The Kenyanist

19 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.

The Politics of Kenya’s Cost of Living Crisis
Last Tuesday at 7:00 AM

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...

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 protests (maandamano) in...

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...

Street-vending in Kenya

In this episode, we seek to understand the political economy of street vending in Kenya, by speaking to Nathan Kariuki, a PhD student at the Centre for African Studies, in Bordeaux, France whose PhD project examines street vending in Kenya.

What is described as the informal economy or jua kali, has been noted to be a significant portion of Kenya’s economy. For instance, it is widely acknowledged that about 84% of Kenya’s workforce is engaged in the informal economy. It is acknowledged that the distribution of people’s participation in the formal vs informal sector is highly...

Reforming the NHIF

In The Kenyanist today, we are joined by John Kinuthia, a Senior Program Officer at the International Budget Partnership who has recently, together with his colleagues, published a study on the transparency and accountability of the NHIF.

Health financing is a big deal. It has been part of global, regional and national political conversations. 

It is known that the developed countries in the world spend more money on healthcare, as a proportion of the GDP, compared with developing countries. For instance, it is known that countries in Africa spend about 6%t of their GDP on h...

Tracing Kenya's Artefacts abroad

In this episode of The Kenyanist, we aim to broaden and deepen our understanding of the lost Kenyan artefacts, by talking to the incredible Jim Chuchu, a Kenyan artist who has been in the lead of efforts to identify and document Kenya’s cultural items that are held outside Kenya. Jim has been part of the International Inventories Programme (IIP), an international research and database project that investigates Kenyan artefacts that are held in museums outside Kenya.

In recent years, there have been growing calls by African governments, cultural analysts and activists and their allies for the re...

Understanding Kenya's competence based curriculum (CBC)

In the first episode of The Kenyanist’s second season, Kamau Wairuri speaks to Dr Beatrice Akala, an educationist and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, on the country’s transition for the 8-4-4 system to the Competence Based Curriculum (CBC).

The discussion seeks to cut through the cacophony of voices that have marked the public discourse on CBC and get a fair and balanced view on the purpose of this shift in curriculum, whether it is justified and what we can expect the outcomes to be. 

As such, Kamau...

Meet The Host

For this International Podcast Day special episode, our new producer Tevin Sudi has a conversation with our executive director and host, Kamau Wairuri, for our listeners to get to know him a little bit better.

We talk about his background, why he started the Kenyanist, some of his favourite episodes, season 2, and much more. He even tells us if we’ll ever see his name on the ballot one day.

You can follow us on all social media platforms @thekenyanist and you can listen to all our episodes on or anywhere you ge...

Forced Evictions in Kenya

This episode explores the legal, social, and political dimensions of forced evictions in Kenya with Pauline Vata. She is a seasoned human rights lawyer with expertise in land, housing, and natural resource governance issues, positively influencing public policy in formulating laws that safeguard rights to housing and land.

The discussion starts with the legal instruments that the government can rely on to understand the procedures they should follow when carrying out evictions, they then proceed to discuss one of the most significant court cases that has emerged from the forced evictions, the Mitu-Bell case, in which the...

Kenya’s 2022 Elections & The East African Community (EAC)

In this episode of The Kenyanist, Sylvanus Wekesa hosts Nicodemus Minde who is a lecturer of International Relations at the United States International University (USIU) in Nairobi, Kenya. The discussion is focused on the rising concern in Kenya’s August 2022 elections in regards to the economic security and political considerations in the East African region; with stiff competition between the two leading candidates, namely the government backed opposition leader Raila Odinga and the current deputy president, William Ruto. Dr Minde gives a brief overview of the current East African Community (EAC) scene, with the recent admission of the Democratic Republic of...

A political economy of Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR)

In this episode, Kamau Wairuri hosts Eugene Ngumi, a public affairs consultant based in Nairobi, to discuss the politics of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) in Kenya. They trace the origins of the SGR, going back to the building of the old meter-gauge railway by the colonial government, it’s virtual collapse in the 1990s and the attempts to revive it in the early 2000s. After a concession attempt failed, the SGR was conceptualised during the Kibaki-era under the Vision 2030. They then proceed to discuss the building of the Railway by the Jubilee government, noting the congruence of internal and ex...

The making of a community organizer

Kamau Wairuri hosts Billian Okoth Ojiwa (@BillianOjiwa) to discuss his work as a community organiser in Kenya. Billian is the founder of the Billian Music Family, a community building organisations based in Mathare in Nairobi. Hosting a population of over 500,000 people, Mathare is one of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi. They discuss Billian’s childhood in Mathare, his early music career, and his eventual shift towards community organising work. We discuss the work his organisation has been doing to improve people’s lives in Mathare. They also discuss his efforts to engage in electoral politics and the price he has...

Financing Development at the grassroots: From Harambee to CDF

Show notes 

In this episode, Kamau Wairuri hosts Ken Opalo to discuss the financing of development at the grassroots in Kenya.  Ken is an Assistant Professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University at Washington DC (USA).  See Ken’s Profile here.

They discuss the nature and impact of the Harambee System in the post-colonial period in Kenya. The opposition of parliamentarians to Harambee, which became very expensive for them, led the MPs in the 9th parliament to establish the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), through which 2.5% of the national budget would be allocated to th...

Kenya’s Foreign Policy in Uhuru Kenyatta’s era

Kamau Wairuri hosts Sylvanus Wekesa to discuss Kenya's Foreign Policy during the presidency of Uhuru Kenyatta (2013 - to date). We have a wide ranging conversation ranging on the impact of President Kenyatta as Kenya's foremost diplomat. We discuss the anti-ICC politics as well as the mixed results of Kenya's foreign efforts including the pursuit of the Chairperson's position in the African Union (AU), leadership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) seat. We also note the regional politics -- East African Community (EAC) and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Sylvanus Wekesa is a...

The Cost of Politics in Kenya

In this episode, Kamau Wairuri talks to Tom Mboya, a governance consultant, on the cost of politics in Kenya. Our discussion is based on the findings of a study that Tom conducted with Prof Karuti Kanyinga on the topic. The study is a part of a global study. The findings can be found on  Tom and I discussed how much candidates spend in their election campaigns and why this cost varies by party, region and gender of the candidate. We also talked about the impact that the rising costs of election campaigns is having on Kenyan p...

The politics of street naming in Nairobi | Kamau Wairuri and Melissa Nyambura-Mwiti | The Kenyanist

In the first episode of The Kenyanist, Kamau Wairuri (host) talks to Melissa Wanjiru-Mwita, a lecturer in Spatial Planning at the Technical University of Kenya in Nairobi. Melissa argues that street names reflect what those in power want us to remember or forget.   In the first segment, we go back in time to trace the emergence of Nairobi City around the Railway Depot and how the streets were named. Noting that after Kenya became a Crown Colony in 1920, the British were more deliberate about naming the streets. One of the ways of claiming a space is to imprint a name on...

The Kenyanist: A podcast on Kenyan society and politics