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Kenya’s Finance Bill sparks nationwide protests

Protests over Kenya’s Finance Bill. News. Kenyans are preparing for nationwide protests against a new finance bill today, despite the government removing some taxes on items like bread, cars, cooking oil, and sanitary towels. The Kenyan parliament is currently debating the Finance Bill 2024, which plans to increase taxes on many products and services, with a vote expected today.

The bill has faced widespread criticism from a public already struggling with high living costs. Campaigners, mostly Gen Z and millennials, argue that removing some taxes isn’t enough and are demanding that the entire bill be scrapped. Here’s why the bill has sparked such outrage in one of Africa’s most dynamic economies.

What is the finance bill?

The bill is part of Kenya’s 2024/25 budget and proposes tax hikes on various goods and services to increase government revenue.

Key provisions in the bill include:

  • Imposing a 16% VAT on bread
  • Raising taxes on mobile money transfers
  • Introducing a new annual 2.5% tax on cars

The bill also proposes an eco-tax on environmentally harmful products such as packaging, plastics, and tyres, which would increase the cost of items including nappies, sanitary towels, computers, and mobile phones.

Other proposed taxes include:

  • A 16% VAT on certain financial services and foreign exchange transactions
  • Taxes on income from digital marketplaces and digital content.

President William Ruto has stated that these measures, expected to raise $2.7 billion in additional taxes, aim to reduce Kenya’s reliance on borrowing to fund its budget.

What are Kenyans angry about?

Already burdened by a high cost of living, Kenyans have faced numerous tax hikes on salaries and fuel since Ruto’s election in 2022.

The government has also introduced a 1.5% housing levy on monthly income to build affordable homes for the poor, with a higher health insurance tax set to take effect in July. Opponents argue that this bill is the final straw for many Kenyans.

Recently, Kenyans have criticized the draft legislation online and organized nationwide protests with trending hashtags like #RejectFinanceBill2024, #OccupyParliament, and #TotalShutdownKenya on social media platforms such as TikTok and X.
An online petition on has gathered over 111,000 signatures since its launch on June 15.

Thousands have taken to the streets in coordinated marches across Kenya, including Nairobi, where riot police have used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters. The protests from June 21-27, are dubbed “7 Days Of Rage!”

Civil society organizations like the Law Society of Kenya and private business owners have also criticized the bill, warning it could negatively impact sectors such as retail, finance, the internet, transport, and manufacturing.

Ruto’s offer to talk to the protesters and his concessions on taxes have done little to ease the outrage among demonstrators, who say they are fed up with over-taxation.
“We cannot afford it, we do not want to hear anything about it. We want the bill to be completely taken off the table,” said Wanjira Wanjiru, a social activist.