News / Economy

Bombings Threaten Kenya Growth Goals

FILE - Bomb experts carry out investigations at the scene of an explosion along Biashara street in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa, May 22, 2014.
FILE - Bomb experts carry out investigations at the scene of an explosion along Biashara street in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa, May 22, 2014.
Reuters
Recent bombings in Kenya have dented President Uhuru Kenyatta's plans to boost tourism and undermined his pledge to restore security after last year's Westgate shopping mall attack.

Travel warnings issued by the United States, Britain, France and Australia last month have sent their citizens packing, emptying Kenya's palm-fringed beaches and forcing hotels to lay off staff.

On taking office last year Kenyatta vowed to lift tourist numbers to five million annually within five years, three times' last year's level, and get economic growth into double figures in his bid to raise incomes and lift millions out of poverty.

Those targets always looked optimistic to economists and seem further out of reach following a spike in attacks on Kenya, blamed on militants linked to Somalia, this year.

The travel alerts are also a fresh point of friction between the West and Kenyatta, whose pending trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has cast a shadow over relations with a nation seen as an ally in the battle against militant Islam.

"The West risks opening a new divide with Kenyatta as they did with the ICC, but the tension so far appears more benign," said Macharia Munene, a university lecturer in Nairobi.

Western governments said they could only have limited contacts with a leader facing charges of inciting ethnic killings after violence during elections in 2007 left about 1,200 dead. Kenyatta denies the charges and his case has been delayed due to a lack of witnesses.

The travel advisories have put the coastal city of Mombasa, where suspected Islamist bombers killed three people this month, off-limits to many tourists. Western governments have also urged vigilance elsewhere. As tourists fled, jobs have also gone.

"I was sent home... because there weren't enough visitors at the hotel," said 27-year-old Tumaini Sidi, a maid at the luxury Sai Rock Beach & Spa Hotel in Mombasa.

Beach resorts and safari lodges now face the challenge of securing bookings for the crucial July-September period, as Somalia's al Shabaab Islamist group has threatened more strikes if Kenya doesn't pull troops out of Somalia. Kenya said it won't quit Somalia.

Chinese tourists

Tourism is Kenya's second-biggest source of foreign exchange after agriculture, earning $1.02 billion last year or about 12 percent of the nation's gross domestic product.

But those figures only tell half the story. The industry is a major employer, providing about 500,000 jobs directly and generating work for a host of support industries, from food suppliers right down to vendors selling trinkets on the street.

Some 900 tourists cut short their holidays after Britain issued its warning on Mombasa on May 14, weighing on an industry that saw tourist numbers slide to 1.5 million last year after an all-time peak of 1.8 million in 2011.

If the decline deepens severely this year, some economists say it could shave 1 percentage point or more off economic growth, which the IMF forecasts at 5.5-6 percent.

"Kenyatta's double-digit target for economic growth was already overly optimistic, but the continued decline in the tourism sector will further complicate efforts to boost growth,'' said Sarah Collier at UK-based risk consultancy Maplecroft.
        
Worries of violence during last year's election had deterred many from visiting the country's white sandy beaches and game parks. A peaceful vote raised hopes for an upturn, only to be dashed when Al Shabaab gunmen stormed Nairobi's upmarket Westgate mall in September 2013, gunning down shoppers. At least 67 people died.

Kenyatta, whose family business empire includes a chain of hotels, is now trying to shore up the industry by encouraging domestic tourism: waiving taxes on air tickets and offering tax breaks to firms who pay staff holidays.
       
As Europeans, who account for nearly half of Kenya's tourists, become wary, the government is eying more visitors from China, but that is a long-term plan. There were only 38,000 Chinese visitors in the 2012/2013 fiscal year.

Central Bank Governor Njuguna Ndung'u played down prospects for a downturn in tourism that would hurt growth. ``It could only be a temporary hiccup,'' he told Reuters, citing a forecast of 5.6 percent for growth in fiscal 2014/15 starting July 1.    But if security worsens it could have a broader effect.

"The impact of the security situation on domestic confidence is far more important as a driver of growth,'' said Razia Khan, head of Africa research at Standard Chartered bank said. "This is where Kenya faces its greatest vulnerability."

Playing politics

Kenya insists it is on top of security and is tracking militants. "We are guarding... all known crowded areas within the city," said Nelson Marwa, Mombasa county government commissioner. "You will not see us but we are there."
       
Deputy President William Ruto said the government was being blamed for attacks that got through without being credited for the many more it has stopped.
        
Some Western diplomats, though, voiced frustration that Kenya had not bolstered security more robustly after Westgate. No top officials lost jobs over the attack, even when troops were found to have looted the mall during the four-day siege.
       
Western diplomats and security experts also say security forces are being hampered by poor coordination between agencies. And Kenyan strong-arm tactics can be counter-productive, despite counter terrorism and other training from Britain, the United States and Israel amongst others.

One diplomat pointed to the rounding up of hundreds of people from a Somali-dominated area of Nairobi after recent bombings.

"All it does is turn them more against you," he said, adding Kenya had to do more to win the battle against militant ideas and address the issues driving recruitment.
       
Al-Shabab has not claimed responsibility for the May attacks in Nairobi and Mombasa, which has prompted some to question whether the government is right to blame it. Officials insist it is al Shabaab or their sympathizers. Al Shabaab could not be reached for comment.

This highlights the challenge facing Kenya. Kenyan experts say al Shabaab may be increasingly turning to "hired hands'' from Kenya's own radicalized youth, many of them drawn from the Muslim community, which makes up 15 percent of the population.
        
"It is rented terrorists," said Mutahi Ngunyi of Nairobi-based consultancy firm Consulting House.

Privately, some Kenyan officials also say Washington and European governments are playing politics, seeking to punish Nairobi for its closer ties with Beijing and for awarding new contracts, such as a new railway, to China rather than the West.
        
Western states, who are big aid donors, say they are only acting because of security worries.

"We are not allowed to politicize security," said John Bradshaw, the British High Commission spokesman in Nairobi.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9298
JPY
USD
120.21
GBP
USD
0.6773
CAD
USD
1.2675
INR
USD
62.497

Rates may not be current.