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Key findings
  • For the first time in a decade, management of the economy ranked as the top issue that Kenyans want their government to address, climbing from the No. 6 position in three previous survey rounds.
  • Corruption and unemployment followed economic management as top priorities for government action.
  • Rural residents tended to be concerned about the delivery of services (such as education and water) and food shortages, while their urban counterparts were more likely to focus on unemployment, corruption, and crime/security.
  • Kenyans gave their government very poor marks on its efforts to manage the economy: Only 17% said it was doing “fairly well” or “very well.” Similarly, few citizens approved of the government’s performance on fighting corruption (22%), improving living standards of the poor (16%), and creating jobs (14%).

Over the past decade, Kenya’s government has made notable progress toward achieving economic development as set out in its Vision 2030 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Statistics from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (2022) indicate that the national economy grew at an average rate of 4.3% between 2017 and 2021 (see Table A.1 in the Appendix). In addition, in line with its 2010 Constitution, Kenya has been implementing devolution, whose main intention is to bring services and resources closer to citizens and to improve their livelihoods. However, the impact of this growth and devolution on the well-being of Kenyans has remained a mirage (Kamau, 2017, 2021).  

In the most recent Afrobarometer survey – conducted in late 2021, after the COVID-19 pandemic had temporarily thrown the economy into disarray – three-fourths of Kenyans saw the country as heading in the wrong direction, and a majority had experienced moderate or high levels of lived poverty during the preceding year (Afrobarometer, 2022). Economic performance was a top agenda item for politicians and analysts during the campaign leading up to the August 2022 elections. In political spaces, many discussions also revolved around how to address corruption and unemployment, especially unemployment among the youth (estimated at nearly 40%) (Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, 2023).  

And for the first time in a decade of Afrobarometer surveys, management of the economy ranked No. 1 – up from No. 6 – among the most important problems that Kenyans want their government to address. This shift clearly indicates the economic pressures that Kenyans have been feeling as prices of food, fuel, and other basic commodities continue to rise. 

Paul Kamau

Paul Kamau is the national investigator for Kenya.

Samuel Balongo

Sam is the project manager for East Africa