Kenyans cheered Mwai Kibaki Wednesday as he presided over his last national day celebrations as President, citing his efforts to revive the economy from a negative 1.6% in 2001.
“Ten years ago when I took office, we promised to make Kenya a prosperous and working nation. We also emphasized that nation building was not the responsibility of the Government alone and that indeed all Kenyans had a role to play in rebuilding our country,” Kibaki said.
Under President Kibaki’s rule, the economy was revived from the end of 2002 when the economy was facing “very serious challenges”. This was mainly done through investment in infrastructure, energy, education and the expansion of communication.
President Kibaki attributed the growth to “focused leadership and sheer hard work” by Kenyans across the country.
Despite the global economic meltdown, the local challenges, including the post-election violence experienced in 2008, the Grand Coalition Government was able to steer the country to recovery, Kibaki said in his speech.
Kenyan economy recorded 4.5% growth rate in 2011. This year, growth is projected at 5%.
“As a nation, we can confidently say that the foundation to move Kenya into a middle income country by 2030 has been firmly laid. The journey towards the transformation of our country is on course,” he said in his speech to mark the country’s 49th independence anniversary from British rule.
Kibaki cited the growth in agriculture, infrastructure development, increased tax revenues, financial inclusivity and ICT development.
The agricultural sector which is the backbone of the economy has seen major developments over the last 10 years.
“Poverty levels have reduced from 56 percent to 46 percent. Food security levels have also improved. In addition, numerous public institutions in the agricultural sector have been revived. To reduce reliance on rain-fed production.
President Kibaki is being praised at home for his record in the growth of Infrastructure.
“We were driven by the conviction that improved road, railway and air transport networks as well as expansion of energy and telecommunications facilitate the movement of goods and people across the country and our region,” Kibaki said.
The government built new roads and expanded and rehabilitated others, while the railway network was revamped and airports modernized.
The capacity at port of Mombasa was increased and work has begun on the construction of a new port in Lamu. The new port is part of the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport project (LAPSSET).
Kibaki said the port project will be a new economic development corridor that will open up vast areas in the northern part of the country.
It will also fast track regional integration efforts by linking two neighbours, South Sudan and Ethiopia.
In the energy sector, Kibaki said increased electricity connections rose from 600,000 to over 2 million connections.
Those efforts have been made possible because an expanded economy has enlarged the tax base.
Kenya’s national budget was Ksh250 billion and the tax revenues were Ksh180 billion.
“We depended on donor funding to finance a large part of our national budget. In the last ten years, we have been able to significantly increase our tax revenues to over Ksh700 billion. Kenya finances over 95% of its budget from local sources.
“This economic independence is a key achievement that Kenyans should be very proud of. We are now in control of our economic destiny and able to make important economic decisions that will improve the lives of our people,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kibaki said over 20 million Kenyans have access to financial services, a majority through the revolutionary mobile money solutions developed by Kenyans working with telecommunications companies.
He said the expansion of banking services to all parts of our country has led to increased access to credit by our small and medium size enterprises.
Kenya has made great strides in ICT. In 2003, there were less than a million mobile phones in Kenya. Today, there are about 30 million Kenyans using mobile phones. Internet users rose from 250,000 to over 14 million.
From just a handful of broadcasters, Kenya has expanded to 19 television stations and 81 radio stations.
This growth of ICT has been accompanied by the creation of thousands of jobs for our people. In order to take the ICT industry to the next level, the Government will soon commence development of Konza Techno City, Kibaki said.
In addition, farming activities need to be mechanized in order to improve productivity. Kenya also needs to rapidly industrialize. No country has achieved sustained economic growth without industrialization.
He said: “In the social sector, Kenya made great strides in education, health, water, and sanitation. In the area of education, we initiated the free and compulsory primary education.
“This programme has been a huge success with close to 10 million children enjoying access to basic education.
“Five years ago, we introduced free secondary school tuition. The result of these initiatives has seen our transition rate from primary to secondary school dramatically rise from 42 percent to over 70 percent.
Kenya reduced HIV/AIDS transmission rates and the Government facilitated the provision of anti-retroviral drugs.
Ten years ago, just 10,000 Kenyans had access to life-saving A.R.V. drugs compared to the current 500,000. Over 20 million mosquito nets have been distributed averting a malaria endemic in the last seven years.