Kenya: Uhuru Kenyatta's 2018 State of The Nation Address Fact-Checked

Photo: Nation
President Uhuru Kenyatta delivers his fifth State of the Nation address.

Kenya’s President delivered his fifth state of the nation address to a joint sitting of parliament in Nairobi. But did his claims tally up?

Following a drawn-out re-election in 2017 Uhuru Kenyatta is keen on refocusing the national agenda on development. His national address looked forward to securing his legacy as he serves out his final term.

But do the claims about what his administration achieved in its first term hold up to close scrutiny? Here’s what we found. (This report will be updated as new claims are completed.)

In 2010, a new constitution provided for the creation of 47 county governments. The law provides for equitable sharing of money with the counties of “not less that 15%” of all revenue collected by the national government. This amount is calculated using “the most recent audited accounts of revenue received, as approved by the National Assembly.”

Kenyatta said his government was “today far above” the constitutional threshold, adding that the allocations had in the five years since 2013, when the counties started operations, grown by 56%.

In the 2013/2014 financial year the government allocated KSh210 billion to the counties in total according to the 2013 Division of Revenue Act .

That was the total allocation including the equitable share, which was KSh190 million and 28% of the 2011/2012 revenues, which had been audited by parliament but not yet approved by the time the law was passed.

For the financial year 2017/2018 the 2017 Division of Revenue Act shows the national government allocated KSh302 billion in equitable share and KSh345.68 billion in total to the counties, not KSh327 billion stated by the president. The figure was thus understated by KSh18.69 billion and is actually a 65% rise in the five years. -Vincent Ng’ethe


Kenyatta said that despite the challenges posed by a prolonged 2017 election and drought, the Kenyan economy “remained resilient”.

According to the 2018 Economic Survey recently released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics , Kenya’s gross domestic product at market price s is estimated to have grown 4.9% in 2017.

While it is the first time economic growth has fallen below 5% under Kenyatta, the 2017 slowdown is actually a good news story “given the disruptions we have had”, development economist Anzetse Were told Africa Check. In an earlier review of this figure, Were said that “previous  analysis indicates that the economy tends to slow down in an election year by about 1.2%-1.4% per cent”.

The use of ‘real GDP’ as opposed to market price GDP does not change the figures as inflation is usually considered when calculating economic growth from year to year. This Kwame Owino, the chief executive officer of Nairobi-based economic think-tank Institute of Economic Affairs , told Africa Check. -Vincent Ng’ethe

A maternal death is defined as the death of a woman during pregnancy, childbirth or within 6 weeks after birth, but not from accidental or incidental (such as self-harm) causes.

When given as the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in a specified period it is referred to as a maternal mortality ratio.

The United Nations views a ratio of fewer than 100 deaths per 100,000 live births as low. Once the ratio crosses the 300 barrier, it is considered high and above 500 very high.

The president’s figure of 488 deaths per 100,000 births was from 2008-09 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), Dr Elizabeth Kimani-Murage, the head of the maternal and child wellbeing unit at the African Population and Health Research Center , told Africa Check.

This survey covered the 10 years before and is what would have been available to Kenyatta’s government when it took office in 2013.

In November 2015 the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey was published and remains the most recent. This survey estimated that Kenya’s maternal mortality ratio was 362 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Survey data was not available to the UN

But the UN estimated this figure at 510 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015. This is because data from the DHS 2014 had not been available to the UN when it published its modelled estimates, Dr Doris Chou, a medical officer at the World Health Organisation’s department of reproductive health and research, told Africa Check.

The “confidence intervals” of the two estimates – the UN and the DHS – overlap meaning it was highly likely that there was no statistical difference between them.  “When we update our estimates, the 2014 DHS information will be included, and its inclusion will likely make the differences observed between the internationally comparable UN estimates and the DHS smaller; because more country specific data is being used to help shape the estimates,” Chou said. -Lee Mwiti

This claim is one of the president’s ‘Big Four’ agenda for the next five years. Its aim is to have every Kenyan covered by medical insurance by the end of his current and final term.

The national statistics office in 2013/14 put the membership of the National Health Insurance Fund at 3.8 million .

During his inauguration in November 2017 Kenyatta put the number of Kenyans covered by the National Health Insurance Fund as 6.8 million “beneficiaries”. The Economic Survey 2018 released by the national statistics office also has the same number for 2016/7.

Kenyatta said his administration intended to raise the number of beneficiaries to 13 million “Kenyans and their dependents” within five years.

Kenyatta was referring to principal members when he talked of “beneficiaries”, the public insurer told Africa Check in January 2018. It further provided information showing it had 7,058,603 contributing members at the end of December 2017.

(Note: However, only half of this number, or 3,500,478 were active members, meaning that only they and their dependents could be treated at approved hospitals immediately. Members in arrears must first update their account if they are to be treated, and this can take up to 30 days meaning the president’s claim needs more context.) -Lee Mwiti


Kenyatta said that despite what had been a protracted election year, receipts from tourism had actually grown.

In 2017 Kenya earned KSh119.9 billion from tourism  according to the 2018 Economic Survey. This, the national statistics office said, was a 20.3% increase from 2016, when earnings were KSh99.7 billion.

The data agency attributes this to an 8% rise in the number of international visitors from 1.34 million in 2016 to 1.45 million in 2017. –Vincent Ng’ethe


Kenya has a total road network 161,451 km, according to the 2017/2018 annual public roads programm e published by the Kenya Roads Board . It does not however break this down by type.

The country had 11,200 km of bitumen road in 2013, when Kenyatta took office. This is according to the Economic Survey 2018. The new administration pledged to increase this to 24,000 km of paved road in the next five years, or by 12,800 km.

Evaluating this claim is further compounded by the variation in official data.

In 2017, the national statistics office says that bitumen roads had increased to 20,600 km, or by 9,400 km. In 2016, the agency had the tarmac road network at 14,500 km, meaning 6,100 km of road was added in just one year. (Note: In the same year the statistics office also has a figure of 11,796 km of tarmac road.)

But a January 2018 report by the national treasury showed that between financial year 2013/2014 and 2016/2017 some 1,919 km of bitumen road were built.

Our year-long efforts to get data from the government on the status of the road network have so far turned up empty. We will however keep trying.



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