Trust in government, media can rise – by following the example set by NGOs and business

Nairobi – Tuesday March 8th, 2022 - In the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer findings for Kenya, NGOs were rated as the most trusted institutions by 73% of Kenyans, ahead of businesses at 70%. Concerns around misinformation and fake news are at an all-time high for Kenyans, with trust in government and media still significantly lower than the other key institutions.

This week, Edelman Kenya released the local findings of the global communication firm’s 2022 Trust Barometer report, The Cycle of Distrust, revealing that distrust has become the default for 66% of Kenyans surveyed. Two thirds of the respondents said they were more likely to disbelieve information offered to them unless shown direct evidence that it was from a trustworthy source.  

Meanwhile, 81% of respondents were concerned about false information or fake news being used as a weapon.  

This comes alongside a significant decline in respondents’ trust in government and media with 81% believing that government leaders are purposely trying to mislead people through spreading false information or gross exaggeration; and 76% feeling similarly about media. Despite this, of 28 markets Edelman surveyed, Kenyans were the most economically optimistic, with 91% saying they believed their families would be better off financially in the next five years. This was 40% higher than the global average.  

“While we have noted that trust in government and the media in Kenya is improving, it is still at a marginal rate for such important institutions. Recovering the trust lost will mean following the example set by business and – the most trusted institution – NGOs,” said Corazon Sefu, Managing Director at Edelman Kenya.

The Edelman research offered suggestions to hasten the process in which media and government leaders can regain trust. Improving the quality of information disseminated by all four institutions was determined to be the most powerful ‘trust builder’. Similarly effective is holding fellow institutions accountable for their actions and enhancing communication and process transparency. 

All these qualities are exemplified among the most trusted business and NGO organisations, who are setting the agenda in calling for transparency, real information, and accountability.  

Meanwhile, business leaders are increasingly expected to be involved in addressing societal issues related to their industries. The research showed that 58% of Kenyans surveyed “expect CEOs to speak publicly about controversial social and political issues that (they) care about.”

“There’s a fine balance, though, as while leaders in the corporate space are expected to speak out on societal issues, they can’t become too politically involved. As our research has shown, CEOs are expected to inform policy but stay out of politics, with less than a quarter of Kenyan respondents thinking it’s appropriate,” said Sefu.  

According to Trust Barometer data, restoring trust will be the key to societal stability by recognising:

i) Business’ societal role is here to stay, with more expectations on business to tackle social issues and speak out on issues related to their respective industries.

ii) The importance of demonstrating tangible progress; showing how systems work and where they succeed to restore belief in a better future.

iii) Leadership must focus on long term thinking, rather focusing on solutions over short-term gain.

iv) Every institution must provide trustworthy information, sending out clear, consistent, fact-based information and communication to break the cycle of distrust.

Other findings from the Kenyan data include:

  • For Kenyan respondents, the greatest societal fears were listed as: job loss; climate change; a significant increase in the fear of losing freedoms as citizens; and cyber-attacks.
  • 59% of employees surveyed said they would choose their place of work based on the organisation’s beliefs or values.
  • Among individual levels of trust, co-workers are the most trusted at 68%, followed by CEOs at 67%.

For more information, contact: Stacey Motachwa, 

About the Edelman Trust Barometer:

The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer is our 22nd annual trust and credibility survey. The survey was powered by Edelman Data & Intelligence (DxI) and consisted of 30-minute online interviews conducted between November 1 and November 24, 2021, across 28 countries and more than 36000 respondents. Each year, the barometer determines the levels of trust in four major institutions: Government, Media, NGOs and Business.