The Kenyan Cabinet Secretary in charge of Transport recently announced a 22% decline in accidents on Kenyan roads in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same period last year (resulting in 201 fewer deaths). Following the end of year holiday season uptick in road deaths (more people travel then; presumably more drink and drive as well) the government instituted strict traffic regulations, some of which have been struck down by the courts. But do these top-down rule changes work in reducing road accidents?
This paper compares the relative impact of two road safety interventions in the Kenyan minibus or matatu sector: a top down set of regulatory requirements known as the Michuki Rules and a consumer empowerment intervention. We use very detailed insurance claims data on three classes of vehicles to implement a difference-in-difference estimation strategy to measure the impact of the Michuki Rules. Despite strong political leadership and dedicated resources, we find no statistically significant effect of the Michuki Rules on accident rates. In contrast, the consumer empowerment intervention that didn’t rely on third party enforcement has very large and significant effects on accident rates. Our intent-to-treat estimates suggest reductions in accident rates of at least 50%. Our analysis suggests that in institutionally weak environments, innovative consumer-driven solutions might provide an alternative solution to low quality service provision.
The Michuki Rules, which required retrofitting of vehicles with certain safety devices and other reforms as outlined in the net section, were widely believed to have led to an immediate and sustained improvement in the safety of Kenya’s roads. However despite this view, we find that most of the perceived effects were driven by short-run compliance costs imposed on vehicle owners and drivers, as opposed to their behavior, and that a month after the rules were introduced there was no discernible effect on insurance claims. In contrast, the consumer empowerment campaign we examine, which encouraged passengers to actively complain directly to their drivers when they felt unsafe, led to a remarkably large reduction in insurance claims of between a half and two-thirds.
Also, the lesson here is not that we should not legislate against insanity on Kenya’s roads, just that those efforts should be complemented by a fire-alarm enforcement mechanism as opposed to using the Chai-Culture-crippled police patrol system.
Former Defense Minister and GEMA leader Njenga Karume is dead at 83. Mr. Karume succumbed after a long battle with cancer.
The late Karume, who made most of his money from the beer distribution business, was one of the most influential and richest politicians among the “independence generation.” Njenga Karume was mostly a self-made man (His autobiography is titled “Beyond Expectations – From Charcoal to Gold”). With little formal education (many Kenyans know of his “wananinji” pronouncements), he managed to create a business empire that catapulted him to the boards of many a Kenyan company. Being the leader of the powerful GEMA cultural bloc and a close ally of President Kenyatta certainly also helped.
May he rest in peace.
The passing of Njenga Karume comes just four days after another veteran politician and also close friend to President Kibaki, John Michuki, passed away. It is hard not to think that time is beginning to catch up with the political elites who led Kenya’s independence generation. Indeed this year’s general election will be the first without a leading independence leader in contention for the presidency (Theirs sons and political scions will duke it out).
The natural generational change is certainly a cause for excitement; peaceful elite rotation mostly leads to positive outcomes. But at the same time I have the nagging feeling that the 50 and 60 year old “young turks” who are about to take over may lack the encompassing interest that the “wazees” shared (Notice how nice Kibaki has been to former President Moi). Yes, they were not always good people – the deaths J. M. Kariuki and Tom Mboya forever remains a blotch on their record – but you have to give it to them for holding it together even when things were falling apart all around the neighborhood.
John Michuki, MP for Kangema is dead at 80. The late Michuki was a Kenyan politician that many learned to love (and sometimes love and hate). As Transport Minister he brought sanity to the rowdy matatu sector with the much-loved “Michuki Rules”. As Minister for the environment he cleaned up Nairobi River.
His less illustrious contribution was in the security ministry. It is under his watch that the Standard Media group was raided by masked thugs under the pretext that they were about to publish information that would have “impinged on the person of the president.” It later emerged that the media house had information about alleged illegal dealings by a woman rumored to be an illegitimate daughter of president Kibaki. The war on the Mungiki sect was also carried out under his watch – with numerous allegations of extrajudicial killings of hundreds of young men.
The son of a paramount chief, Michuki was among the group of super-wealthy conservative elites who at independence took over power and managed to quiet the more radical elements of the independence movement. Under their watch Kenya emerged as a capitalist enclave even as its many neighbors flirted with communism and African Socialism, with disastrous consequences. For better or worse, Kenya benefited from this “home guard generation” (see Bates 1989, for instance; for a different view see AfriCommons).
The Kenyan political scene will sorely miss Mr. Michuki’s straight talk and ability to deliver. He was among a handful of government officials that actually stood for what they believed, and he had results to back up all his talk. As the Nation reports:
Michuki gained the reputation of being a “ruthless” and efficient manager, who is widely acknowledged as being among the best performing ministers in President Kibaki’s government.