11 million Kenyans live in extreme poverty: study

Street children in Meru town as seen in this picture taken on November 15, 2016. Kenya is trailing its peers in the war against poverty. PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL | NMG
Street children in Meru town as seen in this picture taken on November 15, 2016. Kenya is trailing its peers in the war against poverty. PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL | NMG 

Kenya’s economy is lifting only 30 people out of extreme poverty every hour, making it a poor performer compared to neighbouring Ethiopia where 300 people get out of the debilitating condition per hour.

Vienna-based World Poverty Clock says 11 million Kenyans are living below the $1.90 (Sh197) per day extreme poverty threshold and accounting for 22.7 per cent of the national population now estimated to stand at 48.6 million.

“Currently in Kenya 11,006,307 people live in extreme poverty,” the real-time survey says.

With 30 people getting out of poverty every hour, Kenya also trails Tanzania where 66 people are escaping extreme impoverishment every hour or 36 more than in Kenya.

Analysts said Kenya’s poor performance in poverty reduction despite impressive gross domestic product (GDP) growth points to poor wealth distribution among the population.


That is in part due to the country’s small manufacturing base and high rate of joblessness that denies households a steady stream of income flow, according to Aly-Khan Satchu, an independent analyst.

Mr Satchu said mega public infrastructure projects could be providing income to thousands of workers but only for some time, and that the majority of those employed in such projects often slide back into unemployment and poverty upon their completion.

Kenya’s current rate of removing 30 people from extreme poverty every hour falls short of the momentum required to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030 in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), World Poverty Clock says.

Kenya also has a large segment of its population living on the edge above the poverty line (on between $1.90 and $11 per day) and are therefore at the risk of slipping back to poverty should unemployment, sickness or drought strike.

Ethiopia only one on track

The study says that Ethiopia is the only nation in Eastern Africa that is on course to wiping out extreme deprivation by December 31, 2030.

This achievement cements Addis Ababa’s position as the region’s economic powerhouse that has only recently opened a $3.61 billion gap on Kenya, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $72.52 billion in 2016.

The Horn of African nation, which in 2015 overtook Kenya as the region’s largest economy, has been fashioning itself as a manufacturing hub, through creation of industrial clusters and sound policies that are creating thousands of jobs every year.

Ethiopia, however, still has a bigger pool of the extreme poor at 20.3 million or 19.4 per cent of its population of 104.6 million compared to Kenya’s 11 million.

The World Poverty Clock data shows that Tanzania has 21.2 million people living in abject poverty or 37.1 per cent of its population, while Uganda’s poor total 12.7 million, or 30.5 per cent of the population, all higher than Kenya’s 22.7 per cent.

Rwanda’s poor add up to 5.8 million, translating to 47.3 per cent of its 12.2 million population -- the highest rate in the region, excluding troubled Burundi.

Africa’s largest economy Nigeria’s poor are 75 million or 39 per cent of the population while South Africa has 14 million.

Mauritius has the lowest rate of poor people in Africa at 0.2 per cent of its 1.3 million population, followed by Egypt (0.4 per cent) and Morocco (0.4 per cent).