In his state of the nation address on 30 November 2021, President Uhuru Kenyatta indicated that during his administration, Kenya’s economy has grown significantly and climbed the ladder to emerge as the sixth richest country in Africa from 12. The President referred to Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the sixth-largest in Africa, at $106.04 billion by 2021. Nigeria was ranked top, followed by Egypt, South Africa, Algeria, and Morocco consecutively.
But is a country’s GDP the only way to measure its wealth?
GDP measures the monetary value of the goods and services produced by a country in a given year. According to a publication by the World Bank, while GDP is the first and maybe only measurement of wealth that comes to the minds of many, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of a country’s wealth or how sustainable that wealth will be in the long term.
A section of Kenyans protested the statement by the President denying the claim that Kenya is wealthy since the same could not be reflected amongst common citizens’ household economies. Data by the World Bank confirms that it is true that Kenya’s economy has grown over time during President Uhuru’s administration. However, other factors such as poverty headcount ratio and unemployment are still high.
The Economist and CEO of the Institute of Economic Affairs, Kwame Owino, says what the President sighted was the GDP in total, which means Kenya is the sixth in the continent, but that doesn’t mean the country is the sixth richest.
“One of the ways of measuring the wealth of a country is asking how many people this amount of output is distributed to. When you do that, Kenya is actually twenty-second in the continent. That is the most exact way of measuring how GDP and welfare can be connected.”
Kwame adds that the President gives one right figure on the size of Kenya’s economy, but the interpretation that he suggests and Kenyans take is wrong.
The President was referring to the total production from Kenya that has increased over time, but that does not directly reflect the standard of living of Kenyans. A measure to show the estimated standard of living of citizens of a given country is GDP per capita. This is a country’s economic output per person and is calculated by dividing a country’s GDP by its population. On GDP per capita, Kenya ranks 22nd in Africa.
Pamoja FM has looked into the claim “Kenya is the sixth wealthiest country in Africa” and finds it PARTLY FALSE.
This story was produced by Pamoja FM in partnership with Code for Africa, Kenya Community Media Network, and the Catholic Media Council with support from the German Cooperation as a part of the Our County Our Responsibility project.