The Full Wiki

Economy of Kenya: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kenya's economy is market-based, with some state-owned infrastructure enterprises, and maintains a liberalized external trade system. The economy’s heavy dependence on rain-fed agriculture and the tourism sector leaves it vulnerable to cycles of boom and bust. The agricultural sector employs nearly 75 percent of the country’s 38 million people. Half of the sector’s output remains subsistence production.[1]

Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate declined continuously from a peak of about 6.5 percent per year during the first decade after independence to less than 4 percent per year in the following decade, to only about 1.5 percent per year during the 1990s. It has experienced an upturn to more than 5 percent per year since 2004. Several decades of declining economic performance, combined with rapid population growth, translated over time into reduced income per head, increased poverty, and worsening unemployment. Between the 1970s and 2000, the number of Kenyans classified as poor grew from 29 percent to about 57 percent.[1]

Kenya’s economic performance has been hampered by numerous interacting factors: heavy dependence on a few agricultural exports that are vulnerable to world price fluctuations, population growth that has outstripped economic growth, prolonged drought that has necessitated power rationing, deteriorating infrastructure, and extreme disparities of wealth that have limited the opportunities of most to develop their skills and knowledge. Poor governance and corruption also have had a negative impact on growth, making it expensive to do business in Kenya. According to Transparency International, Kenya ranks among the world’s half-dozen most corrupt countries. Bribery and fraud cost Kenya as much as US$1 billion a year. Kenyans, 23 percent living on less than US$1 per day, pay some 16 bribes a month—two in every three encounters with public officials. Another large drag on Kenya’s economy is the burden of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS).[1]

Prospects brightened somewhat under the Kibaki government, whose policy aims include budgetary reforms and debt restraint. Despite early disillusionment with the government, the economy has seen a broad-based expansion, led by strong performance in tourism and telecommunications, and acceptable post-drought results in agriculture, especially the vital tea sector. Nevertheless, risks to continuing robust growth remain, including weak infrastructure, drought, political instability in the run-up to the December 2007 elections, and diminution of financial flows from donors because of ongoing corruption allegations.[1]


Economic history

After independence, Kenya promoted rapid economic growth through public investment, encouragement of smallholder agricultural production, and incentives for private (often foreign) industrial investment. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an annual average of 6.6% from 1963 to 1973. Agricultural production grew by 4.7% annually during the same period, stimulated by redistributing estates, diffusing new crop strains, and opening new areas to cultivation. Between 1974 and 1990, however, Kenya's economic performance declined. Inappropriate agricultural policies, inadequate credit, and poor international terms of trade contributed to the decline in agriculture. Kenya's inward-looking policy of import substitution and rising oil prices made Kenya's manufacturing sector uncompetitive. The government began a massive intrusion in the private sector. Lack of export incentives, tight import controls, and foreign exchange controls made the domestic environment for investment even less attractive.

From 1991 to 1993, Kenya had its worst economic performance since independence. Growth in GDP stagnated, and agricultural production shrank at an annual rate of 3.9%. Inflation reached a record 100% in August 1993, and the government's budget deficit was over 10% of GDP. As a result of these combined problems, bilateral and multilateral donors suspended program aid to Kenya in 1991.

In 1993, the Government of Kenya began a major program of economic reform and liberalization. A new minister of finance and a new governor of the central bank undertook a series of economic measures with the assistance of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). As part of this program, the government eliminated price controls and import licensing, removed foreign exchange controls, privatized a range of publicly owned companies, reduced the number of civil servants, and introduced conservative fiscal and monetary policies. From 1994-96, Kenya's real GDP growth rate averaged just over 4% a year.

In 1997, however, the economy entered a period of slowing or stagnant growth, due in part to adverse weather conditions and reduced economic activity prior to general elections in December 1997. In July 1997, the Government of Kenya refused to meet commitments made earlier to the IMF on governance reforms. As a result, the IMF suspended lending for three years, and the World Bank also put a $90 million structural adjustment credit on hold. Although many economic reforms put in place in 1993-94 remained, Kenya needed further reforms, particularly in governance, in order to increase GDP growth and combat poverty among the majority of its population. Lack of progress in the Goldenberg scandal marked an unwillingness to deal with corruption.

The Government of Kenya took some positive steps on reform, including the 1999 establishment of the Kenyan Anti-Corruption Authority, and measures to improve the transparency of government procurements and reduce the government payroll. In July 2000, the IMF signed a $150 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility, and the World Bank followed suit shortly after with a $157 million Economic and Public Sector Reform credit. By early 2001, however, the pace of reform appeared to be slowing again, and the IMF and World Bank programs were in abeyance as the government failed to meet its commitments under the programs.

