Kenya at a Glance: Putting Poverty into Perspective

By Soko Directory Team / Published June 5, 2017 | 9:46 am





By Amina Faki

Kenya is a country of many contrasts, from its landscape to demographics, and more so its social and economic inequalities. Kenya is one of an unequal country in the sub-region. 42 percent of its population of 44 million lives below the poverty line.

The stereotype still remains that Africa as a whole is vastly impoverished and desolate. While certain, y some pockets of the continent continue to suffer, the poverty rate in Kenya shows improvement.

Poverty in Kenya is fuelled by a diversity of factors: unemployment, child labor, HIV/AIDS epidemic, and an education system in failure (among other delicacies). Nevertheless, 47 million people in a country have been one of the few in Africa to do pretty well in the 1970s-80s in terms of covering basic needs, thanks to several useful policies and its smallholder agriculture.

The following are some of the factors that escalate the rate of poverty in the country;

Wasted opportunity

Kenya has become a major trading hub in the region despite tough times in economic growth since independence. The country holds a young and vibrant population with 42 percent underage with a big section of it below 15. This can be a better opportunity for consumption if only the average income hadn’t been plummeting in the past few years threatening more and more families of destitution.

Currently, the unemployment rate in the country stands at 39.1 percent, thereby marginalizing as much as 39.1 percent of the total population.

Political Stability is Key

Political cohesion is vital to the smooth and rapid development of the country. The country faced tough political times back in 2007/2008 which reported cases of electoral manipulation. We have heard of the same cases in the recent party primaries.

Unfair trade barriers

By nature, trade is a form of partnership; as such people and nations are expected to engage in trade on equal terms. This is hardly the norm worldwide. Developed countries, the same that pushes liberalization in poor countries via financial institutions, have been unashamedly protecting their own agricultural sectors etc. This is precisely the sector in which countries such as Kenya are likely to be the most competitive. Developed countries apply significantly higher tariffs on imports from developing countries than what would be applied on goods from another developed country.

The need for a stronger government

Well simply because their goods are too cheap, their labor is too inexpensive, they might very well win the market competition! Of course, no harm intended to Western farmers here, but if everyone has subsidies, why wouldn’t Kenyans too?

Too much faith is placed in market forces without considering the supporting conditions (government tax cuts, tax breaks, subsidies, etc) necessary to develop a modern agriculture. A consequence of this is that many primary producers have seen their income fall sharply. From worldwide slump to the lack of infrastructure (in transports, roads, and markets), and incredibly low-income level, reasons are plenty for the inability to address the problem of poverty in Kenya.

Food shortages and growing population

As the country failed to sustain its economic growth over the past decades, it also failed to complete its demographic transition (from high birth and mortality rates to low ones). Kenya’s population then expanded six-fold, thus turning the resource-rich country into a resource-poor one.

Population pressure

With the population’s pressure on the economy and its resources, the only solution is obviously a sustainable intensification of the agricultural production. Improved market opportunities (better distribution system and infrastructure for exchanges) and agricultural techniques are needed just as much as a diversification of activities in rural areas so that producers can compete with imported goods and meet local demand.

Aside from periodic but short food shortages, poverty in Kenya stems mostly from other, more severe problems: insufficient access to water, HIV/AIDS, poor education, child labor…

Education

Kenya was long a rare success in Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of education, with the best children enrollment rates in primary school (95% in 1988). The impact of colonization and the domination of Europeans shaped this constructive vision of compulsory education as a means to end poverty in Kenya and push the country toward economic development. Education alone can’t fix poverty in Kenya.

Poverty in Kenya brings completely absurd situations where average urban wages for full-time jobs are simply not enough to make ends meet. As you can guess, people do survive by relying on their wits, creating a makeshift economy and coping strategies.

Besides, people from the cities have often times maintained close ties with their traditional hometowns in rural areas which then serve as their private safety net, where they can fall back in times of economic hardships. With its fast growing population, the government cannot overlook the importance of developing the economy as a whole, with increased interaction between the different sectors (agriculture, transports, and telecommunications).

It has to continue developing a diverse agricultural sector as well as its industry and urban areas in order to accommodate the newcomers and create enough jobs. Poverty in Kenya thrives on this lack of diversification of the economy, which in turn hinders any social improvement.




About Soko Directory Team

Soko Directory is a Financial and Markets digital portal that tracks brands, listed firms on the NSE, SMEs and trend setters in the markets eco-system.Find us on Facebook: facebook.com/SokoDirectory and on Twitter: twitter.com/SokoDirectory

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