Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Drought threatens return of good times in Kenya

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“Trying to forecast the macro-economic fundamentals of the Kenyan economy requires a good dose of meteorological skills,” a Kenyan economic analyst once told me.

He was referring to the agriculture sector’s outsized influence on east Africa’s largest economy. Farming, including coffee and tea growing, accounts for a quarter of output and employs nearly two-thirds of the population.

Over a third of electricity is generated from dams which are fed by rainfall, with drought leading to outages, which affect manufacturers and other firms.

While any slack in agriculture usually results in a reduction in the overall growth rate, shortfalls in food items usually drive inflation higher. Inflation rose to 4.5 percent in December from 3.8 percent in November.

And so officials, investors and pundits have been fixated with the outlook for rains this year to determine whether a celebration of third quarter economic growth data and an optimistic forecast for 2011 were a bit premature.

Stormy seas ahead for the pirates?

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A new spate of attacks on shipping has made it quite clear that Somali pirates are not going to stop their activities just now, even though military operations by the United States and France have killed five of the buccaneers.

The international naval flotilla is stretched to protect the thousands of ships that use the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

Keeping pirates at bay

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There are some expectations that piracy in the Gulf of Aden is about to tail off for a bit. It appears that pirates don’t like rough weather any more than anyone else does.

Exclusive Analysis, a political risk consultancy, has conducted a detailed study of incidences of maritime hijacking in order to give its insurer clients the heads up about when and under what circumstances piracy is most likely to occur. It has told the International Underwriting Association of London that the arrival of the monsoon in the Gulf of Aden about now usually keeps pirates on shore. Not so for Somalia, where the waters are generally calmer at the moment. Technically, it is when the Sea Scale hits 5 or 6, that is, rough to very rough.

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