It is election year again, a year when there usually is a change of guard in a good number of political offices and politicians, as is the norm, go round on a charm offensive trying as much as possible to get citizens to vote for them. While I may not be a voice of authority on all matters politics, I definitely have a thing or two to comment about on the effects that the coming election will have on East Africa’s biggest economy.
Historically, elections seldom had positive effects on the economy. At least that has been the case. This has especially been the case since the introduction of the multi-party system in 1992. To date, Kenya has held 10 elections, with 5 elections being held when Kenya was still a single party state and the other 5 held after 1992 when Kenya finally became a multi-party state. Research has so far shown that the country’ economy usually slows down or comes to a complete stand still during an election year. This is evidenced by the fact that the economy slowed down or came to stand still during two elections during the single party era and during three elections during the multi-party era.
There are several reasons that can be attributed to the slowdown in economic growth, chief among them being that there could be expected clashes. Since the introduction of the multi-party system, Kenya has been prone to civil unrest during the election period. The worst case was the aftermath of the 2007 elections which resulted in more than 1000 Kenyans losing their lives. Although the country had experienced a positive economic growth the previous year, the violence and clashes experienced in several parts of the country and disruption of normal business operations almost crippled the country’s economy. As is expected the country fell into a period of darkness that resulted in a slowed economic growth. Although there had always been a possibility of civil unrest in different parts of the country, the possibility increased with the introduction of a multi-party system in the country’s politics, a scenario that turned the country into a fertile ground for polarization as different regions fiercely supported their political candidates for the top job.
The possibility of political unrest has forced businesses to adopt a wait and see approach in their operations. During the election year, businesses in Kenya have been known to stop any form of expansions in the form of recruiting more employees and investing more funds in different aspects of their organizations. This, in turn, has had negative results in the country economic growth for the specific year. The same wait and see approach has also been used by foreign investors who decide to wait until a new government has successfully taken office without any hiccups before they can continue investing in the country. The same can also be said of tourism where tourist numbers into the country fall during election years only for them to start picking up during subsequent years.
As the country approaches the August elections, economists project that its effects will not be great. Yes, there are going to be a few disruptions here and there, but not big enough to disrupt the normal flow of life. It is therefore expected negative effects on the economic growth will be very small. To all Kenyans reading this, as much as it is important to exercise your democratic right, accepting defeat is part of that democratic right, and there is no reason to engage in acts of violence should your preferred political candidate fail to win in the oncoming elections. So vote wisely and accept the outcomes of the elections positively. Peace!