Leadership, News

The Four Keys To Lift Kenya Out Of Abject Poverty

Did you know that 28.5 mil­lion Kenyans are liv­ing in pover­ty which is an increase of 15 per­cent since 2013? These dis­turb­ing sta­tis­tics were revealed in the Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals (SDG’s) Fact Sheet 2021, a report that was pre­pared by the Kenya Nation­al Bureau of Sta­tis­tics (KNBS).

Real­is­ti­cal­ly, in every sta­tis­tic, there are pal­pa­ble humans liv­ing in adverse­ly affect­ed house­holds. In these house­holds, peo­ple strug­gle to access edu­ca­tion, decent shel­ter, food, health­care and oth­er basic ser­vices. They strug­gle because they make less than Shs361 per day, World Bank’s def­i­n­i­tion of pover­ty. To make mat­ters worse for them, the prices of basic com­modi­ties like maize flour, sug­ar, cook­ing gas and Suku­ma wiki have increased by up to 46 per cent since 2013. Indeed, pover­ty is run­ning riot across the country. 

Against this back­cloth, the Gov­ern­ment has made com­mend­able efforts to halt this destruc­tive match of pover­ty. The eco­nom­ic stim­u­lus plans before and dur­ing coro­na helped hun­dreds of thou­sands of Kenyans. Through its Inua Jamii pro­gram, the Gov­ern­ment dis­burs­es mil­lions of shillings to 1.1 mil­lion eco­nom­i­cal­ly vul­ner­a­ble Kenyans.  Despite such efforts, it is evi­dent that much more needs to be done. I, there­fore, sug­gest these four path­ways that can com­ple­ment the Government’s ongo­ing efforts to com­bat poverty.

The first path­way is house­hold data. The 2019 Cen­sus revealed that there are 12.2 mil­lion house­holds in Kenya. There is a need for cred­i­ble, cur­rent house­hold data that can inform cus­tomized pover­ty reduc­tion efforts. You can­not employ the exact same pover­ty reduc­tion mea­sures in Garis­sa as you would in Kiambu. Each of the 47 Coun­ties has unique chal­lenges that exac­er­bate poverty. 

Accord­ing to the World Bank 77 coun­tries still lack suf­fi­cient data to ade­quate­ly mea­sure pover­ty. Although Kenya has made com­mend­able data strides, there is still tremen­dous room for improve­ment on the house­hold-lev­el data front. The more we are inten­tion­al about such data, the more pover­ty reduc­tion will be respon­sive to house­hold-lev­el realities. 

The sec­ond path­way is a mar­ket expan­sion of agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts. Agri­cul­ture employs sev­en out of ten peo­ple in rur­al Kenya. Con­se­quent­ly, mar­ket expan­sion of agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts will increase the rev­enue of rur­al Kenyans and com­bat pover­ty. This has already been expe­ri­enced in Muran­ga where avo­ca­do exports earned farm­ers Sh8.8 bil­lion in 2020. Although the area’s land and cli­mat­ic con­di­tions have always been con­ducive for avo­ca­do farm­ing, req­ui­site poli­cies, invest­ments, and mar­ket reach were pre­vi­ous­ly not in place. 

Every Coun­ty in this nation has agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts that can be sold beyond our nation­al bor­ders. In 2019, Kenya’s exports were worth almost Shs650 bil­lion, rank­ing it in the 107th posi­tion. We can do bet­ter than this by find­ing a glob­al mar­ket for our agri­cul­tur­al prod­ucts and ensur­ing that they meet glob­al export standards.

The third path­way away from pover­ty is cli­mate-smart agri­cul­ture. The lat­est Kenya Eco­nom­ic Report reveals that food imports have increased due to the adverse effects of cli­mate change on local food pro­duc­tion. Every time we import food, we are rob­bing our farm­ers of much-need­ed agri­cul­tur­al rev­enue. We should there­fore take bold steps away from rain-fed agri­cul­ture by main­stream­ing sus­tain­able irri­ga­tion across the coun­try. I sug­gest that the  Nation­al Gov­ern­ment, Coun­ty Gov­ern­ment, and investors pri­or­i­tize this matter. 

The fourth path­way out of pover­ty is infra­struc­ture. Although the gov­ern­ment has con­struct­ed more than 10,300km of new tar­mac roads, eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits haven’t been ful­ly felt by peo­ple at the grass­roots lev­el. That’s large because eco­nom­ic gains from infra­struc­tur­al devel­op­ment usu­al­ly take time. 

Researchers from the Uni­ver­si­ty of the Wit­wa­ter­srand in South Africa con­duct­ed com­pre­hen­sive research which revealed that infra­struc­tur­al devel­op­ment often impacts eco­nom­ic growth pos­i­tive­ly. The Africa Devel­op­ment Bank rein­forced this view by reveal­ing that Thi­ka Superhighway’s even­tu­al­ly con­tributed sub­stan­tial­ly to Kenya’s eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment. The same will be true for the 10,300km of new tar­mac roads that are now criss­cross­ing the coun­try. These eco­nom­ic gains should how­ev­er be accel­er­at­ed through State and Pri­vate sec­tor action towards increased intra-Coun­ty trade. 

To all of us, we must think and act green to take care of those 28.5 mil­lion Kenyans who are lan­guish­ing in pover­ty God help­ing us.

About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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