Why Strengthening the Middle Class Is the Key to Unlocking Kenya’s Economic Potential

If you earn between Sh46,356 and Sh184, 394 in a month, you are part of Kenya’s increas­ing­ly belea­guered mid­dle class. You are a hero. Not only are you the glue that holds our coun­try togeth­er, but you are also the engine that keeps our econ­o­my mov­ing forward.

You employ a sham­ba boy in your vil­lage or a nan­ny in your urban house. You buy meat every third or fourth day.

On a bi-month­ly or quar­ter­ly basis, you troop to Gikom­ba to refresh your wardrobe. In between, some­times every two weeks, you buy the ran­dom mitum­ba from your neigh­bor­hood. Because of you, the mitum­ba busi­ness employs rough­ly two mil­lion Kenyans. As revealed in a study by the Insti­tute of Eco­nom­ic Affairs and Mitum­ba Con­sor­tium Asso­ci­a­tion of Kenya in 2019 91.5% of house­holds buy sec­ond-hand clothes worth Ksh. 1,000 and below. Because of you, the Kenyan mid­dle class, this sec­tor thrives.

Almost dai­ly, you buy that roast maize or those man­goes. Can you see how your mon­ey is dri­ving Kenya’s econ­o­my for­ward? You, the loy­al mem­ber of Kenya’s mid­dle class, are indeed a hero. Today I cel­e­brate you.

Accord­ing to a report by Kenya Fight Inequal­i­ty Alliance, just 8,300 indi­vid­u­als in Kenya own the same wealth as the rest of the country’s over 45 mil­lion peo­ple, and the rich­est 10 per cent earn 23 times more than the poor­est 10 per cent. This ultra-rich, togeth­er with the upper class rarely spend their mon­ey on Kenya’s infor­mal sec­tor, leav­ing the mid­dle class as the fuel that pow­ers this vital sector.

Accord­ing to the Eco­nom­ic Sur­vey 2022, the infor­mal sec­tor account­ed for 83.3 per cent of total employ­ment out­side of small-scale agri­cul­ture and pas­toral­ist activ­i­ties. Fur­ther, most of the goods pro­duced by this sec­tor are con­sumed by the mid­dle class. As such, it is fair to con­clude that with­out the Mid­dle Class, eight out of ten Kenyans would be bereft of mean­ing­ful livelihoods!

Despite their piv­otal role in our soci­ety and econ­o­my, the Mid­dle Class has remained large­ly for­got­ten by suc­ces­sive Gov­ern­ments. And today, accord­ing to the World Bank, one third of our Mid­dle Class is only one eco­nom­ic shock away from slid­ing back into poverty.

As per the Bank’s macro pover­ty Out­look, 18.8 mil­lion or 34.3 per­cent of Kenyans, live below the pover­ty line of Sh220 a day. Mil­lions more are still in the low-income cat­e­go­ry even if they are above the pover­ty line. It is there­fore under­stand­able that suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have focused on uplift­ing the low-income Kenyans. Indeed, the cur­rent gov­ern­ment arguably won the 2022 elec­tions because of its laser focus on the plight of these ‘hus­tlers’.

In this regard, I wish to sub­mit that one of the best ways through which the gov­ern­ment can uplift the hus­tlers from pover­ty is by strength­en­ing the mid­dle class. By putting more mon­ey in their pock­ets, we will enable them to keep spend­ing on the infor­mal sec­tor that employs eight out ten Kenyans. We can do that by strength­en­ing the local man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor that employs a huge chunk of the mid­dle class. In essence, the strength of Kenya’s mid­dle class is direct­ly pro­por­tion­ate to the strength of Kenya’s man­u­fac­tur­ing sector.

Anoth­er sure bet for strength­en­ing the mid­dle class is through an expo­nen­tial increase in pub­lic sec­tor jobs.

Dur­ing the cam­paigns, then Deputy Pres­i­dent William Ruto, promised that, if elect­ed, his gov­ern­ment would hire 116,000 teach­ers. But in Jan­u­ary, amid tough eco­nom­ic times, the gov­ern­ment dras­ti­cal­ly scaled down that num­ber to 30,000 teach­ers. It is grat­i­fy­ing to note that the gov­ern­ment has allo­cat­ed Sh600 bil­lion to the edu­ca­tion sec­tor in its pro­posed Sh3.6 tril­lion bud­get, I sug­gest that a siz­able per­cent­age of this mon­ey be spent on recruit­ing thou­sands of new teach­ers. That will go a long way in strength­en­ing the mid­dle class, espe­cial­ly in rur­al areas, which will in turn boost the hus­tlers! Think green act green.!

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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