Jet fuel consumption jumped by 20 percent in the six months to June on increasing domestic flights and helicopter rides driven by heightened political activity ahead of the just concluded elections.
Data from the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) shows that choppers and commercial jets consumed 361.69 million litres of fuel in the period up from 298.96 million litres in a similar period last year.
But consumption of diesel and Super grew marginally in the period under review signalling flat growth in business activity, a pointer to slow recovery to the pre-Covid-19 levels.
The surge came amid increased use of choppers as politicians campaigned ahead of the August 9 polls and also the picking up of international and domestic flights on the lifting of air travel restrictions.
“The main driver is the increased air travel domestically and internationally for business and holiday after the Covid restrictions were eased,” East Africa Managing Director of Lexo Energy Jesse Muniu said.
The political class prefers choppers, especially at the peak of campaigns due to speed and navigation, a preference that allowed oil marketers to increase sales of jet fuel.
Data by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority shows that new helicopter registration rose by 41 last year as politicians campaigned.
The number of registered planes increased by 47, excluding those owned by the Police and the Kenya Defence Forces to 782 last year.
The data showed that motorists and businesses consumed 1.36 billion litres of diesel in the six months ended June, a two percent growth from the 1.33 billion litres in a similar period last year while the use of super grew four percent to 1.074 billion litres in the period.
The economy uses diesel for transportation, power generation and running of agricultural machinery such as tractors.
Consumption patterns of diesel mirror the economic activity and the slow growth points to an economy that is yet to fully recover to the pre-coronavirus levels.
Consumption of diesel hit 239.66 million litres in March — the highest monthly consumption so far this year. It dropped to 227.84 million litres in June. The highest consumption of Super this year was recorded in January at 191.25 million litres but declined to 175.86 million litres in June.
A flat growth is an indicator that the main drivers of Kenya's economic engines are not moving as fast as required to deliver the target growth in the year. Already the manufacturing sectors, as well as wholesale and retail sectors, are experiencing marginal trimming of jobs month-on-month as players confront a high inflation environment that has cut consumption and reduced the purchasing power.
An analysis of growth outlooks on Kenya from 18 leading banks, consultancies and think-tanks, including the World Bank Group and the Central Bank of Kenya, projects the economy will, on average, expand 5.39 percent this year.
Kenya eased Covid-19 restrictions in July last year, giving the economy the much-needed growth energy at a time businesses were nearly crippled by the disruptions.
The increase in fuel consumption defied the spike in pump prices that have been caused by a surge in global costs of crude since the start of the year.
Pump prices have increased by at least Sh30 per litre for Super, diesel and kerosene. In June, a litre of super retailed at Sh159.12 from Sh127.14 in June last year in Nairobi.
A litre of diesel rose to Sh140 from Sh107.66 while kerosene jumped by Sh30.09 to Sh127.94 per litre in the period.
The spike in prices that mirror global trends in the cost of crude were expected to hurt consumption of the two fuels given that businesses and households were still reeling from the economic meltdown of the virus.
Global costs of refined fuel had maintained a steady rise since the start of the year to cross the $100 a barrel mark mainly due to the supply disruptions of the Russia-Ukraine war.
But the spike in fuel prices forced households to lower consumption of kerosene— which is mainly used by poor homes for cooking and lighting.
The Epra data shows that consumption of kerosene dipped 21 percent to 60.9 million litres in the six months to June compared to similar period last year as poor homes were grappling with a spike in the cost of living.
A litre of kerosene was retailing at Sh127.94 in June, a Sh30 rise from June last year with the price increment putting the commodity out of the reach of most poor households that cannot afford electricity and cooking gas.