How Kibaki put Kenya on world fintech map


Retired President Mwai Kibaki. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The death of Emilio Mwai Kibaki, the third President of Kenya, broke my heart even though I never met him in person.

When someone dies, people eulogise them. But for me, Mr Kibaki was one of the most erudite, brilliant, skilled and smart economists.

He was an economic genius in brainstorming ideas and razor-sharp, coming up with cutting-edge policies that largely transformed the nation and set the path for Kenya's greatness on the global map.

He was one of the few genuine heroes and role models we had. I was always impressed by his grasp and deep knowledge of economics and political history

‘Kibakinomics’ starkly showed he was a man full of wisdom, sharp intellect and vast experience. Moreover, he was a symbol of hope and a vessel of a million different dreams of young people.

Rare leadership

From his heydays, he deeply embraced 'esprit de corps', a rare leadership attribute. A French word, ‘esprit de corps’ can loosely be paraphrased to mean the ability to serve humanity to achieve a common goal.

Mr Kibaki's strong leadership credentials would be hailed for creating an enabling macroeconomic environment and development.

For example, Safaricom's #ticker:SCOM M-Pesa roll-out in 2007 and Airtel's Airtel Money in 2009 were game-changers in the Kenyan economy.

The economy witnessed an unprecedented expansion of digital finance through mobile phone financial services. This made Kenya the trailblazing leader and cradle of Fintech development in the African continent.

In the book 50 years of Central Banking in Kenya, the late Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore praises M-Pesa as not being a product anymore, but a verb and a way of life.

There was a groundbreaking economic transformation and take-off in the banking industry from 2002-2013 while he was at the helm.


For instance, the Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2009, introduction of agency banking in 2009, Credit Reference Bureau regulations in 2008 and operationalisation of the Microfinance Act 2008, was crucial to creating a vibrant and competitive financial sector in Kenya.

The amendment of the Central Bank of Kenya Act in 2004 enhanced the top bank's independence, which has been useful in the central bank's monetary policy operations.

This has helped in a great deal to contain inflation within the target range using the interest rate instrument.

It was during his tenure that the economy registered an impressive 8.1 percent growth in 2010, the highest growth in decades.

The economy was his key priority while at the helm as President between 2002 and 2013.

Additionally, the famous National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) government between 2003-2007 designed an Economic Recovery Strategy for Wealth and Employment Creation that was critical to stimulating the economy that was falling plagued by low productivity, steadily escalating fiscal deficits, inefficient public sector, unemployment, deterioration of health services and increased poverty over the past decades.

The Kibaki Economic Recovery plan was fundamental to fulfilling the aspirations and expectations of Kenyans.

Vision 2030

In October 2006, Mr Kibaki launched the Vision 2030 economic blueprint which was one of its core pillars aimed to reduce inequality by bringing in the poorest into the formal economy.

The economic blueprint envisioned to transform Kenya into a middle-income country on economic, social and political pillars facets.

The promulgation of the most agile and progressive 2010 Constitution of Kenya will be one of the highlights of President Kibaki's administration.

Among other achievements, these will ensure his name remains etched on the sands of leadership in the country and the region.

Well, the 40-shilling coin with his portrait will remind the nation of his greatness.

You warmed our hearts. We will miss you. RIP, Mr President.

economist; [email protected]