By December 2020, only 26,971 Kenyans had managed to secure mortgage loans in the course of that year. This was revealed in the Central Bank of Kenya’s Residential Mortgage Market Survey 2021. Although these mortgage loans increased in 2021 to approximately 40,000 they are still a drop in the ocean.
Considering that approximately 15 million Kenyans are over the age of 35 years old, there are millions of Kenyans who should be able to afford mortgages. The fact that the overwhelming majority of working Kenyans cannot even afford these loans says a lot about the wealth distribution in our country.
According to Oxfam, less than 0.1% of Kenya’s population own more wealth than the bottom 99.9%. This means that approximately 8,300 Kenyans own more wealth than at least 44 million Kenyans. Along a similar vein, the richest 10% of Kenyans earn about 23 times more than the poorest 10%. Due to these glaring financial disparities, Kenya’s super rich are growing richer at a rate that is one of the fastest in the world. Evidently, Kenya is now one of the most economically unequal countries in the world.
How did we arrive here? More importantly, how can we flee from this unfortunate predicament? We can start by uprooting corruption.
Corruption rips apart the pockets of Kenyans and siphons money from there into the greedy hands of a few corrupt individuals. That’s because we lose one third of our national budget through corruption. This shocking information was revealed back in 2010 December by Treasury officials that were testifying before a parliamentary committee. This figure was corroborated six years later in 2016 by none other than Philip Kinisu, the then Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman.
This year’s budget was Shs3.3 Trillion while the 2021/2022 budget was Shs.3 Trillion. If we lost one third of the funds in any of these budgets, we would have lost Shs1 Trillion. Since the SGR cost roughly Shs420 billion, an amount of Shs1 Trillion can build an SGR of more than 1,000 kilometers. If you add up lost Trillions from previous years, you will end up with enough money to build an expressway from Busia to Mombasa. Think of what such an infrastructural leap would do to the economy of our country.
Tackling corruption will free up billions that can be used for all manner of infrastructural projects that will further open the country’s interior so that economic growth can be inclusive of all Kenyans. Seven out of ten Kenyans live in rural areas. According to the World Bank, most poor people live in these rural areas. They are the ones that must partake of the wealth that is being created in this country. The wealth that is currently mostly confined amongst the 8,300 Kenyans who own more wealth than the bottom 99.9%.
While our major urban centers like Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru are not as poor as rural areas, they are also home to millions of poor people. In 2020, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics released the first ever comprehensive poverty report. According to the Report, nearly 16 million Kenyans were living in poverty. The report described poverty as an adult earning less than Sh3,252 in rural areas and Sh5,995 monthly in urban areas. This should convince us all about the glaring unequal wealth distribution in our country.
In order to emerge successfully from this tragic inequality, we must take immediate, strategic steps. The first step is to vote wisely. As Jackson Mati said, ‘Nothing goes wrong, it can only start wrong”. The moment we elect the wrong leaders, we should not look surprised by the obvious results. If we elect ethical and effective leaders with political will to expend those Trillions in a professional and just manner, then Kenya’s wealth will be shared equally across the country.
More importantly, Kenyan entrepreneurs of all levels must ensure that their voices are heard, not just through their vote but also through their establishments. They must continue agitating for a tangible economic growth pathway that transforms communities. Think green, act green!