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Henry Rotich: Man behind Kenya’s debut Eurobond back in time to witness its buyback

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Former Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich during the interview in Gigiri, Nairobi, on December 19, 2023. File | Nation Media Group

His name is not new on the Kenyan public finance management scene, having overseen the plans to get Kenya's first $2 billion Eurobond in 2014 as Treasury Cabinet Secretary.  This is the same Eurobond that has become a nightmare for the current government, as it finds ways to settle it without irreversibly hurting its stock of forex reserves, which would be disastrous for the Kenyan shilling.

Henry Rotich, the former Cabinet Secretary for Treasury last week landed a new job as President Ruto's senior advisor for fiscal affairs and budget policy, just days before Kenya returned to the international bond market for the first time since 2021 to raise cash to finance a buyback of the 10-year $2 billion (Sh321 billion) Eurobond.

His appointment comes just a month after he was exonerated from the Arror and Kimwarer dams scandal where Magistrate Eunice Nyutu cleared him and eight others of any wrongdoing in the multi-billion shilling graft case.

Mr Rotich is a man who plays his cards very close to his chest. Some would say he is coy about his plans going ahead, only saying that he would address the fourth estate later.

He declined to comment on his immediate plans, what his advice would be to the President on the upcoming Eurobond and his approach to governance until he is fully in office.

"Can you hold on to this, it's too early I can imagine [referring to his appointment pending approval], let's talk after I have settled in the office," said Mr Rotich.

Read: Magistrate declines to quit Kimwarer, Arror dams case

He also dismissed reports that he had rejected his latest appointment, and wanted to go back to his previous station.

"That is not true at all. I have not declined the appointment," responded Mr Rotich to our inquiry via text message.

He served in former President Uhuru Kenyatta's Cabinet for six years. Before that, he was the head of macro-economics at the Treasury for seven years and worked at the Central Bank of Kenya for 12 years.

During the tenure of the 55-year-old, the government launched the world's first Treasury bond to be offered exclusively via mobile phone and slashed the minimum investment level in government debt, in a bid to stimulate public participation in the capital markets, raise money cheaply and boost the national savings rate. His run in the government's money office has not been one without blemishes of corruption, arrest and even removal from service.

In 2018, the Parliament called for the investigation of Mr Rotich and Adan Mohammed over alleged illegalities in sugar imports.

A year later, the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions ordered his arrest over corruption allegations in connection to the construction of the two dams; Arror and Kimwarer which also led to the suspension of his then Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge; who is now the current CBK governor.

Mr Rotich was charged with 19 counts that included abuse of office, conspiracy to commit an economic crime, conferring a benefit and single sourcing for the insurance of the projects, and approving payment contrary to the law.

Whether his appointment is purely coincidental on the day Kenya is back in the international market remains unanswered at the moment, as he is the man synonymous with the Eurobond. In 2018, led by Dr Thugge and Mr Rotich, Kenya raised $2 billion in a new sovereign bond issue that was listed on the London Stock Exchange. The bond was highly oversubscribed attracting bids worth $14 billion, (Sh1.4 trillion), which the Treasury said was an indication of confidence in the long-term prospects of the Kenyan economy by international investors.

Some of the funds were to go towards rolling over some of the existing international debt on Kenya’s books. The issue was arranged by global lenders Citi, JP Morgan, Standard Bank of South Africa and Standard Chartered.

On Monday, Kenya returns to the global market for another Eurobond. The move has calmed investor jitters over whether the country would afford to repay the debt when it matures in June.

Also read: What Thugge said on Sh63bn Arror, Kimwarer dams scandals 

Kenya has kept out of the Eurobond market since it floated a $1 billion (Sh160 billion), 12-year paper in June 2021, on which it pays an interest rate of 6.3 per cent.

Mr Rotich's new assignment once approved, will see him work with his former colleague Dr Thugge to give Kenya yet another Eurobond.

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