This is a chart of trend of gross domestic product of Kenya at market prices estimated by the International Monetary Fund with figures in millions of Kenyan Shillings.

Year Gross Domestic Product US Dollar Exchange
1980 74,940 7.42 Shillings
1985 143,715 16.43 Shillings
1990 278,502 22.86 Shillings
1995 614,267 50.42 Shillings
2000 967,838 78.58 Shillings
2005 1,449,408 75.55 Shillings

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

In 2006 Kenya’s GDP was about US$17.39 billion. Per capita GDP averages somewhat more than US$450 annually. Adjusted in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, per capita GDP in 2006 was about US$1,200. The country’s real GDP growth picked up to 2.3 percent in early 2004 and to nearly 6 percent in 2005 and 2006, compared with a sluggish 1.4 percent in 2003 and throughout President Daniel arap Moi’s last term (1997–2002). Real GDP is expected to continue to improve, largely because of expansions in tourism, telecommunications, transport, and construction and a recovery in agriculture. The Kenya Central Bank forecast for 2007 is between 5 and 6 percent GDP growth. GDP composition by sector, according to 2004 estimates, was as follows: agriculture, 25.7 percent; manufacturing, 14.0 percent; trade, restaurants, and hotels, 13.8 percent; transport and communications, 6.9 percent; government services, 15.6 percent; and other, 24.0 percent.[1]




Cultivation on the slopes of Mount Kenya

The agricultural sector continues to dominate Kenya’s economy, although only 15 percent of Kenya’s total land area has sufficient fertility and rainfall to be farmed, and only 7 or 8 percent can be classified as first-class land. In 2006 almost 75 percent of working Kenyans made their living on the land, compared with 80 percent in 1980. About one-half of total agricultural output is non-marketed subsistence production. Agriculture is the second largest contributor to Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP), after the service sector. In 2005 agriculture, including forestry and fishing, accounted for about 24 percent of GDP, as well as for 18 percent of wage employment and 50 percent of revenue from exports. The principal cash crops are tea, horticultural produce, and coffee; horticultural produce and tea are the main growth sectors and the two most valuable of all of Kenya’s exports. In 2005 horticulture accounted for 23 percent and tea for 22 percent of total export earnings. Coffee has declined in importance with depressed world prices, accounting for just 5 percent of export receipts in 2005. The production of major food staples such as corn is subject to sharp weather-related fluctuations. Production downturns periodically necessitate food aid—for example, in 2004 aid for 1.8 million people⎯because of one of Kenya’s intermittent droughts.[1]

Tea, coffee, sisal, pyrethrum, corn, and wheat are grown in the fertile highlands, one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa. Production is mainly on small African-owned farms formed from the division of formerly European-owned estates. Livestock predominates in the semi-arid savanna to the north and east. Coconuts, pineapples, cashew nuts, cotton, sugarcane, sisal, and corn are grown in the lower-lying areas.[1]

Forestry and fishing

Resource degradation has reduced output from forestry. In 2004 roundwood removals came to 22,162,000 cubic meters. Fisheries are of local importance around Lake Victoria and have potential on Lake Turkana. Kenya’s total catch reported in 2004 was 128,000 metric tons. However, output from fishing has been declining because of ecological disruption. Pollution, overfishing, and the use of unauthorized fishing equipment have led to falling catches and have endangered local fish species.[1]

Mining and minerals

Kenya has no significant mineral endowment. The mining and quarrying sector makes a negligible contribution to the economy, accounting for less than 1 percent of gross domestic product, the majority contributed by the soda ash operation at Lake Magadi in south-central Kenya. Thanks largely to rising soda ash output, Kenya’s mineral production in 2005 reached more than 1 million tons. One of Kenya’s largest foreign-investment projects in recent years is the planned expansion of Magadi Soda. Apart from soda ash, the chief minerals produced are limestone, gold, salt, and fluorspar.[1]

All unextracted minerals are government property, according to the Mining Act. The Department of Mines and Geology, under the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, controls exploration and exploitation of such minerals.[1]

