Kenya is undoubtedly one of the more interesting countries in Africa that seems to be gifted with all the necessary ingredients to experience a taste of rare economic prosperity – what with its young and burgeoning population, its English-speaking capability, and its considerable natural resources – but frustratingly its potential remains untapped due to a widening standard of income inequality as well as political instability, crime, and poverty.
In 2012, the CIA country report stated that 43.4% of the country’s 42 million people lived below the poverty line. This population are households that spend less than $2 a day. Indeed, 80% of Kenyan gets their livelihood from the agricultural sector. It has been estimated that only 4 million households produce 75% of the country’s food. 48% of these farmers live in poverty and it is estimated that 40% of Kenyans are food insecure i.e. they do not have access to quantity and quality nutrition.
In fact, come to Kenya and see it for yourself – food prices can be very expensive for many people. Kenyan beef, for instance (and whose quality is top notch, perfect for stews), can be quite costly, thus some families have had to forego eating meat on a regular basis.
That being said, there are several causes that have contributed to the poverty problem in Kenya – in fact there are plenty of complex factors affecting this, but we will zero in on three of the most important ones, without understating the fact that these problems cannot be oversimplified.
Exponential And Rapid Population Growth
According to the World Bank, Kenya’s population is growing at 1 million per annum. The present estimates are 46.1 million people. This rapid population is not being matched by economic growth rates. As an agricultural based economy, the arable land available is under pressure and many of the younger people are forced to move to the cities. Mobile money operators have estimated Nairobi has a growing population of 4.2 million which is double the population 15 years ago. This has led to a growing housing problem in urban areas and the attendant problems of insecurity, health problems and pressure on available public facilities.
Harsh (And Oftentimes Cataclysmic) Climatic Changes
In the last decade, Kenya has suffered 3 major famines. Presently (May 2017), the country is suffering major food shortages on the account of a ravaging drought brought on by the failure of rains in 2015/2016 cycle. Climate experts have attributed this to climate change. These changes in weather patterns have had a huge negative impact on crop and livestock production that has seen the country struggling to import food products and high inflation prices.
Extremely High Levels Of Inflation And Unemployment
Kenya has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa. Youth literacy is estimated to be 85%. About 30,000 Kenyan graduates hit the job market each year. The opportunities available have simply been unable to expand fast enough. The unemployment levels are estimated to be above 30%.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The Kenyan government has attempted to address the poverty-hunger problem in several ways. It should be noted that the 2010 Kenyan constitution guarantees the right to human dignity. This is in Article 43 of the constitution.
Notable attempts to lift Kenyans out of poverty include affirmative funds for women and youth like The Youth Enterprise Fund and Uwezo fund. The government has also accelerated irrigation efforts with the largest projects being the 10 million acres Galana Kulalu irrigation project.