A worker fills the tank of a vehicle at a petrol station as Kenya's government announced a new increase in fuel prices in Nairobi on May 17, 2023.

A worker fills the tank of a vehicle at a petrol station as Kenya's government announced a new increase in fuel prices in Nairobi on May 17, 2023.

Photo by SIMON MAINA/AFP via Getty Images.

Kenya's Fuel Prices Soar to Record Highs Amid Public Outrage

Record high prices spark outrage as economic burden mounts, President Ruto's policy shift, and public dissatisfaction emerge amid rising costs and tax concerns.

In a move that has ignited fury across Kenya, the country's regulator has announced the highest fuel prices in recent memory. Overnight, the cost of petrol surged to approximately 212 Kenyan shillings ($1.40; £1.20) per liter in the capital, Nairobi, with the prices of various fuel types soaring by roughly 9% to 20%.

This announcement comes despite widespread protests in recent months against the high cost of living and the government's economic policies. David Ndii, Chief Economic Adviser to President William Ruto, expressed skepticism on social media platform X (formerly Twitter), stating, "It's going to be 'painful' and 'it may not work,'" adding that he would not sell false hope to Kenyans.

In the coastal city of Mombasa, a major port for imported crude oil, petrol will now cost 208.58 Kenyan shillings ($1.42) per liter, while diesel and kerosene will be priced at Ksh197.93 ($1.35) and Ksh199.54 ($1.36), respectively.

Meanwhile, in Nairobi, a liter of petrol will retail at Ksh211.64 ($1.44), diesel at Ksh200.99 ($1.37), and kerosene at Ksh202.61 ($1.38). Notably, the fuel prices in Nairobi closely align with those in the lakeside city of Kisumu.

In Mandera County, situated over 1,000 kilometers northeast of Nairobi, bordering Somalia and Ethiopia, petrol will be sold at Ksh225.64 ($1.54) per liter, diesel at Ksh214.99 ($1.46), and kerosene at Ksh216.61 ($1.48). Mandera County, known for historically having the highest fuel prices in Kenya, has once again registered unprecedented charges following this latest price review.

Other counties where fuel prices will exceed Ksh220 ($1.50) include Marsabit, Wajir, and Turkana, all located in northern Kenya, far from the capital.

Compared to the previous month, the cost of fuel in Kenya has risen significantly, with petrol increasing by Ksh16 ($0.11) per liter, diesel by Ksh21.32 ($0.15) per liter, and kerosene by Ksh33.13 ($0.23) per liter. This marks a departure from previous reviews where month-on-month adjustments rarely exceeded Ksh10 ($0.07).

The Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) attributed this price hike to global factors, stating, "The average landed cost of imported super petrol increased by 4.80 percent from $739.21 per cubic meter in July 2023 to $774.67 per cubic meter in August 2023." Diesel saw a 12.52 percent increase, while kerosene rose by 19.79 percent.

Furthermore, the high cost of fuel can also be attributed to the recently revised Value Added Tax (VAT) on petroleum products, which increased from 8 percent to 16 percent.

EPRA stated, "The maximum allowed petroleum pump prices in Nairobi are as follows: Super Petrol increases by KSh 16.96, Diesel increases by KSh 21.32 per litre & Kerosene increases by KSh 33.13 per litre." These prices include a 16 percent Value Added Tax, in accordance with recent tax laws and excise duty adjustments.

The surge in fuel prices coincides with Kenyans grappling with a high cost of living and the possibility of additional tax hikes. Kenyan President William Ruto recently introduced electric motorbikes as an alternative to combat rising fuel costs and environmental concerns.

President Ruto, who marked one year in office this week, removed the fuel subsidy upon taking power in September 2022, citing the country's heavy debt burden to sustain the program. His predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta, had introduced the subsidy to alleviate the high cost of living.

In August 2023, Ruto temporarily reintroduced the fuel subsidy to prevent prices from crossing the Ksh200 ($1.36) mark, a move that was seen as a significant departure from his earlier stance on subsidies.

Kenyans have taken to social media to express their concerns, with many feeling let down by President Ruto's failure to fulfill his promises to lower the cost of basic commodities and improve citizens' lives.