the candidates spend just as much as the IEBC, making the total amount spent in elections a whooping Kes. 102.6 Bln.

The key question is, where does/did this money go? Apart from the IEBC breakdown identified earlier, in our view, some sectors are well primed to benefit from this kind of spending. These include printing, logistics, entertainment, public relations, advertising etc.

Public offices should ideally be sought after to provide service to a country’s citizens. If this statement were true, we would expect that the amount of investment candidates put into getting elected should not significantly outweigh the salaries and benefits candidates would expect from their office. We sought to check if this assumption would hold in the Kenyan elections. For this analysis, we sought to compare the total 5-year salary for each competitive position with the respective spending by a major candidate, as shown below:

Our analysis shows a mixed bag. For the MCA position, the salary and benefits would far outweigh the campaign spend. For the president position, however, the equation tilts significantly. Based on our analysis, the salary and allowances account for just 2% of the campaign spend. We note that our analysis has not factored in several factors, such as prestige, influence, ability to generate business for the candidate or his / her associates, etc.

At InVhestia, we seek to remove the gamble from complex business decisions using numbers. We always insist that an analysis of the numbers should always precede any other analysis. If you want to run for an elective position in 2027, we hope this supports your first-level analysis!


August 2022 Newsletter

A glance at the month that has been;

  • Kenya’s inflation rate rose by 0.2% points to 8.5%,
  • The Kenya shilling continued depreciating to close the month at Kshs 120.0,
  • Toyota Kenya acquired a 35% stake in solar installation company Ofgen for an undisclosed value,
  • In our Number Play section, we analyze how earnings affect the valuation of a firm and how understating earnings can complicate valuation discussions with potential investors.

July 2022 Newsletter

A glance at the month that has been;

  • Kenya’s inflation rate rose by 0.4% points to 8.3%,
  • The Kenya shilling continued depreciating to close the month at Kshs 118.8,
  • Actis and Mainstream Renewable Power signed an agreement to sell Lekela Power to Infinity Group & Africa Finance Corporation (AFC)
  • In our Number Play section, we estimate how much  the Amethis Consortium made after the sale of their Naivas stake

June 2022 Newsletter

A quick glance at the month that has been;

  • Kenya’s inflation rate rose by 0.8% points to 7.9%,
  • The Kenya shilling continued depreciating, to close the month at Kshs 117.8,
  • Proparco partnered with IBL Group to acquire a 40% interest in Naivas Ltd, and,
  • In our Number Play section, we looked at the factors that led to ARM Cement collapsing with over USD 190 mn in debt.

The Achilles heel to East Africa’s largest Economy

Kenya is the largest economy in East Africa, with a GDP of USD 110.3 mn and a growth rate of 6.7% in 2021. Despite this commendable growth, there has been little trickle-down effects on the common mwananchi as the cost of living continues to rise. For instance, the prices of basic food items such as a 2kg packet of maize floor rose to Kshs 205 in July 2022, from Kshs 100 one year ago. The prices of 1 litre cooking oil (salad) have also increased by 50.8%, to an average  price of Kshs 400, from Kshs 265 during the same period, mainly due to the disruption in the supply of palm oil which is the main ingredient used to manufacture cooking oil.

With Kenya having concluded its election period and with the high cost of living, we decided to write a piece on Kenya’s current economic status. This blog will not be a political piece or focus on what the outgoing government could have done better. However, what we intend to accomplish is to paint a better picture of where we are as an economy.

Economic indicators

  1. Inflation

Kenya’s inflation rate has been on an upward trajectory since the beginning of the year, with July’s inflation rate coming in at 8.3%, the highest rate since August 2017. This was the second time in 5 years since the inflation rate was above the government’s target of 2.5% – 7.5%, with the first time being in June 2022, when the inflation rate was 7.9%. The Monetary Policy Committee has been proactive in taming the rising inflation rates by increasing the Central Bank Rate (CBR) by 50 basis points to 7.5% in May 2022, from 7.0%. It is important to note that the rising inflation rates being experienced in Kenya is mainly cost-driven.

In cost-push inflation, the prices of goods and services rise due to the increasing cost of production or raw materials. The weakening of the local currency is also an attributer to this type of inflation, as it increases the prices of imported goods. Consequently, this price growth is transferred from producers to consumers, a scenario currently being seen in Kenya. To put this better into perspective, we have tabulated the prices of essential items in 2021 vs 2022 below:

As seen in the above table, Kenyans have to dig deeper into their pockets to afford basic commodities. For instance, for a common mwananchi to eat Ugali and Sukuma wiki (Kenya’s staple food), they would need to spend more than Kshs 260 in July 2022, compared to Kshs 156 in July 2021. Githeri would cost approximately Kshs 213 compared to Kshs 183 last year.

