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Key findings
  • Last September-October, about half (48%) of Kenyans said the country was going in the right direction – a 5-percentage-point improvement since 2014 and double the optimistic response in 2011.
  • However, a majority (55%) of citizens still described the economic condition of the country as “fairly bad” or “very bad” – only a slight improvement from 2014.
  • Half of Kenyans (50%) expected economic conditions in the country to be “better” or “much better” within 12 months’ time.
  • Remittances from abroad are not a source of economic security for most Kenyans: A majority (63%) said they do not receive any remittances, while 6% receive them at least once a month
  • A majority of Kenyans said the government had performed poorly in keeping prices stable (76%), creating jobs (69%), and managing the economy (55%).

Kenya and the other member states of the East African Community (EAC) are doing considerably better economically than most countries in sub-Saharan Africa (IMF, 2017). Kenya continues to be rated among the best-performing sub-Saharan economies, with a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 5.8% in 2016. This impressive performance is attributed to lower oil prices, improved tea and horticulture exports, infrastructure growth, and increased remittance inflows (Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 2017; Kerry, 2017). However, the government’s decision to put a ceiling on lending rates at 4 percentage points above the central bank rate continues to be criticized because of its possible effect of a credit squeeze (Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis, 2017).

Based on Afrobarometer survey responses in 2016, Kenyans were more optimistic about the national economic situation and (at least before the 2017 election crisis) the country’s overall direction. Perceptions of personal living conditions were the most positive of the past decade.

Even so, a majority of citizens still saw economic conditions as bad and said the government was performing poorly in keeping prices stable, creating jobs, and managing the economy, reflecting continued economic insecurity amidst impressive economic performance.

Paul Kamau

Paul Kamau is an Associate Research Professor at the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), University of Nairobi, Kenya.