Kenya PM 'fears economy impact'

Image caption,
Kenya is the biggest exporter to Europe of cut flowers

Kenya's prime minister Raila Odinga has expressed concerns about the knock-on effect of European events on the economies of African nations.

He told the BBC World Service how key industries had suffered during the recent closure of European airspace.

And he feared Kenya would feel an impact from economic woes in the eurozone - as it had during the global financial crisis.

Mr Odinga also talked about his country's struggle against corruption.

'Not remote'

Large swaths of European airspace was closed in April and May, due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland - and this had economic ramifications thousands of miles away.

In east Africa, much of Kenya's economy ground to a halt as tourists were unable to fly in - and exports like flowers and agricultural produce wilted on the runway.

Mr Odinga told World Business News he was worried about recent and current events in Europe - especially the spiralling debt crisis in countries such as Greece and Spain.

"We are very concerned considering the experience we had two years ago during the economic meltdown," he said.

"Initially it was felt that we were remote from the international system but we were badly affected when prices of our commodities and demand went down."

Remittances also took as tumble as Kenyans working abroad found themselves out of work.

"It confirms the interconnectivity of the world," he says, "I fear the current troubles in Europe will not be confined to Greece and Spain."

Limited resources

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The agricultural sector continues to dominate Kenya's economy despite only 15% percent of the country's total land area being sufficiently fertile for farming.

Furthermore, almost 75% of working Kenyans earn their living from the land.

Unlike many African countries, Kenya does not have any significant mineral production and therefore has to rely on other sectors such as beer production and sugarcane crushing.

Kenya's services sector, which contributes about 63% percent of gross domestic product, is dominated by tourism.

The largest number of tourists come from Germany and Britain and are attracted mainly to the coastal beaches and game parks.

Tackling corruption

A disputed election result two years ago led to 1,500 people being killed by mobs in the street, and a million people fleeing their homes.

Mr Odinga came to power after forming a coalition partnership with adversaries and one of his election promises was to tackle corruption.

A recent report however, suggests that an average Kenyan has to pay 16 bribes a month.

The prime minister said that running a coalition meant that disciplines were sometimes compromised in the interest of working together.

"People don't always understand why it is difficult to work with adversaries," he said.

"I know corruption reaches certain levels. Three months ago we suspended two senior government officials."

He insisted that corruption has to be fought from the top to the bottom, but maintains that Kenya is no more corrupt than other countries in the region.

"We have a vibrant media which reports openly on corruption and more whistleblowers than our neighbours," he added.

Mr Odinga said he endeavoured to lead by example, saying he had never accepted a bribe in his political life.

"I will never accept a bribe because of my background. My father worked hard for every penny."

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