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Kenya’s economic growth slowed to 4.9 per cent in the first quarter of this year from 5.5 per cent a year earlier, hit by the uncertainty created by coronavirus pandemic, the statistics office said on Tuesday.

Kenya has enjoyed rapid growth rates in recent years, thanks to its diverse economy which does not depend on a single commodity or one major trading partner, but the pandemic has put the brakes on economic activity.

“The economy was affected by the resultant uncertainty that was already slowing economic activity in some of the country’s major trading partners,” the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics said.

The finance ministry expects growth to slow to 2.5 per cent this year from 5.4 per cent last year, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has so far seen more than 6,000 people infected in the country.

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The International Monetary Fund is more pessimistic, forecasting a contraction this year.

Patrick Njoroge, the Kenyan central bank governor, said on Friday that the bank would review its 2020 growth forecast in two weeks, citing better-than-expected data in farm exports and remittances sent home by Kenyans living abroad.

The first-quarter growth was supported by expansion in the farming, transport, financial services, construction and trade sectors, according to the bureau of statistics.

It was however curbed by a steep decline in the tourism sector, after the first case of the virus was confirmed in Kenya in mid-March and lockdown measures were instituted to slow its spread, the bureau said.

Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Alison Williams and Angus MacSwan

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