The High Court in Kenya has issued conservatory orders to halt the ongoing privatisation of several state-owned companies.
This legal intervention follows concerns and legal challenges raised by various stakeholders, prompting the court to temporarily suspend the implementation of the government’s privatisation plan until the legal merits and potential implications are thoroughly examined.
Prior to the court’s intervention, Kenya had embarked on an ambitious privatisation drive, targeting 11 state-owned entities, including the lucrative Kenya Pipeline Company.
The initiative, spearheaded by the Ministry of Finance, aimed to generate revenue to alleviate the financial strain caused by escalating debt repayments.
Over 35 companies were slated for partial sale, ranging from the state oil pipeline and a major convention center in Nairobi to a textbook publisher, agri-business firms, and industrial companies.
Among the entities earmarked for privatization, the Kenya Pipeline Company stood out as a profitable government-owned entity holding a monopoly in the transportation of gas and white oil products.
Recognising the constitutional requirement for public participation, the Ministry of Finance had invited public comments on the privatisation plan, with a deadline for feedback set until December 11.
The overarching goal of the privatisation and restructuring initiative, as stated by the Treasury, was to achieve fiscal consolidation and spur economic development by attracting private investment, enhancing efficiency, and unlocking the growth potential of these state-owned enterprises.
However, with the High Court’s conservatory orders, the trajectory of Kenya’s privatisation agenda now faces uncertainty.
The privatisation plan had caused an uproar among opposition leaders and Kenyans at large, who have faulted the government’s plan to sell some of the key state assets.
Other entities that have been lined up for privatisation include New Kenya Cooperative Creameries, Kenya Seed Company, National Oil Cooperation of Kenya and Kenya Literature Bureau among others.