SR article

Development & Poverty Analysis

In this analysis the development and poverty in Kenya will be the central focus. First Kenya’s economy, poverty and physical geography will be discussed, followed by an analysis of the government policies, patterns and failures. The analysis will be concluded with the influence of the cultural barriers, geopolitics and the historical background of Kenya.


Kenya has the largest and most diverse economy in East Africa, with an average annual growth rate of over 5 percent for nearly a decade. In terms of Human Development Index Kenya ranks highest in its region. Its entrepreneurship and human capital give it huge potential for further growth, job creation and poverty reduction. The recent discovery of oil and other mineral resources creates great potential for the Kenyan economy. However, despite a decline of the country’s absolute poverty rate, wealth has not been distributed equally. Kenya remains a highly unequal society by income, by gender, and by geographical location. Poverty is highest in the arid and semi-arid areas that cover about 80 percent of the land area and are inhabited by about 20 percent of the population. Poverty also affects the coastal area, which receives fewer resources. Rapid population growth is another major challenge, further complicated by high unemployment rates especially among the youth. More than 70 percent of Kenya’s population are below the age of 30 and the population under age 14 alone amounts to 43 percent. (Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics, 2016)

With a population of 47.5 million people, Kenya is in the 29th largest country by population. It has a population density of 83 heads per square kilometre.  Of the complete population 26 percent  lives in urban areas. With a median age of 19, Kenya has a very youthful population. Because of the many water sources in Kenya, diseases carried by mosquitoes, like malaria and water borne diseases as Schistosomiasis are the biggest problem. Areas around these water sources are hit the most. Besides that, HIV is an issue, mostly in the south-west border area. Saying this, Kenya is now taking action against this. Especially in West-Kenya Aids prevention is picking up, as example the HIV-tests that are free given for inhabitants of Mfangano Island (see article Mfangano). The infrastructure of Kenya is regionally quite evolved, but is still below the standards found in Africa’s middle-income countries. Because of the new found oil and minerals, countries like China are very interested in investing in a boost of infrastructure in Kenya, which will benefit the country. But to really get advantage of this opportunity, as the theory of clinical economy of Sachs (Sachs, 2005) explains, it is important to also invest in preventing the diseases carried by mosquitoes and HIV. Economics are complex systems and one failure in the system can lead to a cascade of additional failures, so it is important to prevent this downward spiral of catastrophes by paying attention to all the different aspects of economics. By doing that, the opportunity that arise with the new found oil and minerals can be seized.

Businesswise Kenya has had trouble on the international trade-off market. The main reason for this is lack off structure and the fact that the countries surrounding Kenya have different ideas when it comes to creating a policy. Because of the lack off structure, it is difficult to stimulate the development of Kenya. Twice Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have made attempts to create an equal policy, but both times they have failed because of nationalism and diverging economic and political ideas. In 1996  however they managed to create a national commission named East African Cooperation (EAC). The reason this collaboration worked is the fact that the aims and goals set were easier to accomplish. Also the currencies of the three Nations were made convertible, which made international trade-off possible. It is a good thing that the collaboration worked, but the easier aims and goals to make it work are not especially the best way to achieve this collaboration. As Sachs mentions, not the part of achieving goals is the most important, but the monitoring and evaluation of the way to achieve the goals is. The range of issues should be wide, what means that maybe not all the goals will be achieved, but then it is important to ask why, not to make excuses for past advice (Sachs 2005). Still, in 1997 the presidents created an EAC flag and passport. They are working on an agreement about tariffs and monetary policy.
On the other hand, the relationship with Somalia are much worse. There is a long argument between the two countries, because of the traditional claims of territory. Somali guerrillas even used violence against local police and  the military forces. (African Studies Center, 2016).
Kenya has good ties with the European Union since they became independent in 1963. The cooperation began in the 1960’s, prior to the Lomé Convention. The main focus  have been in the areas of: ‘development finance, trade, political, industrial development, energy, socio-cultural, regional cooperation development, agriculture and environment, with the objective to increase exports income, promote industrialization, and promote economic growth of developing countries’.(Kenya Brussels, 2016). It is of importance that in case of Kenya, there is also attention to the connections with the rest of the world. Development should be in ‘family terms’, in this case the entire world can be seen as part of the family (Sachs, 2005). This view of Kenya and the rest of the world also fits the assumption of the Millenium Goals (UN Millenium Project, 2002). These goals are set for the whole world, but mostly includes the problems in the third world countries. This approach still is a top down approach, because the people of the Western world have set the Millenium Goals without many influences of the third world’s opinion. Easterly believes that a bottom-up approach would be much more effective to really develop the poor countries in the world (Easterly, 2006).  

The main export products that Kenya offers are flowers, fruits and vegetables, tea, coffee, fish and fishery products. So when there is a long time of drought, the risk of a failed harvest increases. The long periods of drought are a big problem in Kenya and the rest of Africa. In 2010 there was a period of drought which lasted almost a year. Because of this many farmers had no income (KNMI, 2011).The same issue as earlier in this analysis with the diseases because of the water, mosquitos and HIV is rising, as Sachs says one failure like this drought periods can lead to a downward spiral of catastrophes that will shut down other critical economic systems. That is why it is meaningful to monitor the dry periods in Kenya and think about a solution for this.

