Kenya’s cost of living surges amid rising food and fuel prices

A shop steward arranges dairy products at the Quick Mart Lavington supermarket in Nairobi on January 24, 2019. (Photo by SIMON MAINA / AFP) (Photo credit should read SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images)

Kenya’s inflation rate rose to 5.56 percent in March from 5.08 percent in February due to a spike in the prices of key household items like cooking gas, food and petrol, according to government data.

“Prices of food items in March 2022 were relatively higher compared with prices in March 2021,” the Kenya Bureau of Statistics said.

A shop steward arranges dairy products at the Quick Mart Lavington supermarket in Nairobi. /Getty Images

The prices of cooking oil, wheat flour and gas rose 6.50 percent, 4.47 percent and 7.76 percent, respectively, in March. Meanwhile, gasoline and diesel prices rose 3.83 percent and 4.49 percent, respectively as Kenya’s fuel subsidy has been crippled by a rise in crude oil prices.

The surge in prices comes at a time when average private-sector pay is growing at the slowest pace in a decade, according to a report by local media, as companies struggle to regain their footing following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analysts have attributed the increase in prices in Kenya to global geopolitical influences and supply chain concerns. Kenya relies on wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia, whose military operation in Ukraine has pushed wheat flour prices to record highs. Moreover, the situation has limited supplies of essential fuel and food.

Russia is one of the world’s leading oil producers and if it cannot sell its oil due to the sanctions, countries like Kenya, which import oil and gas, a by-product of oil, are bound to suffer.

Russia is also one of the world’s largest exporters of planting fertilizer and Kenya imports most of its fertilizer from Russia.

Russia, however, through its embassy in Kenya, dismissed reports that its military operation was to blame for the high cost of living in the country and, indeed, the continent.

Instead, it said that wide-ranging sanctions imposed on Moscow by the U.S. the European Union and their allies were the reason behind the phenomenon.

Kenyans have been feeling the economic pressure and in February took to social media to protest against the high cost of living using the hashtag, #Lower Food Prices.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)