Kenyans are bracing for tougher economic times ahead as commodity prices continue to rise, amid political jitters occasioned by election campaigns.
The latest report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that in December 2021, the average inflation rate was 5.73 percent, resulting mainly from the rise in the prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages, transport, housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels. The rise is consistent with past elections in 2017 and 2013 where the inflation rates peaked during the election year ahead of polls. Kenya is scheduled to hold elections on August 9 this year.
During the 2017 elections, prices increased every month closer to the elections and peaked in September, just after the ballots were cast before dropping steadily. The depreciation of the Kenyan currency against the US dollar shows that Kenyans’ purchasing power is falling, also an indicator of the rising prices.
In just a year, the exchange rate between the Kenya shilling and US dollar has dropped from $0.0092 per shilling to $0.0088 per shilling and continues to drop after hitting a record low on December 3, 2021. It was exchanging at Ksh114 per dollar this week. A similar trend in currency reduction was witnessed prior to the 2017 elections.
Kwame Owino, chief executive of the Institute of Economic Affairs told The EastAfrican that the rising prices is not because of the elections themselves per se but because of the calamities that have always coincided with elections in Kenya.
“The natural calamities, such as floods and droughts, occur during election years, causing food shortages hence the higher prices. The flooding experienced in 2013 and the nation-wide maize shortage of 2017 can explain the rise in prices in those years,” said Mr Owino. Currently, several parts in Kenya are experiencing drought, with some areas in the coastal and south-eastern regions reporting the worst rainfall performance since 1981. A report by the UN in November 2021 stated that the drought has significantly affected crop production.