Kenya’s President William Ruto has been in office for exactly one year during which he has faced challenges with the economy and on the international stage.
Ruto, deputy president in the preceding administration, defeated opposition leader Raila Odinga in last year’s election after vowing to represent the interests of “hustlers” — the poorest Kenyans.
→ What have been the Kenyan president’s main policies?
President Ruto’s signature initiative has been the 50 billion Kenyan shillings ($342 million) Hustler Fund which was set up to create jobs and spur economic growth by providing affordable credit to individuals and small businesses. More than 21 million Kenyans have applied to access the facility.
→ Which key promises have not been kept?
The cost of living remains high for many Kenyans who have been hit by galloping inflation that hit 8.52% this August compared with 6.61% a year ago. Ruto vowed to protect the poorest Kenyans from economic hardship but his government’s removal of fuel, electricity, and maize subsidies has been blamed for higher living costs.
→ How are Kenyans faring under the “hustler” president?
The introduction of more taxes through Ruto’s first budget — the controversial Finance Bill 2023 — has added to the financial pressure felt by many Kenyans. A report released in July by Nairobi-based polling company Tifa Research showed that 52% of Kenyans surveyed in June this year believed the country was heading in the wrong direction, with increased economic hardship cited as the main reason.
→ What has Ruto done on the international stage?
Ruto hosted the Africa Climate Summit last week, bringing African leaders together to create a common continental framework for negotiations on climate financing and reparations. Other issues he has pursued internationally include a common currency for intra-African trade to ease dollar pressure, and lower interest rates on loans from multilateral lenders including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
→ What are the biggest challenges he faces?
Ruto heads a youthful population in need of job opportunities. He is also confronted with the impact of global crises, such as rising inflation spurred on by supply chain problems caused by the war in Ukraine. Decreased food production, largely due to extreme weather patterns tied to climate change, has exacerbated these difficulties. Ruto’s government is also grappling with mounting public debt.
The View From a Political Scientist
Political scientist Ken Opalo said Ruto’s administration had sent “some strong positive signals” on macroeconomic reforms. “They have abandoned costly subsidies, let the shilling float despite the ensuing rapid devaluation, and have been extremely aggressive with increasing tax revenues,” he said.
Opalo said that on the political front, Ruto’s government had shown a willingness to “constructively engage” with the opposition on potential political reforms. “That said, there are outstanding questions regarding the administration’s willingness to tackle structural inefficiencies in parastatals as well as the many pro-business regulatory reforms needed to unshackle small and medium firms,” he added.
— Additional reporting by Yinka Adegoke