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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

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
0.8836
JPY
USD
118.88
GBP
USD
0.6451
CAD
USD
1.2469
INR
USD
61.751

Rates may not be current.