The Kenyan corporate sector is mourning the loss of former President Mwai Kibaki who breathed his last on Friday aged 90.
Companies and private sector businesses described the Makerere University-trained economist as the ‘father’ of modern Kenya who laid the foundation for macroeconomic (inflation, interest rates and exchange rate) stability and economic prosperity for the East African nation.
The late Kibaki, who ruled the country from December 30, 2002 to April 8, 2013, is credited with lifting the economy from the mismanagement and economic blunders of the previous regime to a historic growth rate of 7.1 percent compared to a paltry 0.6 percent growth by the time he was taking over power in 2002.
“As a sector, we are deeply saddened by the death of the third President of the Republic of Kenya; a brilliant economist and politician whose reign at the Treasury and at State House has a lot to show in the economic strides Kenya made in that period,” said Habil Olaka, the chief executive of the Kenya Bankers Association (KBA).
“He gracefully launched the KBA documentary on the ‘History of Banking in Kenya’ in 2013 as he started his retirement.”
During his tenure, the number of people with access to financial services increased to 20 million in 2012 from one million in 2002 largely through the revolutionary mobile money solutions such as M-Pesa.
The growth of banking services resulted in increased access to credit by small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) and individuals.
“It is a very very sad day as the country mourns a man who laid the foundation of modern Kenya. A man who lived an impactful and significant life. Personally, I was privileged to be mentored and coached by him (Kibaki) as the Chair of Vision 2030,” said James Mwangi, chief executive of Equity Group Holdings (EGH) Ltd.
“He (Kibaki) understood the economy, the business and the levels of economic transformation. He is the father of the modern economy for his role in laying the foundation of macroeconomic stability that resulted in the stability of inflation, interest rates and exchange rate stability.”
The late president oversaw the creation of Kenya's long-term economic blue-print dubbed ‘Vision 2030’ plan aimed at raising gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate to 10 percent annually and transforming the country into a middle income status by the year 2030.
The Vision 2030 was launched on October 30, 2006.
“Kenya has lost an icon who inspired many with his contribution to improve our great country. A very brilliant mind and beacon of hope to many,” said Wycliffe Shamiah, chief executive of the Capital Markets Authority (CMA).
When Mwai Kibaki was sworn in as President of Kenya for the first term on December 30, 2002, Kenya’s economy was facing numerous problems mainly stemming from years of mismanagement and corruption. This had resulted into rising unemployment, declining school enrolment and deterioration of the education sector, lack of access to basic and affordable health services, dilapidated roads and other infrastructure network and growing insecurity.
From 4.5 percent in 2001, economic growth had slowed down to 0.6 per cent when Kibaki took over power in December 2002.
“He was an astute statesman, who had Kenyans’ interests at heart. During his tenure, the country recorded tremendous socio-economic growth. He spearheaded the development and implementation of key economic blueprints, such as Kenya Vision 2030, which continue to guide Kenya’s path to prosperity, to date,” said Phyllis Wakiaga, the chief executive of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM).
Kibaki’s tenure came to an end after the 2013 general election on March 4, 2013, leaving a healthy economy characterised by a low debt burden and increased domestic revenue collections.
Furthermore, infrastructure plans were being implemented, students in public primary schools had started learning free of charge, the number of public universities had increased, and economic growth had jumped to 7.1 per cent.
“From the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa) perspective we have lost a leader who challenged the private sector to form an umbrella body for the government to engage with the economy and development of the country and established structured engagements between private sector businesses and the government, including the presidential round table,” said Carol Kariuki, the chief executive of Kepsa.
“This saw Kenya’s economy grow from negative two percent to positive seven percent by 2007. He also oversaw the development of infrastructure developments such as [the] Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and Dongo Kundu, and financial deepening, among others, which were discussed in the presidential round table forum.”
In 2008, the Kenyan economy suffered major setbacks as a result of the 2007-08 post-election violence that rocked the country following a disputed election. This led to the creation of the Grand Coalition Government during Kibaki’s second term (2008-2013).
“We have lost the greatest economist in Kenya’s history. Never has there been a time that we needed his ideas more than now,” said Ken Gichinga, chief economist at Mentoria Economics.
The late President Kibaki also oversaw the promulgation of the Kenyan Constitution on August 27, 2010, setting off a series of reforms which shifted power to a number of independent institutions including the National Police Service, Judiciary, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), and the National Land Commission (NLC).