Living In the Time Of Bandits: The Kenyan Economy

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March 23, 2016

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Early this year, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga made a statement that would quickly become famous in the Kenyan landscape.

Quoted in an interview with a Dutch Newspaper, the CJ compared Kenya’s current economy with the organized crime cartels run by the infamous Al Capone during America’s prohibition era in the 1920s.

Consisting of corrupt politicians and corporate heavy weights, Mutunga pointed out that Kenya loses millions every day to both outright crimes perpetrated with the protection of senior players in the Kenyan political scene as well as legitimate government funds siphoned into private accounts.

The most popular quote from that interview was of course when the CJ termed Kenya a bandit economy.

Towards the end of February, our very own president seemed to echo these statements, albeit in a far more colorful way.

During a state visit to Israel, President Kenyatta noted that we as a country were “experienced in stealing” and other crimes.

Speaking to Kenyans in Israel, the president is also quoted as having stated that Kenyans promote tribalism and ethnic division, which had stunted our potential development and caused us to lag far behind the developing world.

While many took offense to these statements, pointing the finger back at the President and Chief Justice for failing to control the rampant theft and corruption in their jurisdiction, let’s take a moment to consider.

Last week, we saw the Insurance Regulatory Authority oversee the closure of over 70 companies involved in the insurance industry.

The closure was inspired by a Kenyan cliché that we have seen play out in the news time and time again: operating without permits required by insurance law.

The closures affected motor assessors, investigating firms, insurance brokers, surveying companies, loss assessors and more.

This crackdown affected companies that had not been cleared by the IRA to operate in their capacities which may not seem like a major offense until you realize that one of the core functions of the regulatory body is to ensure that stakeholders involved in providing you with insurance are properly vetted and qualified.

The effects of this unsupervised operation is clear: the insurance industry has in the recent years been rocked by rising incidents of fraud, linked to unscrupulous parties involved in the process, from issuing cover to processing claims.

We will pause to point out that a major characteristic of a ‘bandit’ is operating outside of the law.

Photo credit: Duncan Hull / Flickr

Photo credit: Duncan Hull / Flickr

Speaking of questionable operations, the shareholders of retail giant Tuskys recently issued a statement of apology this week in an effort to regain the trust of the public ahead of their bid to list Tuskys on the Nairobi Securities Exchange.

An apology for what, you ask? Good question.

Last week it emerged that Tuskys shareholders, who have not been named, attempted to oust the sitting CEO Dan Githua.

Reports emerged last week that Githua had been forcibly removed from his office in a dramatic event that some allege involved a physical eviction as well.

The plot thickened with Githua proclaiming that he remained at Tuskys helm shortly after the appalling spectacle.

In spite of Githua’s protests, the retailer’s shareholders maintained in statements last week that Githua was actually on suspension pending investigations into alleged misconduct with yet anther heir serving as interim CEO.

These headlines of course come in the midst of ghastly revelations regarding theft in the NYS and more recently, the National Youth Fund.

One can only guess at which fresh scandals and stories of shameless theft await us in March, so until then, perhaps it is time to review our anger and process the fact that we are, in fact, living in the time of bandits. Do stay ethical, won’t you?


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