Helping Business While Raising Revenue: Streamlining Kenya’s Customs Collection, 2003–2007


In the early years of the twenty-first century, aging technology, disorganization, and corruption undermined the effectiveness of Kenya’s customs service as highlighted in a 2002 study by the World Customs Organization of port operations at Mombasa. Growing regional trade and domestic anti-corruption initiatives created pressure to improve customs operations. Neighboring countries had started to upgrade their ports and implement measures that would expand both regional and inter-continental trade. To control revenue loss and maintain a significant role in global trade, Kenya would have to streamline customs processes and improve accountability. In 2002, newly elected president Mwai Kibaki put his political support behind an effort to improve government services, reduce corruption, and boost the country’s financial position. The Kenya Revenue Authority, the agency responsible for customs, was at the center of the nationwide reform effort. Over the next several years, the authority’s new commissioner, Michael Waweru, and a handful of lieutenants reshaped record keeping, upgraded automation, raised the level of staff training, and succeeded in paving the road to future reforms.

Matt Strauser drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya by Kimberly Bothi in June and July 2012. Case published October 2014.

computerization of records
delivering services
sequencing reform
single agency turnaround
Focus Area(s)
Financial Management
Critical Tasks
Containing patronage pressures
Core Challenge
Principal-agent problem (delegation)
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Matt Strauser