Industry and manufacturing

Although Kenya is the most industrially developed country in East Africa, manufacturing still accounts for only 14 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). This level of manufacturing GDP represents only a slight increase since independence. Expansion of the sector after independence, initially rapid, has stagnated since the 1980s, hampered by shortages in hydroelectric power, high energy costs, dilapidated transport infrastructure, and the dumping of cheap imports. Industrial activity, concentrated around the three largest urban centers, Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu, is dominated by food-processing industries such as grain milling, beer production, and sugarcane crushing, and the fabrication of consumer goods, e.g., vehicles from kits. Kenya also has an oil refinery that processes imported crude petroleum into petroleum products, mainly for the domestic market. In addition, a substantial and expanding informal sector engages in small-scale manufacturing of household goods, motor-vehicle parts, and farm implements. About half of the investment in the industrial sector is foreign, with the United Kingdom providing half. The United States is the second largest investor.[1]

Kenya’s inclusion among the beneficiaries of the U.S. Government’s African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has given a boost to manufacturing in recent years. Since AGOA took effect in 2000, Kenya’s clothing sales to the United States increased from US$44 million to US$270 million (2006). Other initiatives to strengthen manufacturing have been the new government’s favorable tax measures, including the removal of duty on capital equipment and other raw materials.[1]


The largest share of Kenya’s electricity supply comes from hydroelectric stations at dams along the upper Tana River, as well as the Turkwel Gorge Dam in the west. A petroleum-fired plant on the coast, geothermal facilities at Olkaria (near Nairobi), and electricity imported from Uganda make up the rest of the supply. Kenya’s installed capacity stood at 1,142 megawatts a year between 2001 and 2003. The state-owned Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), established in 1997 under the name of Kenya Power Company, handles the generation of electricity, while the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC), which is slated for privatization, handles transmission and distribution. Shortfalls of electricity occur periodically, when drought reduces water flow. In 1997 and 2000, for example, drought prompted severe power rationing, with economically damaging 12-hour blackouts. Frequent outages, as well as high cost, remain serious obstacles to economic activity. Tax and other concessions are planned to encourage investment in hydroelectricity and in geothermal energy, in which Kenya is a pioneer. The government plans to open two new power stations in 2008, Sondu Miriu (hydroelectric) and Olkaria IV (geothermal), but power demand growth is strong, and demand is still expected to outpace supply during periods of drought.[1]

Kenya has yet to find hydrocarbon reserves on its territory, despite several decades of intermittent exploration. Although Australia continues the search off Kenya’s shore, Kenya currently imports all crude petroleum requirements. Petroleum accounts for 20 to 25 percent of the national import bill. Kenya Petroleum Refineries—a 50:50 joint venture between the government and several oil majors—operates the country’s sole oil refinery in Mombasa, which currently meets 60 percent of local demand for petroleum products. In 2004 oil consumption was estimated at 55,000 barrels a day. Most of the Mombasa refinery’s production is transported via Kenya’s Mombasa–Nairobi pipeline.[1]


Tourists on a safari in Kenya

Kenya’s services sector, which contributes about 63 percent of GDP, is dominated by tourism. The tourism sector has exhibited steady growth in most years since independence and by the late 1980s had become the country’s principal source of foreign exchange. In the late 1990s, tourism relinquished this position to tea exports, because of a terrorism-related downturn. The downturn followed the 1998 bombing of the U.S Embassy in Nairobi and later negative travel advisories from Western governments. Tourists, the largest number from Germany and the United Kingdom, are attracted mainly to the coastal beaches and the game parks, notably, the expansive Tsavo National Park (20,808 square kilometers) in the southeast. The government and tourist industry organizations have taken steps to address the security problem and to reverse negative publicity. Such steps include establishing a tourist police and launching marketing campaigns in key tourist origin markets. Tourism has seen a substantial revival over the past several years and is the major contributor to the pick-up in the country’s economic growth.[1]

Tourism is now Kenya's largest foreign exchange earning sector, followed by flowers, tea, and coffee. In 2006 tourism generated US$803 million, up from US$699 million the previous year.[1]

Other elements of Kenya’s services sector face challenges of downsizing, in particular, the financial system. The Kenya banking system is supervised by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK). As of late July 2004, the system consisted of 43 commercial banks (down from 48 in 2001), several non-bank financial institutions, including mortgage companies, four savings and loan associations, and several score foreign-exchange bureaus. Two of the four largest banks, the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) and the National Bank of Kenya (NBK), are partially government-owned, and the other two are majority foreign-owned (Barclays Bank and Standard Chartered). Most of the many smaller banks are family-owned and -operated.[1]


In the early 2000s, agriculture remains the population’s main occupation and source of income. In 2006 Kenya’s labor force was estimated to include about 12 million workers, almost 75 percent in agriculture. The number employed outside small-scale agriculture and pastoralism was about 6 million. In 2004 about 15 percent of the labor force was officially classified as unemployed. Other estimates place Kenya’s unemployment much higher, even up to 40 percent.[1]

