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

For the latest updates on the key economic responses from governments to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the IMF's policy tracking platform Policy Responses to COVID-19.

Kenya has enjoyed a decade of strong economic growth, allowing the country to access the status of a middle-income country in 2016. The country was one of the fastest-growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa until the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. After contracting by -0.3% in 2020, GDP growth rebounded to an estimated 5.9% in 2021, and is forecast to remain strong in 2022 (5.8%) and 2023 (5.5%) (IMF, latest estimates). Private consumption will be the main driver of growth (Coface). Downside risks include the country’s reliance on foreign loans for infrastructure and the rise in its external debt levels (Focus Economics).

Kenya's economy suffered from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly the fall in tourism, but showed remarkable resilience and recovered in 2021. The authorities pursued a reform program aiming at responding to the pandemic, supporting economic recovery and addressing debt vulnerabilities (IMF). As revenues dropped and social and health expenditure increased, the budget deficit deteriorated, but fiscal consolidation efforts managed to stabilise it. Public deficit reached -8.2% GDP in 2021, and is expected to remain at that level in 2022 before decreasing to -5.8% GDP in 2023 (IMF). The government removed Covid-19 related subsidies and expenditures, but increased spending to fight insecurity and drought in the North (Coface). Public debt continued to grow from 63% GDP in 2020 to 67.9% GDP in 2021, and is expected to stabilise at 71.2% GDP in 2022 and 2023 (IMF). As a large part of the debt is owed to international creditors in foreign currency, public finances are vulnerable to exchange rate movements. Fuelled by higher energy prices, inflation increased from 5.2% in 2020 to 6.4% in 2021, and is expected to decrease to 5.8% in 2022 and 4.8% in 2023 (IMF). The central bank is expected to respond to inflation by hiking its interest rate(Coface). Kenyan authorities remain committed to the 38-month program under the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) and Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangements (worth USD 2.34 billion) approved by the IMF in April 2021. This program aims to reduce debt vulnerabilities by raising tax revenues and tightly controlling spending, while safeguarding resources to protect vulnerable groups (IMF). Expanding the Covid-19 vaccination program, supporting the state-owned enterprises reform, responding to the drought in the northern regions and tackling security issues are the priorities. The government will also pursue the previously launched Big 4 development agenda. This program, which is part of the long term development plan of the country, Vision 2030, will prioritize four major areas: manufacturing, universal healthcare, affordable housing and food security.

Kenya has been invested in reducing child mortality, meeting this Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target. The country also managed to almost reach universal primary school enrolment, while narrowing gender gaps in education. Kenya has been ranked 143rd in the 2020 UNDP Human Development Index. The unemployment rate was estimated at 3% in 2020 (World Bank). After three consecutive poor rainy seasons, food security deteriorated in the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya, which need continued humanitarian assistance (Euler Hermes).

 
Main Indicators 20202021 (e)2022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)
GDP (billions USD) 100.93110.52114.86117.56125.10
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) -0.37.55.35.15.5
GDP per Capita (USD) 22222
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 68.067.869.467.564.6
Inflation Rate (%) 5.36.17.46.65.1
Current Account (billions USD) -4.79-5.74-6.81-6.55-6.82
Current Account (in % of GDP) -4.7-5.2-5.9-5.6-5.5

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. In 2017, it became the first country to sell government bonds through mobile phones. It is also the third largest producer of tea and 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). Agriculture represents 23% of Kenyan GDP and employs 54% of the workforce. Agriculture and horticulture are the two largest sectors of Kenyan 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.

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). Industry amounts for 17.4% of the GDP and employs 6% of the workforce.

The services sector contributes to 53.6% 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. Manufacturing and financial industries, although modest, are among the most sophisticated in East Africa. The IT and communications sectors are expanding rapidly and the construction industry is very dynamic. The growth pace of the transport, medicine, education or financial services makes Kenya a regional hub. Mombasa is the third-largest port in Africa.

In 2020, the COVID-19 crisis hit the Kenyan economy, especially tourism, trade, transport, real estate and financial services (Euler Hermes). Agriculture exports including cacao, tea and flowers were also negatively impacted, but activity started to recover in 2021.

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 54.3 6.2 39.4
Value Added (in % of GDP) 35.2 16.2 42.2
Value Added (Annual % Change) 6.4 3.6 -4.4

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

Find more information about your business sector on our service Market Reports.

 
 
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 largely open to foreign trade, which accounts for 27% of its GDP (World bank, 2020). The country remains committed to trade liberalization through its membership in the World Trade Organisation (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. The EAC is in the process to establish a monetary union by 2024. The EAC also finalized the negotiations for an EPA with the EU in 2014, an agreement ratified by Kenya in 2016. Kenya also ratified the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and signed many bilateral trade agreements. The country is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the United States, and is one of the top five beneficiaries of the US-Africa trade initiative, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Most tariff barriers have been eliminated and customs duties are not very high. Kenya mostly exports agricultural products (tea, flowers, coffee, fruits, and vegetables), petroleum oils, titanium ores, and medicines; and mainly imports petroleum products, palm oil, medicines, cereals, vehicles, and manufactured products.

The country's main customers are Uganda, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates. Its main suppliers are China (22% of total imports), India, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and the United States.

