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Kenya's quiet revolution

Johannes Zutt's picture

Kenya is in the midst of a quiet revolution—but many people, even in Kenya, seem to be unaware of it, or the enormous governance improvements that it is likely to bring.

We saw a new Kenya emerging last Friday when President Kibaki presided over an historic event that was hard to imagine in the old Kenya:   the launch of a government website, www.opendata.go.ke , that makes enormous volumes of government data available to the public in user-friendly formats. 

For the first time in Kenya’s history, core government data on population, the budget, education, health care and other public services are available to policy-makers, researchers, ICT developers, and citizens in an easily-accessible format.  This portal is one of the first and largest government portals with reusable data in sub-Saharan Africa, making Kenya one of the world’s leading exemplars of open data (see Time magazine's "Silicon Savanna").

But many observers of Kenya are unimpressed.  Why is that? 

Corruption in Kenya

Johannes Zutt's picture

On October 26, we learned that Kenya’s rank in Transparency Interational's  Corruption Perceptions Index dropped seven places since 2009.  Kenya now ranks 154 out of 178 countries—well below most of its EAC neighbors.  But how bad is it, in fact?  Will the new Constitution do anything to make the situation better?

In Kenya, no one seriously doubts that corruption is a key constraint to greater growth and prosperity. 

Corruption comes in two forms.  Petty corruption occurs when citizens are asked for kitu kidogo (“a little something”):  to get a document stamped, a service provided, or an infraction overlooked.  The amounts are small, but hardly petty to the many victims living on less than $1 a day.  Kenya also has large-scale corruption—public purchases made at inflated prices; public benefits handed out to people who are not entitled; fictitious companies being paid for contracts that they never executed.