Hope for economy despite insecurity threats

Date and time: 
Thu, 2017-11-16 11:53

Kenya continues to be rated among the best-performing sub-Saharan economies despite hitches such as the government’s  poor performance  in keeping prices stable, creating jobs, and managing the economy.

According to a  recent Afrobarometer Dispatch, Economic paradox in Kenya: More favourable perceptions amidst economic insecurity,” the  impressive performance is attributed to lower oil prices, improved tea and horticulture exports, infrastructural growth, and increased remittance inflows.

The dispatch however notes that the impressive picture depicted by the survey data could be somewhat different given the political turmoil witnessed in 2017.


The dispatch is authored by Dr Paul Kamau, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), University of Nairobi, based on Afrobarometer Round 7 Survey in 2016. Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues across more than 35 countries in Africa. The Afrobarometer team in Kenya is coordinated by IDS.


The 2016 survey assessed citizen perceptions of national economic conditions, perceptions of personal living conditions, economic insecurity, remittances, Government performance in handling economic issues, and   bank account ownership.

Economic conditions

Almost half (48%) of the Kenyan population saw the country as headed in the right direction in September/October  2016, which is twice the proportion who shared this view in 2011.


Younger people were more optimistic about the general direction of the country than older people: 51% of those aged 18-35 said it was headed in the right direction, compared to 45% of those aged 36-50 and 40% of those over 50. Women were somewhat more positive than men (50% vs. 45%.


Similarly, Kenyans’ assessment of the country’s economic situation improved but was still largely negative. A majority (55%) of respondents described economic conditions as “fairly bad” or “very bad” – a significant improvement from 2008 (78%), 2011(84%), and 2014 (59%).



Respondents were evenly divided in their outlook for the national economy: Half (50%) said they thought it would be “better” or “much better” in 12 months’ time, while an equal proportion thought it would  be “worse” or “much worse”.

 Personal conditions

When asked about their present living conditions, 38% described them as “fairly good” or “very good” – the highest score since 2005.


Positive assessments of personal living conditions were more frequent among women (41%) than men (35%), among better-educated respondents (54%) among those with post-secondary qualifications vs. 30% of those with no formal education), and among younger citizens.


More Kenyans also see themselves as being economically better than other citizens, an indication of improved individual’s well-being.  The proportion of respondents who said their living conditions were “better” or “much better” than those of other Kenyans continued its steady increase, from 15% in 2008 and 22% in 2011 to 31% in 2016 .


Economic insecurity

Despite more positive popular assessments of the country’s economic situation and personal living conditions, the proportion of the population who experienced economic insecurity increased between 2014 and 2016.

According to 2016 survey results, only about half of Kenyans were economically secure enough to avoid suffering a shortage of food (53%), clean water (52%), and medical care (47%) during the preceding year .Two-thirds (67%) always had enough cooking fuel, while fewer than one in five (17%) always had a cash income.

Compared to 2014, the proportion of Kenyans who never went without basic necessities declined by 6 percentage point for clean water, 5 points for medical care, 3 points for cooking fuel, and 9 points for cash income, while holding steady for food.


In its Round 7 survey, Afrobarometer for the first time assessed the level of international remittances in Kenya. Findings suggest that while not negligible, remittances are not a major or consistent source of income for most Kenyans: 63% say they do not receive money from friends and relatives living outside the country, and only 2% say they receive such remittances “more than once a month.”

Government performance

When survey respondents were asked to cite “the most important thing that the government should address” and allowed up to three responses, corruption (34%), unemployment (27%), health (26%), and water supply (26%) emerged the top four issues.

Management of the economy came in at No. 6 (23%), although other top 10 problems are clearly linked to economic performance (e.g. unemployment (27%) and poverty (14%).

Three-fourths (76%) say the government is performing “fairly badly” or “very badly” on keeping prices stable; majorities offer the same assessment on creating jobs (69%) and management of the economy (55%) .


Bank account  

Fifty-two percent of respondents say they have bank accounts – well above the sub-Saharan Africa average of 34.2%. Kenya’s place at the higher end among African countries may reflect financial innovation that has generated products aimed at various market segments in the country. 

The Afrobarometer results appear slightly lower than the Global Findex of the World Bank which puts Kenya’s financial inclusion at 68.5% in 2014. But rural Kenyans (44%) are considerably less likely than urban residents (66%) to have bank accounts and women trail men on this indicator,(47% vs. 57%).


For full information on the Afrobarometer Dispatch check the link below



Dr Paul Kamau during the presentation of Afrobarometer Round 7 Survey results.

Expiry Date: 
Fri, 2018-11-30 11:53
Contact Person: 

Dr. Paul Kamau pkamau@uonbi.ac.ke

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