Actualizing socio-economic development could help with sustainable growth, reduce poverty, and lower the cost of living in Kenya in the longer term.
- Investing in pro-poor development projects is one of the best ways to address poverty and the cost of living in Kenya.
- The debate on the cost of living in Kenya has featured prominently recently.
- Even with the commendable progress in infrastructure, poverty levels in Kenya have remained relatively high at acceptable rates.
Limited investments in socio-economic development in Kenya
The debate on the cost of living in Kenya has featured prominently recently. This discussion formed the basis for which Kenya’s opposition leader called for countrywide demonstrations a few weeks ago. With inflation biting hard, there has been a public outcry as the prices of essential commodities like food, electricity, and even healthcare hit the roof.
Kenya’s previous two governments have mostly sought to improve the country’s economic status through legacy infrastructural investments geared towards impacting the citizens’ lives. Mwai Kibaki’s regime focused on roads, with the Thika superhighway standing out as a legacy project. Uhuru Kenyatta’s government focused on electricity connection and infrastructure development. Legacy infrastructural projects included the SGR and the Nairobi expressway.
However, despite the Constitution providing for socio-economic rights, the limited investments in socio-economic development are consistent with each successive government. There may be notable efforts in health and education. But even in these two sectors, more investments remain crucial. Many theories address the cost of living in Kenya, but more attention needs to go to socio-economic development.
Alarming poverty levels
Even with the commendable progress in infrastructure, poverty levels in Kenya have remained relatively high at acceptable rates. If anything, the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen within Kenyan society.
Data from the world bank indicates that Between 2015/16 and 2019, the share of people living below the poverty line fell by a percentage point per year. Since 2019, simulations based on the relationship between GDP growth and poverty reduction suggest an increase in extreme poverty ($2.15 international poverty line) from the COVID-19 pandemic by 0.5 per cent, from 27.3 in 2019 to 27.7 per cent in 2020.
With the economy recovering, analysts have projected extreme poverty to fall below pre-pandemic levels to 25.8 per cent in 2022 and 25.3 per cent in 2023. However, the ongoing drought and the high fuel and food prices have risked continuing this trend. Therefore, actualizing socio-economic development could help with sustainable growth, reduce poverty, and lower the cost of living in Kenya in the longer term.
Socio-economic development as part of Kenya’s agenda on sustainable growth
Socio-economic rights are considered a central feature of Kenya’s plan for sustainable growth per Agenda 2030 for sustainable development and other derivative instruments. The socio-economic agenda is meant to give the sustainable development agenda an anthropocentric perspective.
The Constitution of Kenya also provides for sustainable development as one of the national values and principles of governance. Article 43 of the Constitution on economic and social rights guarantees that:
“Every person has the right- to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to health care services, including reproductive health care; to accessible and adequate housing and to reasonable standards of sanitation; to be free from hunger; and to have adequate food of acceptable quality; to clean and safe water in adequate quantities; to social security; and education.”
Sustainable human development is linked to the right to development, human rights, and good governance. Such action focuses on material factors, such as meeting basic needs, and non-material factors, including ownership and participation in government. It also seeks to reduce poverty, promote human rights, provide equitable opportunities, and environmental conservation.
Moreover, vision 2030 adopts sustainable human development to address the economic, social, and political pillars. It thus fosters both material factors and non-material factors. Sustainable human development is, therefore, inextricably linked to people’s livelihoods. Consequently, achieving the highest possible living standards and reducing the cost of living in Kenya is a requisite.
Also read: The most valuable brands in Kenya
Devolved sustainable development and the cost of living in Kenya
Regional economic development is one of the significant goals of devolution under Kenya’s Constitution. Greater control over one’s livelihood is critical to development, empowerment, and poverty alleviation. Local democratic control over natural resources can improve local livelihood. County governments must empower their people collaboratively to deal with adverse environmental effects.
In the long term, devolved sustainable development should ameliorate the adverse effects of poverty, provide basic needs, and take the cost of living in Kenya to affordable levels. Sustainable development can be satisfactorily achieved through the meaningful involvement of people in the counties through natural resource exploitation. The devolved government system promises to deal with rampant poverty in many parts of the country.
Devolved governance should promote social and economic development and provide proximate, easily accessible services throughout Kenya if adequately utilized. This will ensure equitable sharing of national and local resources for economic growth, poverty reduction, and affordable living costs in Kenya.
Empowerment for poverty alienation
Empowerment is defined as a process through which individuals or organized groups increase their power and autonomy to achieve the outcomes they need and desire. The empowerment process focuses on supporting disadvantaged people to gain power and exert more significant influence over those who control access to critical resources.
Socio-economic empowerment, on the other hand, refers to developing a sense of autonomy and self-confidence. It involves acting individually and collectively to change social relationships, institutions, and discourses that exclude people and keep them impoverished.
Individual assets such as land, housing, livestock, and savings strongly influence people’s empowerment and ability to hold others accountable. It also involves various capabilities, including human (education and good health), social (social belonging, a sense of identity, and leadership), and psychological (self-esteem, self-confidence, and the ability to imagine and aspire to a better future). Moreover, people’s collective assets and capabilities, including voice, organization, representation, and identity, remain crucial.
Empowering the poor sections of the Kenyan population represents the first step towards building sustainable development and economic growth. A society that seeks to empower its people socially and economically can have reasonable expectations regarding poverty reduction. The extent of poverty reduction depends on how income distribution changes with growth changes. Moreover, asset allocation and access to opportunities allow people experiencing poverty to share in the growth.
“Bottom-up economics” and the cost of living in Kenya
Kenya’s current government rose to power by selling to the electorate what the President called the bottom-up economic model. This approach to economic empowerment involves equitable and proportional growth to improve the position of some at the lower distribution scale and reduces poverty. Pro-poor growth and development policies define improve the status of people experiencing poverty and affect income distribution.
This outlook supports the argument that any perceived or real economic growth reported in a country results from economic policies, plans, and programmes that consider the people’s interests at the base of the economic ladder. This way, it can be rightly used to measure the citizens’ living standards.
Therefore, investing in pro-poor development projects is one of the best ways to address poverty and the cost of living in Kenya. Economic empowerment of the various groups can improve families’ lives and address the country’s ever-rising poverty levels. Kenya desperately needs a solution to poverty and the cost of living. Therefore, actualizing socio-economic development could prove a viable approach.