Fighting Poverty in Kenya Requires More Than One Approach


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Various scholars have indulged tremendous resources to study poverty. Amartya Sen is among such scholars. He used the ideas of Adams Smith as his building blocks and looked at poverty as lacking the basics that one needs in order to co-exist in the society. The World Bank estimates that 4 out of 10 Kenyans live in poverty. Consequently, several approaches to reduce poverty have been tried and tested in Kenya. In most cases, these approaches have been a blend of various theories, which have been opined by various scholars. However, it is my belief that just like cancer – which requires a combination of chemotherapy and proper nutrition – poverty cannot be fought using a single approach.

Recently, we’ve seen the Kenyan government, with the patronage of the private stakeholders such as Equity Bank, MasterCard, and the UK government through the Wings to Fly initiative, use education as a tool to combating poverty. This initiative has seen various students from needy backgrounds get scholarships from secondary school to the university. While this approach is seen as one of the most practical, it may not work effectively in current setting as a result of corruption and tribalism within the various entities. Moreover, a majority of these children from poor backgrounds can only afford to attend or be sponsored to the public schools.  Most of these schools are characterized by various inefficiencies such as the inability to complete the required syllabus within the stipulated time. Additionally, the increasing number of strikes has denied the children the right to proper education. Recently, the teachers were on strike for two weeks, and they may not adequately compensate this time.

One of the key characteristics of third world countries is poor infrastructure and political unrest.  Countries which invest heavily in infrastructure and security often end up attracting investment.  More investments translate to more jobs, which reduces poverty. Recently, the Kenyan government has been at the forefront of signing agreements aimed at developing the country’s infrastructure, most recently the construction of Outer Ring Road in Nairboi. The completion of the Thika superhighway connecting Nairobi to Thika saw a dramatic increase in trade and investments along the highway and in both Nairobi and Thika and its environs. However, the government must first address one key element: political stability. The government must be able to restore and assure investors of their security while trading in Kenya. This may be achieved by sealing our borders from terrorists, and addressing the various corruption cases within the government.

Ultimately, I opine that the living standards of Kenyans will only ameliorate and experience unabated growth if we invest in proper education, infrastructure development, curb corruption, ensure political stability, and security. However, the above issues require the input of all the citizens of Kenya from the government, to local ‘mwanachi’, to the opposition. All these issues are enshrined in the Kenyan Vision 2030, and it is upon us to implement it.



Collin Namayuba Nabiswa

Blogger for The Motley Fool, and a project supervisor for the SAJEKI Agency

Join the Conversation

Isabellah Moraa Makana
March 24, 2015

The Government of Kenya should encourage its citizens on alternative farming so as to reduce poverty levels.

collin Namayuba
March 24, 2015

y greatest motivation in the fight against poverty in Kenya is my son. The fact that he can get he needs makes him lucky, the fact that we have a majority of children without access to basic facilities such as food, clean water, and access to medical facilities despite our positive growth trajectories is just disheartening. Lets fight together to ‪#‎EndPovertyInKenya‬.

mosesmonhle magolego
April 01, 2015

If economy is the same as the human body,then a weak economy is like a very ill patient. Therefore immune system of such economy depends on education,security,health and business. Corruption is a condition(darkness) not just a disease. Protests or unrest means the powerhouse is weak. No money means no food and energy to work as a teacher,police,doctor. When we deal with the causes of corruption(closing a tap),we would be dealing with those who benefit from it.That's our first step to create jobs and increase salaries. Using available technology can also help,e.g,registration of all small and big businesses.The use of electronic transactions can expose illegal businesses(drug dealers,black markets and robberies).Kenya deserves to know: 1: Who sells what to who,2:At how much. This is possible only if global countries can take my advice and remove cash from the public and keep it in the banks to protect the use of money. Unregistered business cannot have a swipe mechine,therefore no sale of any goods or services rendered. Now it's safe to apply for bail out money from World bank or IMF and attract more investors to create jobs.