•Kenya’s overall inflation increased to 6.9 percent in January 2024 from 6.6 percent in December 2023.
•This was mainly driven by increases in prices of commodities under transport, housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels; and food and non-alcoholic beverages.
The cost of living could further rise in the next three months, the Central Bank of Kenya has indicated, piling more pressure on already struggling households.
To stem this the apex bank has moved to institute monetary policies aimed at lowering inflation, among them being raising interest rates where the Central Bank Rate (CBR) has been increased from 12.50 per cent to 13 per cent.
The projected possible rise in the inflation, the measure of the cost of living, is pegged mainly on costly imports occasioned by the weak shilling, which has seen manufacturers and importers of finished products continue to spend more to ship in cargoes.
The shilling, which crossed the Sh160 mark to the US dollar in mid-January, remains volatile, amid a high demand.
While CBK quoted the shilling at an average 160.32 on Tuesday, banks continue to sell a dollar at above Sh162.
“The survey of the agriculture sector conducted ahead of the MPC (Monetary Policy Committee) meeting revealed that respondents expected inflation to increase in the next three months, on account of high import costs, partly due to the depreciation of the exchange rate,” CBK governor Kamau Thugge said.
The Monetary Policy Committee met on Tuesday, which culminated in the increase in CBK’s base lending rate.
Kenya’s overall inflation increased to 6.9 percent in January 2024 from 6.6 percent in December 2023, and remained sticky in the upper bound of the government’s target range of five per cent, with a flexible margin of 2.5 percent on either side in the event of adverse shocks.
Food inflation increased to 7.9 per cent in January 2024 from 7.7 per cent in December 2023, largely reflecting higher prices of a few non-vegetable items, following reduced supply partly attributed to seasonal factors.
Fuel inflation rose to 14.3 per cent in January 2024 from 13.7 per cent in December 2023, largely due to higher electricity tariffs.
Non-food non-fuel (NFNF) inflation increased to 3.6 per cent from 3.4 per cent in December 2023, reflecting seasonal increases in education sector-related costs.
“The risks to inflation remain elevated in the near term, reflecting the impact of second-round effects of the rise in fuel inflation, and pass-through effects of exchange rate depreciation,” Thugge said.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the general price level was 6.9 per cent higher than that of January 2023, despite last year’s January inflation being at nine per cent.
“This was mainly driven by increases in prices of commodities under transport (10.6%), housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels (9.7%); and food and non-alcoholic beverages (7.9%) between January 2023 and January 2024,” KNBS director general Macdonald Obudho notes in the latest inflation numbers.
Prices of cabbages, carrots, oranges and potatoes (Irish) increased while prices of mangoes, tomatoes and sugar dropped.
The cost of imports has also been pushed up by heightened geopolitical tensions particularly in the Middle East, where disruption in the maritime transport, which accounts for the movement of up to 90 per cent of international trade, has led to a spike in freight and container leasing costs.
Ocean freight costs have shot up by up to 50 per cent according to industry trends, where shipping a 40-foot container has increased by as much as $10,000 (Sh1.6 million).
This, as container ships detour to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa to avoid the Houthi attacks, diverting more than $200 billion (Sh32 trillion) of cargo away from the Red Sea and Suez Canal.
These costs add up to the final commodity prices on the shelf and with Kenya being a net importer, consumers are staring at further increases, amid a reduced spending power in post-Covid era.
According to a report by financial services firm-Old Mutual Group, close to half of Kenyan consumers are considerably financially stressed with only one in 10 earning more now than they did prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
More than 59 per cent of Kenyans are currently allocating their monthly income to living expenses, surpassing the Africa average of 51,the Old Mutual Financial Services Monitor (OMFSM), released this week, indicates.
The report highlights Kenyans' top financial priorities as income security, expense reduction, and debt repayment.
Overall, amidst a recessionary environment, Kenyan economic confidence is at 16 per cent lower than South Africa (27%), Namibia (24%), and on par with Ghana (17%).