Kenyan President William Ruto’s government is forming, and cabinet candidates are buying into his regional agenda.
This week, a National Assembly special committee had reviewed more than half of the nominees by Friday. The team of 22 technocrats and politicians will take office once the National Assembly has approved their nomination and formal appointment by President Ruto. They defended the president’s policies, including facilitating the movement of goods by reducing congestion on the main corridors.
Once confirmed and sworn into office, the new cabinet is expected to address various challenges affecting East Africa’s largest economy.
Some of these challenges include drought that has claimed lives in parts of the country, high cost of living, insecurity and high costs of doing business.
Appearing before the 15-member parliamentary committee chaired by National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula, the trade, energy and infrastructure nominees identified roles likely to extend beyond Kenya‘s borders.
CS nominee for Trade, Investment and Industry Moses Kuria said he would hire other trade ministers from Africa to get the US to extend the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
The US will host the meeting of trade ministers and senior officials from sub-Saharan countries in December to discuss expanding trade and investment ties and implementing the AGOA.
Kenya enjoys substantial duty-free access to the US market through the AGOA, a preferential trade program for sub-Saharan Africa, but expires in September 2025.
Trade Agreement with Africa
Mr Kuria is also expected to lead Kenya’s negotiations with the US government, which is seeking both bilateral and multilateral trade deals with Africa.
Official data shows that exports to the US rose 47 percent to Shillings 38.8 billion in the first half of the year, on the back of rising apparel sales. Mr. Kuria’s immediate regional focus is on resolving pending trade wars with neighboring Uganda over milk, sugar and poultry products, among other things.
Mr Kuria accompanied President William Ruto to Uganda and Tanzania where the issue of trade barriers was discussed.
“The Trade Minister of Uganda told me something profound; that Uganda imports million-day-old chicks from Kenya every week that eventually become sexually mature, how can you refuse eggs from your own hen? asked Mr Kuria in a tweet about his recent meeting in Uganda.
Sales of Kenyan-made goods to Uganda fell slightly to Ksh36.2 billion (US$298 million) during the period from Ksh36.3 billion (US$299 million) in the same half last year.
Uganda imports from Kenya
Kampala’s list of imports from Kenya has narrowed over the years as investors set up factories in the country to manufacture goods previously imported from Nairobi, including cooking oils and cement.
When asked about the Export Processing Zones (EPZ), Kuria said the ministry will set up aggregation centers in each county to help locals pool their exports, saying it will boost value creation and export.
On exporting Kenyan goods abroad, he said his ministry would increase the number of commercial attachés.
“We will be strengthening commercial attachés around the world. They will be more than the ambassadors,” he said.
The ministry will take care of producers who have left Kenya and provide them with a plan on how to support their ventures.
Stock in key markets
On plans to use the EAC market, Kuria said the ministry will work to set up warehouses in key markets that will only sell Kenyan products, adding that one will be in the DRC.
Referring to rising cooking oil prices, he said the ministry will open the market to allow smaller companies and individuals to produce and import oil.
Cabinet Secretary-nominee for Transport and Public Works Kipchumba Murkomen says he will work with various agencies to set up a camera-based e-police system that will be used to collect traffic fines.
“We will use the Intelligent Transport System (ITS) and therefore no longer need the analogue handling of discipline on our roads,” he said.
He also pledged to improve technological infrastructure along border points to ease truck congestion along the North Corridor. He pointed out that the congestion along the Malaba border was caused by poor technological networks used by the Kenya Tax Agency to clear trucks.
clearance of goods
“Due to the technology used, sometimes even the internet is used. We will be able to work with the relevant ministries of finance and the Kenyan Revenue Service to ensure they use modern technology to clear goods,” Murkomen said.
“If approved I will ensure that the Kenya National Highways Authority uses the latest technology to ensure the weighing of goods is expedited.”
Both the Busia and Malaba border posts have long been characterized by endless queues of trucks stretching up to 25 km along the Bungoma-Malaba highway, delaying the free movement of goods between Kenya and Uganda.
Murkomen proposed building a car park on the Busia-Malaba border to ease congestion.
Abuse of Kenyans in the Gulf
Regarding the mistreatment of Kenyans, particularly in the Gulf, Dr. Alfred Mutua, CS’s foreign affairs candidate, said if nominated he would make his first trip to Saudi Arabia to try to resolve the problem of mistreatment of Kenyans seeking work in the Middle East.
He also pledged to involve the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to investigate the deaths of Kenyans in the Gulf.
“It’s a shame that we’ve lost 85 Kenyans in the last three months, mostly in Saudi Arabia. We need to send a message that no Kenyan will die abroad and the government is not doing anything about it,” said Dr. Mutua.
There are also allegations of corruption against some of the nominees.
Davis Chirchir, a former CS at the Department of Energy and Petroleum, was suspended in early 2015 over allegations related to the printing of 2013 election materials in the infamous Chicken Gate scandal. He was later acquitted by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC).
restructure the energy sector
The CS candidate informed the committee that he plans to restructure Kenya’s energy sector starting with generation, transmission and distribution by working with key players such as KenGen, Kenya Power, Kenya Power Electricity Generating Company and Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Corporation (REREC). works together to ensure that consumers enjoy competitive tariffs and use renewable energy sources as opposed to expensive thermal energy.
“We need to make sure we’re putting our electricity into the grid at the right cost,” Chirchir said.
Kenya currently has an installed capacity of 3,100 MW of renewable energy, led by geothermal, wind, solar and biomass, which accounts for 81 percent of the energy generated.
“We need to extract more from geothermal energy where we have more resources. We’ve been told we have up to 10,000 MW,” he added.
President Ruto presented his 22 candidates for cabinet on September 27, two weeks after being sworn in.
Only one cabinet secretary, Simon Chelugui, Kenya’s CS for Labor and Social Protection (and now Ruto’s Cooperative CS candidate), who served under the previous government, was retained in the new lineup. dr Monica Juma, currently CS for Energy, was retained but appointed as National Security Advisor, a new post at the same level as Cabinet.
The cabinet candidates reviewed so far have a net worth of about Ksh 10.02 billion (about US$82.5 million), with Cabinet Prime Minister-elect Musalia Mudavadi accounting for 40 percent of that number.
Sixteen of the 22 CS candidates screened between Monday, October 17 and Friday, October 21 are multi-millionaires, most of whom trace their wealth to investment real estate, government salaries, investments in stocks and savings.
The 14th candidate Mithuka Linturi, CS for Agriculture, who was vetted on Friday, claims to be worth Sh1.2 billion.