The Kenyanist

10 Episodes

By: Kamau Wairuri

In ‘The Kenyanist’, we step back from the rush of current affairs to take a broader and deeper view of issues that Kenyans fight about. In each episode, Kamau Wairuri speaks to an expert who will help us understand a particular social or political issue better and hopefully propose how we can address some of our most pressing challenges as a society. Disclaimer: The views expressed by the guests on the show are not necessarily those of the host.

Taking Stock of the EAC: Leadership, Competition and Security

Somalia was recently formally admitted into the East African Community, a regional bloc with aspirations for deeper economic and political union. Somalia joins a more expanded bloc with members Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South-Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The recent admissions into the bloc have drawn criticism, with some analysts arguing that South Sudan, DRC and now Somalia are unstable and would bring instability into an already fragile region. However, others have argued that Somalia’s admission was long due as the people of Somalia are already deeply embedded within the East Af...

A New Middle Class in Kenya: Faking It to Make It

Most Kenyan youths live under the gloom of economic uncertainty which leads to hopelessness. This has been against a backdrop of multiple interventions from the government and other stakeholders. Regardless, the subject of youth and livelihoods has endured massive interest within Kenya, with the youth bulge described as an ‘opportunity’ and a ‘ticking time bomb’ in some quarters.

What cannot be understated however is that the conversations are often single sided focusing on youth unemployment which leads to other conversation son how young men find themselves in crime. A less talked about group is the yout...

Dispossession and voluntarism: The dynamics of Community Health Work in Kenya

In a past episode of the Kenyanist, we talked about reforming the NHIF, which the government has recently undertaken to improve healthcare delivery. We also heard about how African countries spend about 6% of their GDP on health, which is less than the 9.5% of GDP in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Yet, the Abuja Declaration commits African countries to invest 14% of the national budget in health. It is no secret, therefore, that many problems affect the healthcare system in African countries, including Kenya, with issues such as poor infrastructure, unharmonized medical records, inadequate personnel, and insufficient healthcare...

Fuzzy arithmetic: Kenya’s 42+ ethnic groups

For many Kenyans, being part of an ethnic group is an important mark of their identity. It symbolizes belonging, and access to resources. The question of which ethnic groups belong in Kenya is another part of this salient debate.

Ethnicity is often used as a means of mobilizing for state resources especially around elections. The question of which ethnic groups belong in Kenya therefore elicits sensitive emotions as some groups have in the past been denied citizenship on the basis of their ethnicity. Moreover, when the question of how many tribes are in Kenya...

The State of Athletics in Kenya

Kenya is renowned for producing world star athletes such as Eliud Kipchoge, a marathon legend, Faith Kipyegon, a top middle-distance runner, and the promising sprinter Ferdinand Omanyala. These among other athletes have consistently brought honor to Kenya with their stellar performances. Despite their success, the State of Athletics in Kenya is characterized by a paradoxical situation. On the one hand, the country continues to produce superstar athletes who excel on the global stage. On the other hand, Kenya has been struggling at the team level in international competitions. A glaring example of this was seen in the 2022 Olympics, where...

The Politics of Kenya’s Cost of Living Crisis

In this episode, Dr. Ken Opalo, a Georgetown University Professor provides a comprehensive analysis of Kenya's cost-of-living crisis. We unpack the underlying factors, assess government responses, and examine potential outcomes of current economic policies aimed at easing the cost of living.

On the political front, blame games persist, with the opposition (Azimio) pointing fingers at the government. The Kenya Kwanza government on the other hand blames the global economic environment and the previous regime.

We also delve into Kenya Kwanza's fiscal policies, which prioritize a populist agenda under the...

A perspective on Political protests in Kenya

Kenya's political history is marked by protests. We can trace the history of protests to colonial times. In this episode, we are joined by Dr Westen Shihalo, a senior researcher from the University of Johannesburg, to examine the history of protests in Kenya from the colonial era to the present day.

We examine how the protests against taxation and racial discrimination in colonial times paved way for the agitation for inclusion, democracy and justice in the post-colonial era. Despite some of the gains that have emanated from sustained political protests, including a new constitution, the legitimacy of...

Pursuit of dignified work by Kenyan domestic workers

Domestic work in Kenya, as well as in other parts of the world, is frequently characterized by low wages and a lack of recognition. Nevertheless, domestic workers have consistently proven to be indispensable to our daily lives. They maintain our households, ensure cleanliness, prepare our meals, and care for our children; essentially being responsible for our well-being.  

Despite their significant contribution to the economy and our overall welfare, domestic workers in Kenya face some of the most challenging working conditions. While the focus has rightfully been on the dire situations of Kenyan workers in th...

Kenyan Hip-hop and the Covid-19 Pandemic

The world is re-emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are only now beginning to understand the full impact of the crisis. In Kenya, we need to take this opportunity to reflect on how we can better prepare for future pandemics. At the same time, we need to reconsider culture’s role in helping us cope with and make sense of difficult events in our lives.  


One of the most powerful ways that culture can help us to process difficult experiences is through music. During the pandemic, we saw the government use music to co...

Food Culture in Kenya's Coastal Region

Kenya’s food culture is dynamic and evolving, based on both local and foreign influences. On the local front, we know that different cultural groups in Kenya
have their own foods and unique ways of preparing them.

This diversity also makes it difficult for us to talk about a Kenyan cuisine in the same way that we might talk about Ethiopian, Nigerian, or Indian cuisine. As
some arguments go, we can trace the state of our food culture to colonization. Some people argue that colonialism limited or popularized some foods including maize and legumes wh...