Kenya is a democracy, led by a president. This president is head of state, as well as head of government and head of a multiparty system. Since 2013 this president is Uhuru Kenyatta, who now runs Kenya with deputy president William Ruto. He is the wealthiest man in Kenya as pronounced so by Forbes magazine. One of his main focus points is keeping up with technology as well as reducing corruption. He has done this by setting up anti-corruption website where Kenyans can report their concern directly to him, as well as launching e-centres for people to access and pay for government services electronically in order to cut corruption and bureaucracy.

Women’s political representation in leadership in Kenya is below the global average, despite improvements in the recent election, triggered by the 2010 Constitution. In 2010, the Kenyan parliament had 10 percent women representation. Currently it has 15 percent, one of the lowest incidence in the Eastern African region. Women occupy 87 of the 416 seats of the newly-established National Assembly and Senate chambers.  Women occupy 6 of 16 positions of the Kenyan cabinet (meeting the one-third minimum constitutional requirement) and lead important ministries: defence, of foreign affairs, devolution and planning, land, housing and urban development, East African affairs, commerce and tourism, environment, and water and national resources. Women occupy 7 of 26 cabinet principal secretaries’ positions (below the constitutionally mandated one-third minimum). 

Facilities for social welfare have been largely in the hands of private and voluntary organizations. The government assists many of the voluntary organizations financially. This is an opportunity for the searchers approach as Easterly gives. The difference between a planner and searcher approach is that ‘a planner with top-down approach believes outsiders know enough to impose solutions, a searcher believes only insiders have enough knowledge to find solutions, and that most solutions must be homegrown’ (Easterly, 2006). These homegrown solutions can be stimulated by the voluntary organizations. With money they receive from the government, the organizations like NGO’s are developing the country.  The private and voluntary agencies are already highly developed. There are societies that care for the blind, the deaf and mute, and the physically disabled, and voluntary organizations that care for the poor and destitute. Homes and hostels have been established throughout the country for the care of orphans, young offenders, and juvenile prostitutes.

Women in Kenya are traditionally responsible for planting, harvesting, and weeding food crops, and for this purpose children are viewed as an economic asset. Women also lack the legal rights provided to men. Women must obtain written permission from their husbands or fathers in order to obtain a passport. In practice, permission is also required for women applying for credit. Although the Law of Succession stipulates that sons and daughters should receive equal inheritances, traditional custom continues to benefit male children. In 1997 the constitution was amended to prohibit discrimination based on gender. Domestic violence against women is widespread, and it is viewed as a family issue not a criminal matter. Female genital mutilation is widely practiced, especially among certain ethnic groups. (FS International, 2016)

Ethnic tensions between Kenyan tribal groups are pronounced. Tribal violence has occurred in the Rift Valley, as well as ethnically motivated fighting between Nubian and Luo populations erupted in Nairobi. Although most ethnic groups are represented in the government, Kikuyus sometimes face discrimination and harassment by government officials. Kenya's human rights record remains poor. There are many reports of extra judicial killings, the use of excessive force, and arbitrary arrest. Prison conditions are poor, and there are lengthy pretrial detentions. 

Lastly some key points in Kenyan history will be discussed. In 1944 the Kenyan African Union (KAU) was formed for African independence. Kenya gained this independence almost 20 years later in 1963. One of the first conflicts with terrorist was in 1998, when the US-embassy was bombed by Al-Qaeda operatives. In 2007 Kenya was involved in hectic violence after the elections. Eventually this was solved by mediating on government level. After a massive drought in 2009, 10 million Kenyans were in need of food aid. The government then had the military bring food, aid and medicines to the areas hit hardest. In 2011 Kenya started to intervene in the neighbouring country Somalia, which is terrorized by the Islamist militant Al-Shabab movement. As a result of this Kenya has been the victim of several attacks by this movement. One was in 2013 in the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi. Also in 2015 there was an attack on the Garissa University College. The Al-Shabab has said they won’t stop until Uhuru removes the Kenyan troops from Somalia. (BBC, 2016)

In February of 2017 there are elections in Kenya again. A new president will be chosen, this will probably lead to demonstrations like they were in 2007. Kenya is waiting for the changes the elections will be cause. The country has a lot of potential growing to a more developed country, and the new elections can hopefully stimulate that.

To be concluded, all different aspects mentioned in this analysis as the culture, geography, economy and government of Kenya are important to consider before developing this country. Just explore these aspects is not enough, ‘good development practice also requires monitoring and evaluation of the differential diagnosis’ (Sachs, 2005). As an example, the elections in February 2017 make it necessary to reconsider the politics of Kenya again. With the information got from the diagnosis, it is possible to create development in Kenya. With money from the top and entrepreneurship from the bottom, development will be stimulated.


Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics (2016),

Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty. Penguin, 2005. Chapter 4.

African Studies Centre (2016),

UN Millenium Project (2002)

William Easterly, The White Man’s Burden: Why the West'S Efforts To Aid The Rest Have Done So Much Ill And So Little Good. Penguin, 2007. Chapter 10.

KNMI (2011),

FS International (2016),

BBC (2016),