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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact 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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9152
JPY
USD
122.70
GBP
USD
0.6494
CAD
USD
1.2374
INR
USD
63.925

Rates may not be current.