Kenya flag Kenya: Economic and Political Overview

The economic context of Kenya

Economic Indicators

Kenya has enjoyed a decade of strong economic growth, allowing the nation to access the status of a middle-income country. It has one of the fastest-growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, and growth was only partially affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with GDP contracting by 0.3%. The country returned to its growth path in 2021 (7.5%) and in 2022 (4.8% as per the IMF estimates), accelerating to approximately 5% in 2023 thanks to a recovery in agriculture, following two consecutive years of output decline, along with the sustained strength and resilience of the services sector. However, manufacturing faced challenges due to rising production costs and increased input and borrowing costs. Business sentiment deteriorated due to various factors, including political tensions, a weakening currency, and a slowdown in the global economy. Consequently, industrial activity slowed, which in turn moderated growth in the services sector. The IMF forecasts real GDP to expand by approximately 5.3% in both 2024 and 2025, fueled partially by private sector investment and a rebound in private consumption.

Concerning public finances, Kenya's sovereign external financing requirement surged in the fiscal year ending June 2024 (FY24) to around USD 5.5 billion (5.4% of GDP), up from USD 2.6 billion in FY23 (2.8% of GDP), primarily due to increased principal repayment, including a USD 2 billion Eurobond repayment scheduled for June 2024. A weaker exchange rate, down approximately 4% against the US dollar in FY24 to date, exacerbates debt servicing challenges, with half of the government debt denominated in foreign currency. Fitch anticipates the government will fulfill its financing obligations in FY24 through a blend of official lending and commercial borrowing. External funding constraints have elevated the government's dependence on domestic financing, driving up interest costs. The government's budget deficit contracted to 5.6% of GDP in FY23 from 6.2% in FY22. Despite persistent spending pressures and legal hurdles to revenue reform efforts, the government aims to sustain fiscal consolidation in FY24, with Fitch projecting a budget deficit of 5.2% of GDP, followed by 4.4% in FY25 as revenue reforms gather momentum through tax and non-tax measures, accompanied by marginal spending reductions. Persistent revenue collection underperformance and significant spending pressures have led to a rise in government debt in recent years, with the debt-to-GDP ratio increasing to 71.8% in FY23 from 67.6% one year earlier. By the end of FY23, nearly half of the public debt was denominated in foreign currency, exposing it to currency risk. The government debt is expected to climb further in FY24 to 73.8% of GDP, partly attributed to currency depreciation. However, there's an expectation for a slight decline in FY25 as revenue reforms take effect and GDP growth remains robust (Fitch Ratings). The slowdown in food prices, coupled with the Central Bank of Kenya's (CBK) policy rate hike of 175 basis points in June 2023, aided in bringing the inflation rate within CBK's target range by July 2023. However, as of November 2023, inflation remains high at 6.8%, towards the upper limit of CBK's target range. This is partly attributed to increased electricity tariffs and the implementation of a 16% VAT on petroleum products. In December 2023, CBK further raised the policy rate by 200 basis points to 12.5% (World Bank).

The unemployment rate was estimated at 5.6% in 2022 (World Bank). Kenya’s total workforce is projected to increase by 40.6% to 40.4 million by 2035; as data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicate the country will add 11.7 million to the job market by 2035, this may cause mounting unemployment in an economy that is not generating adequate jobs for school leavers and college graduates. Overall, the country’s GDP per capita (PPP) was estimated at USD 5,765 in 2022 by the World Bank. The poverty ratio stands at 38.6%, above the pre-pandemic level as poor and rural households have not participated as much in Kenya’s economic recovery. The recent deceleration in poverty reduction, coupled with unequal access to education and other opportunities, weak job creation, and consistently low productivity growth, underscores the necessity for an inclusive growth strategy. Such a strategy aims to foster broader income growth and enhance purchasing power across society.

 
Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 113.70112.75115.08122.39130.14
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 4.85.05.35.35.4
GDP per Capita (USD) 2,2452,1882,1942,2942,398
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 68.470.268.366.765.0
Inflation Rate (%) n/a7.76.65.45.4
Current Account (billions USD) -5.86-5.49-5.64-6.29-6.63
Current Account (in % of GDP) -5.1-4.9-4.9-5.1-5.1

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database, October 2021

Main Sectors of Industry

Kenya is particularly advanced in the sector of services and has been the source of innovations adopted throughout the continent (for example, it was the first country to sell government bonds through mobile phones). It is also the third-largest producer of tea and the first exporter (in volume) in the world, the 8th producer of dry beans, the 15th producer of oilseeds, and is among the 20 largest coffee exporters (FAO). The primary sector represents 21.2% of Kenyan GDP and employs 33% of the workforce (World Bank, latest data available), making agriculture and horticulture the two largest sectors of the national economy. Coffee, wheat, sugarcane, fruit, and vegetables are among the main crops, and dairy products, beef, fish, pork, poultry, and eggs are the main animal products. The country exports tea, coffee, cut flowers, and vegetables. According to the World Bank, agriculture saw a growth of 6.9% year-on-year in the first half of 2023, recovering from a combined contraction of 2% during 2021–2022.

Industry accounts for 17.7% of the GDP and employs only 16% of the workforce. Although the country has little in terms of mineral resources, some high-value minerals, such as titanium, have considerable potential. In addition, Kenya could become an oil and gas producer in the years to come, as new oil deposits (with a potential of 750 million barrels) were found following the drilling of exploration wells in the Turkana County (North-West). Manufacturing, estimated to account for 8% of GDP, with the processing of agricultural products as the main subsector, saw a deceleration in the first half of 2023, with year-on-year growth of 1.7%, compared to the 3.7% observed in the same period of 2022 (World Bank).

The services sector contributes to 54.4% of the GDP and employs 39% of the workforce. Tourism, a core sector of the Kenyan economy, has been hit by several terrorist attacks carried out by the Al-Shabab group since 2013. According to a performance update by the Kenya Tourism Board, the total number of arrivals in Kenya surged to 1.75 million in 2023, marking an increase from the 1.48 million recorded in 2022. The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife reported that revenues from the sector also rose to approximately USD 2.06 billion. The IT and communications sectors are expanding rapidly, and the construction industry is very dynamic. The growth pace of transport, medicine, education, and financial services makes Kenya a regional hub. Furthermore, Mombasa is the third-largest port in Africa.

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 33.0 15.7 51.2
Value Added (in % of GDP) 21.2 17.7 55.1
Value Added (Annual % Change) -1.6 3.9 6.7

Source: World Bank, Latest Available Data. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 

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Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.}}

Score:
54,9/100
World Rank:
138
Regional Rank:
28

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

 

Business environment ranking

Definition:

The business rankings model measures the quality or attractiveness of the business environment in the 82 countries covered by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Forecast reports. It examines ten separate criteria or categories, covering the political environment, the macroeconomic environment, market opportunities, policy towards free enterprise and competition, policy towards foreign investment, foreign trade and exchange controls, taxes, financing, the labour market and infrastructure.

Score:
4.58/10
World Rank:
75/82

Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit - Business Environment Rankings 2020-2024

 

Country Risk

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Sources of General Economic Information

Ministries
Ministry of Finance
Ministry of Tourism
Ministry of East African Community (EAC), Labour and Social Protection
Ministry of Agriculture & Livestock Development
Ministry of Petroleum and Mining
Ministry of Roads and Transport
Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry
Ministry of Energy and Petroleum
Statistical Office
Kenya Bureau of Statistics
Central Bank
Central Bank
Stock Exchange
Nairobi Securities Exchange
Economic Portals
Kenya Moja
 

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Latest Update: May 2024