Many Kenyans believe that Kenya’s economy was at its best during the reign of the late President Mwai Kibaki. Dr. Mwai Kibaki who was an economist from Makerere University in Uganda excelled in managing Kenya’s economy between 2002 and 2013 thanks to his academic and professional background and sufficient experience in national treasury prior to his presidency. During Kibaki’s reign, there was a global recession which began in the United States as a result of deregulation of the financial industry. There were also internal civil wars in the country which were fueled by tribalism in Kibaki’s government, unevenness in sharing national resources between regions and mistrust among politicians in the then ruling party. Despite all these challenges in Kibaki’s 10-year tenure as the country’s chief executive, the gentle Kenyan politician managed to place Kenya in the top 12 list of Africa’s largest economies with a moderately low appetite for foreign debt yet with fairly significant investment in infrastructure.
Just like John Myriad Keynes, a great classical economist whose ideologies are taught in business schools today, Kibaki believed in free markets and in liberalization of the economy through policy interventions. President Kibaki opened up commercial lending in the country by providing sound regulations of the money markets through the Central Bank of Kenya. Kibaki also grew revenue collections by expanding the tax collection base. He borrowed from the West and the East based on affordability of loans and reasonableness of terms and conditions. Kibaki’s success in public debt management went a long way in managing inflation levels and stabilizing the shilling against other currencies. Unemployment rate and poverty index of Kenya compared to other East African countries was slightly higher throughout Kibaki’s regime indicating that the gap between the rich and the poor existed at very wide margins. This could be attributed to the capitalistic nature of Kenya’s economy whose seeds had been sowed by Presidents Moi and Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya’s years of infancy. In my qualitative analysis of Kibaki’s performance as briefly summarized in this column, I found a leader who understood economics of the country in theory and in practice. The consummate economist set the stage for Kenya to take off as an economic powerhouse in Africa and as a significant participant in global trade. His policies on management of the economy are widely admired across political divides, private sector leaders and the electorate of his time.