As prices of staple commodities continue to increase, Kenyans are left in a daze, questioning the direction of the country’s economy, especially as elections approach.
Recent statistics from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics show commodities such as maize and wheat, Irish potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cabbages, kales and cooking oil rose by an average of 20 percent in January compared with the same period in 2021.
This trend is true for other basic commodities like bathing soap and tissue. The prices of the two products have more than doubled in three months. The costs of top brands have doubled since February.
A 200-sheet two-ply tissue paper goes for up to Sh58. Bella and Toilex go for Sh40; Hanan and Velvex Sh55, and Tena Sh58. For 10 rolls of toilet paper, Bella and Toilex go for Sh391, and Hanan and Tena Sh539.
As for bathing soap, Geisha 225g sells for Sh119; Sawa 250g for Sh90; Diva 200g for Sh130, and Imperial Leather 175g for Sh130. A four-pack Imperial Leather 125g goes for Sh280 and 175g for Sh400, while three 200g Geisha soaps selling for Sh320.
Steve Biko Wafula, a financial research analyst, told the Nation that five factors lead to such an unbearably high cost of living, warning that things could get worse.
“The number of taxes we keep approving every day in Parliament; two, the Russia-Ukraine war has created a negative ripple effect, especially in the agro-processing industry in terms of imports," he said.
The current state of the economy, he said, is compounded by the prevailing toxic political environment where everyone is focusing on the wrong priorities.
“Everyone is focusing on politics; no one is staying in the office to work. Then, of course, there’s the issue of the debt burden that we have, in that for every Sh100 that KRA is collecting, Sh70 goes into debt repayment,” he said.
“You find that the remaining Sh30 is not enough for recurrent expenditure, development or even being able to create room for protection cover for the ordinary wananchi.”
As elections approach, more money is expected to be spent.
“The ripple effect is only getting stronger every day in a negative way, because now we need to increase taxes to be able to get money for development and debt payment. We are getting into the election period, [and that] is going to need money and we don’t have that money,” Mr Wafula said.
The effects of poor rains also pose a threat to the agricultural sector as farmers decry low food production.
“The other aspect is that the rains have failed, so in terms of agriculture, because we are dependent on rain, our harvests have gone down. Right now a 90kg bag of maize is retailing at Sh7,500 in Bungoma and Sh6,800 in Kakamega,” he said.
With the challenges the country is facing economically, Mr Wafula said, the Kenyan shilling continues to lose its value.
“All these are creating a negative impact daily and we have seen because of what is happening in Russia and Ukraine, our shilling is performing poorer, meaning everything is becoming more expensive,” he said.
And as taxes continue to increase, so do the prices of fuel. The massive ripple effect across all sectors is leading to a ridiculously high cost of living that has left many Kenyans questioning whether leaders grasp the problems and how to address them.
“Increasing taxes has made it harder to get affordable fuel, to such an extent that no government is going to remove the subsidy and currently we are buying fuel at Sh160 per litre. By the end of the month, we will be looking at Sh185 or Sh190 per litre. This alone is going to make it very difficult," Mr Wafula said.
In a lot of trouble
“Cooking oil is no longer affordable … thanks to what is happening on global markets. Due to poor rains, normal food items like fruits and vegetables are going to be very expensive for the normal folk to afford, so looking forward we are actually in a lot of trouble.”
More Kenyans are protesting rising prices of ordinary items, and they are venting their frustrations social media.
Here's what Kenyans had to say on Twitter: Juma G 🇰🇪 said: “A 10-roll tissue paper at Naivas is now at Sh519. This was 299 shillings a few weeks ago. What if supermarkets are just imagining their own prices because we aren't complaining? This is just so crazy!”
Janet Ngugi said: “Those same rolls are being sold for less than 250 in Kamukunji. Supermarkets are inflating these prices with no basis. You can't convince me otherwise. Serviettes that we used to buy for between 80 & 95 are now 115 to 130, same as facial tissues. Madness!”
Another Kenyan lamented: “Kenya is so economically imbalanced that [it’s] so hard to raise concerns about price hike, also those who control prices control information. We are a just a low budget mafia state (sic).
Dark Coco said: “I thought I was the only one seeing this ... Tissue 10, 545.. Mmoja inauzwa 54bob... ONE TISSUE!! What the hell is this.. Money laundering or what?? (sic)”
Alfayo Oranga said: “Sijui mnanunuanga wapi tissue but place naishi it’s 350. It was 250 until February when prices started rising. Bado sijaona tissue ya Mia tano. Ikifika hapo nitahamia penye kuna kichaka.”
As prices of basic commodities continue to increase, Kenyans fear things will only get worse and this will spread to other products.