perspective: land issues in Kenya and zimbabwe

This quote made me pause for a moment:

“As seen in this work, the naked exploitation of land rights has a far longer and more illustrious history in Kenyan than in Zimbabwe. Further, the human cost of such exploitation of land rights in Zimbabwe pales in comparison to Kenya. Human Rights Watch, which is not known to underestimate rights abuses, reports that, by the year 2000 seven white farmers and several tens of black farmers had been killed in Zimbabwe in such violent exploitation of land rights. By the year 2000, these activities in Kenya had resulted in the deaths of thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands”

That is Onoma in his book on the Politics of Property Rights Institutions in Africa.

Notice that the figures quoted do not include the victims of Kenya’s 2007-08 post election violence. 1300 died, and just over 300,000 were displaced.

In 1980 6000 (white) Zimbabweans owned 42% of the land in the country. How anyone, including the white farmers, thought this was sustainable in the long run beats me.

In some sense Zimbabwe was inevitable. South Africa is next.

Kenya: The Private Sector Still Has Faith in the system

The Kenyan economy is expected to grow by 4.3% this year. That is a downgrade from 6%, as had been projected by the treasury. Erratic rains, high cost of fuel (Kiraitu Murungi should resign), and general inflation are to blame.

The Shilling has also had a beating in the last few months. While a weak shilling is generally good for exports, it is is terrible for the fuel bill (oil is priced in USD). The Central Bank tried to mop up the excess Shillings in the economy with no avail. Last Saturday when I visited the local Western Union the Shilling was trading at KSHS 80 to the US dollar. Not so long ago the rate was in the low 70s.

The shaky macro-economy aside, the Kenyan private sector is doing OK.

Just the other day mortgage companies announced plans for 100% financing. House prices will definitely go up, at least in the short-run (a.k.a before the bubble bursts due to oversupply). The long-run benefits won’t be trivial. More construction means more jobs, the benefits of the multiplier effects of property, and (crucially and obviously) more houses. The current housing deficit runs in the hundreds of thousands of units per year.

Private sector confidence is also reflected in private sector leveraging. The private sector debt as a fraction of the economy has grown to about 50%. This is the best measure of confidence (in my view). Finance is fickle and thrives on stability. The bosses of Equity (and other banks) will not let the loudmouth tyrants and thieves who parade as democrats adversely affect their bottom line.

Because of its big service sector, future growth in Kenya will be predicated on confidence in the country’s political economy. Remember that Kenya is Africa’s biggest non-mineral economy. South of the Sahara and north of the Limpopo only the oil giants Nigeria and Angola have bigger economies.

For some reason (thereby dis-confirming my fears) the incendiary nature of Kenyan siasa za ukabila (ethnic politics) is not doing that much damage. Two cheers to Kenyan biashara.