Economic and Political Overview

flag Kenya Kenya: Economic and Political Overview

In this page: Economic Indicators | Foreign Trade in Figures | Sources of General Economic Information | Political Outline | COVID-19 Country Response

 

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) 113.70108.92104.00109.65118.05
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 4.85.55.05.35.3
GDP per Capita (USD) 2,2452,1131,9832,0552,175
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 68.473.373.070.367.5
Inflation Rate (%) 7.67.76.65.55.3
Current Account (billions USD) -5.93-4.29-4.50-4.62-4.83
Current Account (in % of GDP) -5.2-3.9-4.3-4.2-4.1

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

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.

 

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Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Kenyan Shilling (KES) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 MUR 2.873.002.992.872.71

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

Find out all the exchange rates daily on our service Currency Converter.

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

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.

 

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Foreign Trade in Figures

Kenya is relatively open to foreign trade, which accounts for 34% of its GDP (World Bank, latest data available). The country remains committed to trade liberalization through its membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the East African Community (EAC), which includes Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan. Kenya also ratified the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and signed many bilateral trade agreements. Kenya is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the United States and is one of the top five beneficiaries of the U.S.-Africa trade initiative, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Moreover, in 2022, the two countries launched the U.S.-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership. Most tariff barriers have been eliminated, and customs duties are not very high. Kenya mostly exports agricultural products, with tea accounting for 21% of the total in 2022, followed by flowers (9.5%) and coffee (5%), whereas titanium ores totaled 3.8%. On the other hand, imports were led by petroleum oil (24%), palm oil (5.1%), wheat, and meslin (3.1%), and medicaments (2.7% - data Comtrade).

The country's main customers in 2022 were Uganda (10.3%), the United States (9.8%), Pakistan (8.2%), Netherlands (6.7%), and Tanzania (6.3%); whereas imports came chiefly from China (18.2%), the United Arab Emirates (16.4%), India (10.1%), Saudi Arabia (4.9%), and Malaysia (4.8% - data Comtrade).

Kenya imports almost three times more than it exports, which translates into a trade balance that is largely in deficit. This situation persists, due to imports related to infrastructure modernization and oil exploration. In 2022, total goods exports reached USD 7.4 billion whereas imports amounted to USD 21.1 billion (+9.9% and +8.2% y-o-y, respectively). The bill of import for services stood at USD 5 billion, below that of export (USD 6.9 billion). Overall, the negative trade balance was estimated at 9.3% of the country’s GDP (up from -9.1% one year earlier – data World Bank).

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20192020202120222023
Imports of Goods (million USD) 17,65515,43519,55921,16618,591
Exports of Goods (million USD) 5,8396,0346,7397,4117,193
Imports of Services (million USD) 3,8553,5074,1195,2715,000
Exports of Services (million USD) 5,6013,8804,8596,4355,520
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1.8-9.422.24.5n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -3.2-14.915.310.7n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 20.317.619.921.5n/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 11.49.610.812.2n/a
Trade Balance (million USD) -10,683-8,338-11,065-11,704n/a
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -8,937-8,008-10,028-10,547n/a
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 31.827.230.733.7n/a

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank , Latest Available Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2023
Uganda 12.5%
Pakistan 7.9%
Netherlands 7.6%
Tanzania 6.8%
United States 6.4%
See More Countries 58.8%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2023
China 17.6%
United Arab Emirates 15.8%
India 10.3%
Saudi Arabia 5.6%
Malaysia 4.6%
See More Countries 46.1%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

Main Products

7.2 bn USD of products exported in 2023
Tea, whether or not flavouredTea, whether or not flavoured 18.8%
Cut flowers and flower buds of a kind suitable for...Cut flowers and flower buds of a kind suitable for bouquets or for ornamental purposes, fresh, dried, dyed, bleached, impregnated or otherwise prepared 9.3%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 5.0%
Coffee, whether or not roasted or decaffeinated;...Coffee, whether or not roasted or decaffeinated; coffee husks and skins; coffee substitutes containing coffee in any proportion 3.6%
Dates, figs, pineapples, avocados, guavas, mangoes...Dates, figs, pineapples, avocados, guavas, mangoes and mangosteens, fresh or dried 2.6%
See More Products 60.7%
18.6 bn USD of products imported in 2023
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 23.2%
Palm oil and its fractions, whether or not refined...Palm oil and its fractions, whether or not refined (excl. chemically modified) 4.5%
Wheat and meslinWheat and meslin 3.6%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses "incl. those in the form of transdermal administration" or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 2.4%
Flat-rolled products of iron or non-alloy steel,...Flat-rolled products of iron or non-alloy steel, of a width >= 600 mm, hot-rolled, not clad, plated or coated 2.4%
See More Products 63.9%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

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Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

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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
Search Engines
Google Kenya
Economic Portals
Kenya Moja

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Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
President: President William Ruto (since 13 September 2022)
Vice President: Rigathi Gachagua (since 13 September 2022)
Next Election Dates
Presidential: August 2027
National Assembly: August 2027
Main Political Parties
The main active parties in Kenya include:

- United Democratic Alliance (UDA): liberal conservatism, centre-right. It is the current ruling party
- Amani National Congress (ANC): social-liberalism
- Forum For Restoration of Democracy-Kenya (FORD-Kenya): centre-left, social democracy
- Orange Democratic Movement (ODM): centre-left, promotes social democracy. It is currently the main opposition party
- Jubilee Party: centre-right to right-wing
- Economic Freedom Party (EFP): left-wing
- Wiper Democratic Movement–Kenya (WDM-K): centre-left, social democracy
- Kenya African National Union (KANU): centre-right, nationalist; it ruled for nearly 40 years after Kenya's independence.
Type of State
Federal democratic presidential republic.
Executive Power
The executive power consists of the President, who is directly elected for a five-year term (and can serve for a maximum of two terms), an elected Vice President and the Cabinet (subject to confirmation by the National Assembly). The President is the head of state and government, commander-in-chief of the armed forces and also chairs the National Security Council.
Legislative Power
The legislature consists of the National Assembly (350 seats, with 290 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies through a simple majority vote. Additionally, 47 women in single-seat constituencies are elected by a simple majority vote. Moreover, 12 members are nominated by the National Assembly, including 6 representing youth and 6 representing the disabled, alongside one Assembly speaker. Members of the assembly serve 5-year terms) and the Senate (68 seats, with 47 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies through a simple majority vote, and 20 members directly elected through proportional representation vote. Among the directly elected members, there are 16 women, 2 representing youth, 2 representing the disabled, and one Senate speaker. Members of parliament serve 5-year terms). The National Assembly has control over the nation's expenditure and the distribution of revenue between the two levels of government. The Senate represents the country's 47 counties and serves their interests and those of county governments.
 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
102/180
 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Partly Free
Political Freedom:
4/7

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

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COVID-19 Country Response

Travel restrictions
Regularly updated travel information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related entry regulations, flight bans, test and vaccines requirements is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
To find information about the current travel regulations, including health requirements, it is also advised to consult Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on a daily basis by IATA.
Import & export restrictions
A general overview of trade restrictions which were adopted by different countries during the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
For the general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) undertaken by the government of Kenya, please consult the country's dedicated section in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
For an evaluation of impact of the Covid pandemic on SMEs and an inventory of country responses to foster SME resilience, refer to the OECD's SME Covid-19 Policy Responses document.
You can also consult the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.

 

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Latest Update: May 2024