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 2020, the trade deficit amounted to USD 9.4 billion (WTO). Total goods exports reached USD 6.03 billion whereas total goods imported amounted to USD 15.44 billion. The bill of import of services amounted to USD 3.33 billion while the export of services generated around USD 3 billion. In 2020, despite the COVID-19 crisis, the external sector proved resilient. Reduced services surplus was mitigated by lower imports due to weaker domestic demand. In 2022, merchandise exports should benefit from the strong demand for fruits and vegetables while services exports should increase noticeably with the slow return of tourists (Coface).

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Imports of Goods (million USD) 14,11316,68717,37817,65515,435
Exports of Goods (million USD) 5,7005,7476,0525,8396,034
Imports of Services (million USD) 3,0952,8473,6133,5953,330
Exports of Services (million USD) 3,8853,7854,6264,6482,997
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -3.48.62.5-2.0-0.6
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -2.2-6.23.9-0.2-0.1
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 23.424.223.021.420.2
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 14.313.213.212.011.3
Trade Balance (million USD) -7,691-10,187-10,200-10,683n/a
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) -6,259-8,632-8,603-8,918n/a
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 37.737.436.133.431.4

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

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2021
Uganda 12.3%
Netherlands 8.3%
United States 8.0%
Pakistan 7.2%
United Kingdom 6.7%
See More Countries 57.4%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2021
China 20.5%
India 10.8%
United Arab Emirates 8.3%
Saudi Arabia 5.3%
Japan 4.6%
See More Countries 50.5%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

Main Products

6.8 bn USD of products exported in 2021
Tea, whether or not flavouredTea, whether or not flavoured 17.7%
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 10.7%
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 4.1%
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 3.7%
Titanium ores and concentratesTitanium ores and concentrates 2.8%
See More Products 61.0%
19.6 bn USD of products imported in 2021
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 15.6%
Palm oil and its fractions, whether or not refined...Palm oil and its fractions, whether or not refined (excl. chemically modified) 5.1%
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) 3.1%
Wheat and meslinWheat and meslin 2.9%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 2.5%
See More Products 70.8%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.

 
 

Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

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Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
President: Uhuru Kenyatta (since 9 April 2013) - Jubilee Alliance (his latest victory in August 2017 was invalidated by the Kenyan Supreme Court)
Vice President: William Ruto (since 9 April 2013)
Next Election Dates
Presidential: August 2022
National Assembly: August 2022
Main Political Parties
The National Assembly was enlarged to 350 seats in 2010. There are many active parties in Kenya:

- Orange Democratic Movement (ODM): promotes social democracy
- The National Alliance (TNA): Jubilee Coalition
- Wiper Democratic Movement-Kenya (WDM-K): CORD
- United Democratic Forum Party (UDFP): centre, looks to boost economic growth and reform government
- Forum For Restoration of Democracy-Kenya (FORD-Kenya)

-Forum for the Restoration of Democracy-People (FORD-People)

-Amani National Congress (ANC): social-liberalism

-National Rainbow Coalition (NARC): democratic

-Alliance Party of Kenya (APK)
-Federal Party of Kenya (FPK)
-Kenya African National Union (KANU)

Type of State
Federal Democratic 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. 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 and the Senate. 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

COVID-19 epidemic evolution
To find out about the latest status of the COVID19 pandemic evolution and the most up-to-date statistics on the COVID-19 disease in Kenya, please visit the Kenyan Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 webpages with the official data.

For the international outlook you can consult the latest situation reports published by the World Health Organisation as well as the global daily statistics on the coronavirus pandemic evolution including data on confirmed cases and deaths by country.
Sanitary measures
To find out about the latest public health situation in Kenya and the current sanitary measures in vigour, please consult the Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 webpages.
Travel restrictions
The COVID-19 situation, including the spread of new variants, evolves rapidly and differs from country to country. All travelers need to pay close attention to the conditions at their destination before traveling. Regularly updated information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related travel restrictions in place including entry regulations, flight bans, test requirements and quarantine is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
It is also highly recommended to consult COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on the daily basis by IATA.
The US government website of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention provides COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination.

The UK Foreign travel advice also provides travelling abroad advice for all countries, including the latest information on coronavirus, safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.
Import & export restrictions
For information on all the measures applicable to movement of goods during the period of sanitary emergency due to the COVID-19 outbreak (including eventual restrictions on imports and exports), refer to Coronavirus: Kenyan firms banned from exporting face masks and the Kenya Bureau of Standards Public Notice to Importers of Used/ Second-Hand Garments and Used Shoes.

For a general overview of trade restrictions due to COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
For  information on the economic recovery scheme put in place by the Kenyan government to address the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on the Kenyan economy, refer to the article Tax relief, CRB-listing suspension: Here are all directives issued by Pres. Kenyatta to ensure you have more money in your pocket and the Wikipedia page about the Kenyan Economic response to COVID-19.

For a general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 outbreak (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) taken by the Kenyan government to limit the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, please consult the section dedicated to Kenya in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
For information on the local business support scheme established by the Kenyan government and other organizations to help small and medium-sized companies to deal with the economic impacts of the COVID19 epidemic on their activity refer to COVID-19 Support Available for Businesses in Kenya and the Ministry  of  Industrialization,  Trade  and  Enterprise  Development’s Frequently Asked Questions for Business Operations During Curfew and Restricted Travel Period of COVID-19 Crisis.

For a general overview of international SME support policy responses to the COVID-19 outbreak refer to the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.
Support plan for exporters

There are no specific support plans for exporters in Kenya so far. For future possible up-to-date information please visit the website of the Kenyan Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development (MoITED).

 

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Latest Update: November 2022