Infotrak Poll: 60pc of Kenyans feel country’s headed in wrong direction 

Protesters block Parliament Road in Nairobi during demonstrations against the high cost of living

Protesters block Parliament Road in Nairobi during demonstrations against the high cost of living on February 21, 2023.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Six out of 10 Kenyans feel the country is headed in the wrong direction, blaming it mainly on the high cost of living, says a new survey. 

Additionally, the public rates President William Ruto’s cabinet secretaries poorly, with Prof Kithure Kindiki (Interior and National Administration) leading with a 27 per cent approval rating.

Nearly two-thirds of those polled (62 per cent) said the country was headed in the wrong direction, with an overwhelming majority of them (73 per cent) citing the high cost of living. 

This was the top-most concern for most respondents in Central, North-Eastern, Eastern, Central, Rift Valley, Western, Nyanza and Nairobi regions at between 66 per cent and 74 per cent.

A similar trend emerged by gender and age. The Infotrak poll sampled 2,149 respondents (51 per cent female and 49 per cent male) from the eight regions between February 21 and 24. The research has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.1 per cent with a response rate of 94 per cent.

Only a paltry 22 per cent of Kenyans believe the country is headed in the right direction, citing the prevailing peace as their key reason (22 per cent) and the fourth one for their optimism being that the cost of living is affordable (10 per cent).

A prolonged drought, for which the cabinet yesterday approved an additional Sh4 billion to cushion suffering Kenyans, the war in Ukraine that has cut global supplies and the scrapping of subsidies are among the factors blamed for the rising prices.

Cost of living

The cost of living goes up when prices for basic commodities keep rising, eroding their purchasing power. These commodities are mainly food, fuel, electricity and other household necessities.

For instance, between August 2022 and January 2023, the average retail price for 50 kilowatts of electricity increased by 28.4 per cent, from an average of Sh796 in August 2022 to Sh1,023 in January, according to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data.

This means that, in January, small-scale electricity consumers paid 28 per cent more to access the same quantity of electricity they did in August last year.

The data also shows that, on average, a person living in a rented single room was in January paying 1.3 per cent more in rent as compared to August, after prices increased from an average of Sh3,857.24 to Sh3,908.15.

Households that consume ugali, a staple among Kenyan families, have also spent more on maize flour and sukuma wiki. Sukuma wiki prices rose from an average of Sh57.93 in September to Sh60.25 in January, as the cost of maize flour rose by about four per cent during the same period.

Cost of living

Kenyans take part in a procession along Nairobi streets on July 7, 2022 as they protested against the high cost of living. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

In a bold move, President Ruto defied the trend internationally by scrapping the subsidy on petrol. He argued that the billions spent on the fuel subsidy were not sustainable and that it only benefited cartels. 

Yesterday, the National Assembly’s Budget and Appropriations Committee recommended that the House rejects the payment of the Sh4 billion maize flour subsidy programme on the recommendations of the Agriculture Committee which was sceptical about the payment. 

The committee recommended the rejection pending an inquiry on the expenditure of the amounts. The outcome of the inquiry will inform the way forward; whether the accounting officer at the time the expenditure was incurred will be compelled to refund the monies or regularise the expenditure. 

The Agriculture Committee, while making its presentation to the Budget Committee, noted with concern that, at the start of the 2022/23 financial year, the government initiated the maize flour subsidy programme to cushion consumers against high prices. 

At the conclusion of the programme, initiated under the tenure of President Uhuru Kenyatta, it had accrued Sh7.3 billion. 

No documentation

The government paid Sh4 billion, leaving a balance of Sh3.27 billion. The Agriculture Committee said it was “sceptical about the expenditure” because the Ministry of Agriculture did not submit documentation to support the expenditure, including information on who the maize suppliers were, and where to and how much of the maize flour was supplied. Of concern to the MPs was that the subsidised maize flour was not available in most retail outlets. 

Regarding the poll, 15 per cent of respondents said they were not certain whether the country is on the right track while one per cent do not know which direction it is heading.

The majority of people in Nyanza (75 per cent) strongly feel the country is headed in the wrong direction, followed by Eastern and Western (66), Coast (62), Nairobi (62), Rift Valley (54), Central (52) and North Eastern (48).

President William Ruto when he was joined by cabinet secretaries and governors at State House, Nairobi

President William Ruto when he was joined by cabinet secretaries and governors at State House, Nairobi on September 26, 2022, before flagging off trucks carrying relief food across the country. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Apart from the high cost of living, other pressing concerns were high taxes imposed on people (five per cent) and unemployment (5 per cent). Other reasons are poor governance/country not being led well, bad politics, poverty, drought, rampant corruption, poor quality of education, lack of cohesion in the country, and insecurity among others.

Most of those who feel the country is on the right track cited peace followed by Kenyans living in harmony as well as the President being a God-fearing person, good devolution practices and a growing economy.

Kenyans believe Prof Kindiki, is the best performing Cabinet Secretary garnering 27 per cent, followed by Education’s Ezekiel Machogu(12), Youth Affair’s Ababu Namwamba (8), Health’s Susan Nakhumicha (5) and Agriculture’s Mithuka Linturi (5).

Interestingly, 21 per cent of Kenyans believe none of the CSs performed well, while 52 per cent feel that the ministries have performed poorly in the first 100 days in office, compared to 28 per cent who believe the cabinet has performed averagely. 

Only 14 per cent believe the ministries have done a good job with an even smaller percentage, six, ranking the ministries’ performance as excellent.

The Ministry of Information, Communication and the Digital Economy leads the pack in performance in the first 100 days in office, polling an approval rating of 54 per cent. 

It is followed by the Ministry of Roads and Transport (50), Ministry of Defence (49), Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage (48) and the ministries of Health, Education, Interior, Youth Affairs and Forestry sharing the spoils to scoop the fifth position with 47 per cent. 

The Ministry of Energy and Petroleum and that of National Treasury and Economic Planning scooped the last two spots with both scoring 35 per cent. 

[email protected] Additional reporting by Peter Mburu and David Mwere