However, the high cost of living is not unique to Kenya, as other countries, such as Tanzania, recorded the highest inflation rate since 2017 in July 2022 at 4.5%. South Africa’s June 2022’s rate of 7.4% was the highest in 13 years, breaking through the upper limit of the Reserve Bank’s target range of 3.0%-6.0%. The graph below highlights Kenya’s inflation rates for the past 10 years:

  1. Public Debt

Herbert Hoover once said, “Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt”. Over the last decade, Kenya’s total debt has increased by 431.9% to Kshs 8.6 tn in May 2022, from Kshs 1.6 tn recorded in May 2012. The debt composition of the country has also evolved, with the debt mix being 50:50 external to domestic debt in May 2022, compared to 45:55 external to domestic debt in May 2012. In the last two years, as shown in the graph below, the increase in the debt levels was driven by the increased spending on COVID-19 related spending and infrastructure projects.

According to Reuters, the recent rise in Eurobond yields, more specifically the 10-year Eurobond maturing in 2024, led to the treasury cancelling its plans to float another Eurobond. The yields on the 2024 Eurobond reached peaks of 22.0% in July 2022, higher than the issue rate of 6.6%. The government has instead looked to borrow from Commercial banks to plug in the fiscal deficit, which is estimated to be 6.2% of GDP.

Despite the shift to cheaper concessional loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) & the World Bank, Kenya’s debt service to revenue ratio which is currently at 47.6%, is expected to reach highs of 79.3% in 2024 by the IMF. With 67.9% of the external debt being dominated in USD, the weakening of the Kenya shilling will continue to expose the country to high levels of debt distress and debt unsustainability.

  1. Revenue performance and fiscal discipline

In the past, the government has struggled to meet its revenue collection target, save for the 2021/2022 and 2020/2021 fiscal years. The over-projection of the revenue collection stems from the high expenditure set in the budget. For instance, in the 2022/2023 budget original estimates, the treasury has projected the total revenue collected to be Kshs 2.4 tn vs an expenditure of Kshs 3.3 tn. The budget deficit will be financed by the Kshs 862.4 bn borrowings. Despite the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) being proactive in expanding the tax base and improve revenue collection, Kenya should embark on fiscal discipline to reduce the widening fiscal deficit. This entails ensuring the share of development expenditure is more than 30% as prescribed by the Public Finance Management Act Section 15 (2) (a). In the recent budget, the recurrent expenditure consumes the largest share of the budget at 67%, with the development expenditure having a paltry 22%. County allocations account for the remaining 11%.

While recurrent expenditure is important, the government should focus on spending more on development expenditure to boost economic growth. Kenya being a Small Open Economy (SOE) is susceptible to economic shocks and as such, there is need to invest more in fiscal stimulus measures.

A case of Ghana and Sri Lanka

Ghana – In July 2022, Ghana opened talks with the IMF seeking USD 2 bn which will be used to bail out the country from an economic crisis. The country faces high inflation rates of 32% in July 2022 (the highest since 2003), a depreciating Cedi, a widening account deficit, and high debt levels of USD 45.5 bn (debt to GDP Ratio of 77%). If the IMF comes to Ghana’s aid, it will be the 17th time since the country’s independence. The country’s lower credit ratings and high expenditure at a time when revenue collection has been on a decline have left the government with no other alternative but to resort to the IMF.

Sri Lanka – The collapse of the Sri Lankan economy was a case of high debt levels, dwindling forex reserves, high budget and current account deficits, hyperinflation, and a devalued currency. The government’s poor economic policies such as the policy to transition farmers to organic farming by banning chemical fertilizers led to the country’s tea production and rice production slump by 18% and 20%, respectively. Key to note, Sri Lanka was the 4th largest tea producer in the world in 2021. To read more on Sri Lanka, click here.

Our take

For Kenya to remain the largest economy in East Africa, the incoming government needs to focus on the following:

  1. Embarking on more fiscal consolidation measures such as reducing the country’s recurrent expenditure which continues to account for the largest share of the budget,
  2. Stimulating the Private Sector and increasing agricultural production,
  3. Expanding the tax base to increase the country’s revenue collection and,
  4. Restoring investors’ confidence. This will contribute to declining bond yields and enable the country to borrow at cheaper rates.

Kenya needs to learn from the Sri Lankan economic collapse as one wrong policy decision could lead to economic turmoil. To compare where Kenya is against Sri Lanka, click here.

Written by: Ann Wacera

Disclaimer: This blog was inspired by the Economic symposium on ‘The Rising Cost of Living in Kenya: Causes, Effects and Policy Options’ held by Strathmore business school in July 2022.