Currency, exchange rate, and inflation

The value of the Kenyan shilling (KSh), Kenya’s unit of currency, declined during President Moi’s last term (1997–2002) from about KSh60 per US$1 in 1998 to KSh78.75 per US$1 in 2002. The exchange rate of the Kenya shilling between 2003 and 2005 averaged about KSh76 to US$1. As of June 1, 2007, the rate was KSh67=US$1.[1]

In 2006 the inflation rate for consumer prices was estimated at 14.5 percent. This rate was a significant rise from the previous year’s 10.3 percent, reflecting higher food prices, which carry a 50 percent weighting in the consumer price index.[1]

Government budget

The budgets of the Moi era (1978–2002) carried increasingly worrisome deficits, and the Kibaki government’s first budget for fiscal year (FY) 2004 was similarly unbalanced. In 2006 Kenya’s revenues totaled US$4.448 billion, while its estimated expenditures totaled US$5.377 billion. Government budget balance as a percentage of gross domestic product⎯a low –5.5 percent in 2004⎯had improved to –2.1 percent in 2006.[1]

Foreign economic relations

Since independence, Kenya, a nonaligned but pro-Western country, has seen both substantial foreign investment and significant amounts of development aid, some from the communist bloc, most from the West. Between 60 and 70 percent of industry is still owned from abroad. Development assistance has come from increasingly diverse sources in recent years. The share provided by the United Kingdom has fallen, while that of multilateral agencies, particularly the World Bank and the European Development Fund, has increased. When President Moi left office in December 2002, one of the major concerns of international donors was removed, and they prepared to step up aid. The International Monetary Fund resumed aid after a three-year gap, and others followed suit with pledges of US$4.1 billion from 2004 to 2006 for development and budgetary support. By February 2005, however, relations with donors were again deteriorating, and some promised aid was suspended because of disappointing progress in tackling corruption and in instituting economic reforms, including privatization.[1]

Aside from ties with advanced economies and donors, Kenya is active within regional trade blocs such as the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC), a partnership of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. The EAC, dissolved in 1977 because of political tensions, was revived in 1997. The ultimate aim of the EAC is to create a common market of the three states modeled on the European Union. Among the early steps toward integration is the customs union of 2004, which eventually will eliminate duties on goods and non-tariff trade barriers among the members. The question of how the EAC will relate to other regional trade blocs, including COMESA and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), is in flux.[1]

Kenyan exports in 2006

Kenya’s chief exports are horticultural products and tea. In 2005 the combined value of these commodities was US$1,150 million, about 10 times the value of Kenya’s third most valuable export, coffee. Kenya’s other significant exports are petroleum products, sold to near neighbors, fish, cement, pyrethrum, and sisal. The leading imports are crude petroleum, chemicals, manufactured goods, machinery, and transportation equipment. Africa is Kenya's largest export market, followed by the European Union. The major destinations for exports are the United Kingdom (UK), Tanzania, Uganda, and the Netherlands. Major suppliers are the UK, United Arab Emirates, Japan, and India. Kenya’s main exports to the United States are garments traded under the terms of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Despite AGOA, Kenya’s apparel industry is struggling to hold its ground against Asian competition and runs a trade deficit with the United States.[1]

Kenya typically has a substantial trade deficit. The trade balance fluctuates widely because Kenya’s main exports are primary commodities subject to the effects of both world prices and weather. In 2005 Kenya’s income from exports was about US$3.2 billion. The payment for imports was about US$5.7 billion, yielding a trade deficit of about US$2.5 billion.[1]

In 2006 Kenya had a current account deficit of US$1.5 billion. This figure was a significant increase over 2005, when the current account had a deficit of US$495 million. In 2006 the current account balance as a percentage of gross domestic product was –4.2.[1]

In 2006 Kenya’s external debt totaled US$6.7 billion. The debt is forecast to be a manageable 30 percent of gross domestic product in 2007.[1]

Kenyan policies on foreign investment generally have been favorable since independence, with occasional tightening of restrictions to promote the “Africanization” of enterprises. Foreign investors have been guaranteed ownership and the right to remit dividends, royalties, and capital. In the 1970s, the government disallowed foreign investment unless there was also some government participation in the ownership of an enterprise. Notwithstanding some restrictions, between 60 and 70 percent of industry is still owned from abroad. The most active investors have been the British.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab Kenya country profile. Library of Congress Federal Research Division (June 2007). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the CIA World Factbook.

Further reading

  • Kitching, Gavin (1980). Class and Economic Change in Kenya. Yale University Press. ISBN 0300023855. 

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address