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COST OF LIVING

Electricity cheaper than airtime, fare

Parents and guardians are realising that power is the least of their worries after all.

In Summary
  • Homes with drinkers will agree that alcohol takes a big percentage of domestic expenditure, but the consumers hardly complain, no matter how much tax is levied on them.
  • Other utilities such as phone bills are way higher than electricity when looked at on a monthly basis.

Since the first coronavirus case was reported in Kenya on March 13, 2020, most Kenyans have found themselves spending more time at home than ever before. This peculiar state of affairs was further compounded when academic institutions were closed and all learners sent home.

This scenario has brought to fore one reality that has long been obfuscated in misconceptions and myths—the rising cost of living. Even more pronounced has been the supposedly high prices of power, especially for domestic consumers.

Many of you will recall a time when several high-ranking public figures freely shared their complaints over what they termed exorbitantly high cost of electricity in their premises. Some quoted as high as Sh200,000 in monthly electricity consumption.

But with families now forced to stay at home, parents and guardians are realising that electricity is the least of their worries after all, the other costs are more worrying, especially for large families. 

According to data from GlobalPetrolPrices.com dated December 2019, on average a Kenyan family spends about, $0.22 (Sh24) per kWh, which includes all components of the electricity bill such as the cost of power, distribution and taxes. This is cheaper than most advanced economies and welfare states such as Switzerland at $0.24 (Sh26) per kWh, the United Kingdom at $0.27 (Sh29.25), Italy and Japan both at $0.28 (Sh30.34), Iceland at $0.29 (Sh 31.42), Belgium at $0.32 (Sh 34.67), and Germany at $0.38 (Sh41.17). 

These numbers, however, when looked at independently may not make a lot of sense until you put them side-by-side with other domestic costs such as transport, clothing, shoes, food and groceries, rent, sports, and leisure, including money Kenyans spend on eating out, alcohol and beverages. 

Homes with people who consume alcohol will agree with me that this takes a big percentage of the domestic expenditure, but the consumers hardly complain, no matter how much tax is levied on them.

Many well-to-do households have opted for other sources of electricity such as solar, wind and fuel-powered generators. While this may appear at first as a wise backward integration move and may even be profitable for commercial users, many domestic consumers quickly realise that getting electricity from Kenya Power is much more reliable and cheaper in the end.

As a matter of fact, other utilities such as phone bills are way higher than electricity when looked at on a monthly basis. The fact that our local service providers have made it easier for everyone, even low-income earners, to buy airtime for as little as Sh10 may make it look like airtime is cheaper than electricity but that is not the reality.

Take, for instance, the average Kenyan home with five people, each spending Sh20 per day on data and airtime, this will translate to about Sh3,000 in a month.

Transport is another cost that Kenyans fail to track monthly. Whether one is driving, with many in urban families having more than one car, or using public transport, the cost in a month is way higher than what is spent on electricity.

In a place like Nairobi, the moment it rains, bus fare is hiked almost twofold, and boda boda riders too are known to hike prices during rush hour when the demand for their services is up. 

Yet in the midst of all this, to try and escape from paying high electricity bills, many well-to-do households have opted for other sources of electricity such as solar, wind and fuel-powered generators. While this may appear at first as a wise backward integration move and may even be profitable for commercial users, many domestic consumers quickly realise that getting electricity from Kenya Power is much more reliable and cheaper in the end.

One thing is granted though, that the debate on the cost of power is one that will not disappear any time soon especially with several pressure groups cropping up every other day to run spirited campaigns on the cost of power. This is an easy sell, especially for a start-up that wants to gain currency and win public following quickly.

Kenyans on the other hand have a choice to make, which includes taking a deliberate step to analyse their monthly expenditures and controlling costs depending on the specific expenses but do so from an informed point. If you manage to control your costs now, then chances are that you will be one of the few to come out wiser and even richer after the Covid-19 pandemic.