Indebted: With Africa Uncensored and The Guardian, we help explain how sovereign debt is sinking Kenya

'A decade of debt dependency and mismanagement'

Kenya spends more money on servicing its debt than all other items in the national budget combined. Now Indebted, a four-part documentary on YouTube that we helped develop with Africa Uncensored tells how debt has swamped the east African country.

READ The Guardian article here

Kenya’s problems date back to 2014 when a new administration led by President Uhuru Kenyatta borrowed heavily in foreign currencies to fund infrastructure development, this including issuing U.S. dollar denominated Eurobonds.

As Kenya’s economy reels and people take to the streets in protest against planned tax hikes, serious questions are now being raised over how prudent and careful the government has been managing its borrowing.

Not least from John-Allan Namu, the respected investigative journalist founder of Africa Uncensored.

A regular Finance Uncovered collaborator, John-Allan contacted FU asking us to help research the cause of the sovereign debt crisis.

Our Warren Thompson got on the case. Warren is an experienced South African financial investigative journalist and joined Finance Uncovered from specialist debt news service DebtWire.

As well as charting how Kenya’s political elites allowed a debt mountain to pile high, we focused on the scandal surrounding the (non)construction of the Arror and Kimwarer dams. The dams have become a symbol of all that has gone wrong with the handling of the nation’s purse.

In 2017, Kenya paid hundreds of millions of euros in fees and advance payments related to the projects to Italian companies, which have never come close to being completed. The issue became a point of tension between the governments of Kenya and Italy. The documentary by Africa Uncensored pursued the reasons for this failure.

In the run up to the Indebted film release, Warren wrote three blogs on Africa’s sovereign debt crisis available on the FU website here.

The first “Explainer” blog was spotted by The Guardian newspaper’s economic correspondent, Phillip Inman who was looking for ways to report the debt crisis in Africa.

Phillip contacted FU to see if he could use one of the case studies in the documentary to head up a piece he subsequently published here in the Guardian.

The Guardian article links to Africa Uncensored’s film which has helped lift viewing figures to more than 170,000 views on YouTube.

This project speaks to how we at Finance Uncovered like to work. It shows how financial stories that are relevant in Kenya can also be of interest to western journalists and readers.

Picture: Kenyan President William Ruto toasts Italian President Sergio Mattarella at State House in Nairobi, 14 March 2023. The two leaders agreed to put the construction of the Arror and Kimwarer dams back on track. Image: PCS.