William Ruto hopes to be president come August 2022. We fact-checked some of the claims he’s made on the campaign trail.
Four claims about bailouts to Kenya’s struggling flagship airline, competing economic models, and the total rail track and number of technical training schools built since 2013.
Two correct, one mostly correct and one understated
William Ruto, Kenyan deputy president (January 2022)
Ruto’s figures mostly add up. The Kenyatta administration has put more than KSh 100 billion into Kenya Airways and built more than 700 kilometres of rail lines.
His support of a “bottom-up economic model” does echo US president Joe Biden, who has said the alternative “trickle-down” model “doesn’t work”.
Ruto understated the number of technical training institutions built in Kenya since 2013, which is estimated at just over 200.
Kenyan deputy president William Ruto is campaigning for president ahead of August 2022 elections.
Ruto seeks to succeed president Uhuru Kenyatta with whom he was jointly elected in 2013 but has since fallen out with. The two have clashed publicly over their record in office.
In early May 2022 Ruto sought to distance himself from the Kenyatta administration, including pledging to reverse key decisions such as on port and rail infrastructure.
As this all plays out, Africa Check went back in time to fact-check campaign promises that the deputy president previously took some credit for.
On 29 January 2022 Ruto was in central Kenya’s Kirinyaga county for a rally. The county’s governor, Anne Waiguru, is in the running to be Ruto’s deputy. In Kirinyaga, he highlighted the administration’s record on investment, job creation, education and infrastructure, among other areas.
By referring to the most recent publicly available data, we vetted four of Ruto’s claims.
(Note: You can read our recent fact-checks of claims by Ruto’s main rival, Raila Odinga, here, and by Kenyatta here.)
The government of Kenya has put over KSh100 billion in Kenya Airways.
Africa Check reached out to Ruto’s spokesperson, David Mugonyi, for the source of the deputy president’s information. We will update this report when we hear back.
At the rally Ruto used the example of how much money had been channelled into flag carrier Kenya Airways to argue he would set aside KSh50 billion for small businesses, if elected.
“Serikali ya Kenya, tumeweka zaidi ya bilioni mia moja kwa kampuni ya Kenya Airways,” he said in Kiswahili.
This translates to: “We have as the government of Kenya put nearly KSh100 billion in Kenya Airways.”
The government is the majority shareholder in the airline, with a 48.9% stake.
Company reports since 2013, when the Kenyatta-Ruto administration took office, show the government has regularly bailed out the struggling airline.
This support includes:
KSh4.2 billion in 2015
KSh20 billion in two payments of KSh10 billion in September 2015 and July 2016
KSh7.74 billion in November 2017, when the administration also guaranteed a loan of US$750 million (about KSh77.6 billion at 2017 exchange rates)
KSh11 billion in 2020 to refurbish its fleet and to weather the economic shocks from the Covid-19 pandemic
In 2021, the government disclosed it had taken over the airline’s debt of $827 million (KSh94 billion) “as part of putting KQ on a sustainable footing”.
KQ is the airline’s international code.
The $827 million is equivalent to KSh94 billion. An International Monetary Fund report said $473 million (KSh53.8 billion) of this would be paid in the 2021/22 and 2022/23 financial years to “to clear overdue payment obligations and cover the upfront costs of restructuring”.
Between 2013 and 2020, the Kenyan government sank KSh42.94 billion in the airline, and also took over debts of KSh94 billion.
We therefore rate this claim mostly correct. – Makinia Juma
“Even the president of [the United States] of America, Joe Biden, has confirmed that the trickle-down economic model has failed.”
Ruto is championing a “bottom-up” economic model that he has said would empower millions of Kenyans struggling to make ends meet.
At the Kirinyaga rally he said the alternative, a “trickle-down” economic model, had not worked in Kenya.
“Even the president of America, Joe Biden, has confirmed that the trickle-down economic model has failed and that is why in America today they are working on a bottom-up economic model,” Ruto said.
Biden was sworn in as US president on 20 January 2021. Two months later he said that “trickle-down does not work”.
“It is time that we build an economy that grows from the bottom up and the middle out,” Biden said.
He repeated this on 5 April 2021. The push for a bottom-up economic model is also part of Biden’s economic plan.
Prof XN Iraki teaches economics at the University of Nairobi. He told Africa Check that the trickle-down economic model was based on the thinking that “tax and other incentives help the big businesses [to] expand and create jobs”.
“But because the incentive givers, [by which I mean] politicians, have a vested interest, the trickle down is slowed … the word ‘trickle’ itself shows benefits should not be that much – not a deluge!” Iraki said.
Public finance think tank says ‘no consensus’ on trickle-down vs bottom-up
Biden has said the “trickle-down” economic model did not work. We therefore will be generous and rate him as correct on this claim. But it is debatable if he “confirmed” this.
Dr Abraham Rugo is the Kenya country manager for the International Budget Partnership, a public finance and budget think tank. He told Africa Check that “bottom-up” and “trickle-down” are “perspectives on how to bake and distribute the national cake”.
“There’s no consensus about which of these perspectives works or doesn’t,” he said. Both had weaknesses which were magnified depending on the context.
“In the US, the trickle-down approach has led to massive inequality and poverty amid great wealth,” Rugo said. “In South Africa, the black empowerment policy, which can be looked at as bottom-up, has also come with its own challenges”. – Makinia Juma
“We built over 700 kilometres of railway.”
Ruto said the current government had built 700 kilometres of new rail.
In 2014, construction of the standard-gauge railway (SGR), the country’s most expensive infrastructure project yet, began. It was completed in 2017, with the presidency giving its length as 472 kilometres.
The railway runs from the coastal city of Mombasa to the capital Nairobi.
The SGR office has previously told Africa Check the total track built is 607.4km. The difference is because some areas on the main line have multiple tracks, it said.
A second phase of the project connects Nairobi and the town of Naivasha, about 90 km northwest of the capital. This was estimated as measuring 120.5km for the main line and 132km in total track length. It was completed in October 2019.
A new narrower metre-gauge railway connecting the Mai Mahiu inland container depot to Longonot town in Naivasha was completed in 2021 and measures 24.35km.
These two additional gauges bring the total railway track built under Kenyatta to at least 764km. – Dancan Bwire
“We have built 170 technical training institutions.”
Ruto claimed the administration had built 170 technical training institutions (TTIs) since taking office.
According to the Kenya Association of Technical Training Institutions,
TTIs offer technical and vocational education that focuses on gaining formal and informal job skills.
In its national strategic plan for 2018-2022, the country’s education ministry said “it is difficult to know the exact number” of technical education and vocational institutions. This, it said, was because “some privately owned institutions are not accredited or registered”.
However, the strategic plan said the government was building 217 new TTIs.
In 2013, the statistics office’s annual economic survey listed 36 technical training institutes.
When Ruto made the claim, data showed that the number of public technical and vocational colleges had grown to 230 as of 2020, an increase of 194 since 2013.
A 2021 ministry report also gave the number of public technical and vocational colleges as 238 in 2020. We therefore rate this claim as understated. (Note: New official data shows these institutions are now at 255.)
– Grace Gichuhi