
Can Sh9 trillion carpet all roads in Kenya? May be!
By MUNGAI KIHANYA
The Sunday Nation
Nairobi,
13 August 2023
Arthur is an
accountant and he asked me to work out how far nine trillion shillings
can go. Why Sh9 trillion? Well, it is the amount of money that the Kenya
government owes as public debt. Arthur remembers that a long time ago, I
had calculated the amount of surface area that can be covered with one
billion shillings in Sh1,000notes.
I suspect that many
of those who read this column today never saw that old article – indeed,
the majority of my readers of today were probably not even born when I
wrote that piece! Any way, in the year 2004 (19 years ago), I used the
dimensions of the (old) Sh1.000note to work out how much space one
million pieces (equal to Sh1 billion) would occupy. The answer came to
1.2 hectares or about 3 acres of land.
Before doing
attempting to answer Arthur’s question, let me make one thing clear: the
total value of all currency notes and coins in Kenya is far less than
one trillion shillings! For an unknown reason, I am blocked out of the
Central Bank of Kenya website so I can’t get the latest data; but, in
October last year, there was Sh240 billion of paper money in
circulation. In short, it is impossible to get Sh9 trillion in notes.
Nevertheless, it
remains intellectually interesting to visualise how far the Sh9 trillion
can go. The new generation bank notes are slightly smaller than those of
the year 2004. The Sh1,000note measures 14.4cm by 7.0cm. That makes an
area of 100.8 square centimetres. We may round that down to 100sq.cm to
simplify the arithmetic.
Now, Sh9 trillion
would be 9 billion notes of S1,000 each. Therefore, the total area
covered by the notes would be 900 billion square centimetres. This works
down to 90 million square metres, and farther to 9,000 hectares. This is
about 22,000 acres. Close your eyes and imagine 22,000 acres “carpeted”
with Sh1,000notes!
If the notes are
arranged widthwith across a typical tarmac road (7m wide), 100 of them
would fit one row. Therefore, 9 billion notes would require 90 million
rows. Each note takes up 14.4cm, thus, a total of 1,296,000,000cm of the
road would be carpeted.
How many kilometres
is that? 1,296,000,000cm divided by 100 (to get metres) and divided
again by 1,000 (to get km). The answer is 12,960km! Now ask yourself
this: what is the total length of all roads in Kenya?

