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February 20, 2019

The Economic Survey should guide planning

 Devolution cabinet secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri  during the launch of the 2017 economic survey report in Nairobi on 19/04/2017./COURTESY
Devolution cabinet secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri during the launch of the 2017 economic survey report in Nairobi on 19/04/2017./COURTESY

The 2016 Economic Survey report reveals priority areas for planning. This report provides the state of the economy across multiple sectors between 2011-2015.

Kenya’s economic growth structure remains problematic. Agriculture accounts for 30 per cent of Kenya’s GDP. Manufacturing contributes a paltry 10 per cent. Retail, transportation, financial services, construction, education, information, telecommunication and other service sectors account for 60 per cent of GDP.

The report reveals that enrolment in secondary education increased by about 44 per cent, from about 1.77 million in 2011 to 2.56 million in 2015. In the same period enrolment in primary school grew by 4.2 per cent from 9.6 million to 10 million. The proportion of pupils who transition from primary to secondary has increased only marginally from 60 per cent to 63 per cent between 2012 and 2015. However, the rate of completion of secondary school is only 48 per cent.

Development spending in education has remained flat over the last five years at about Sh21 billion. But here is what is truly depressing. Both development and recurrent expenditure for youth polytechnics and training declined by about 280 per cent, from about Sh1.45billion to a miserable Sh383 million. Such low levels of investment in technical and vocational training are disconcerting, especially when one considers the massive skills gap in technical and vocational fields.

The report reveals that pneumonia and cancer and not malaria and HIV-Aids are now the top causes of mortality in Kenya. While the incidence of malaria has declined by about 47 per cent between 2011 and 2015, the incidence of respiratory infections increased by 63 per cent in the same period. Inequalities in health still persist. For example, more than 35 per cent of registered births in 2015 in Narok, Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit and Tana River occurred at home.

Data on healthcare personnel are worrying, with critical deficits in qualified individuals in the fields of nutrition, medical imaging science, medical laboratory science, registered of BSc trained nurses in metal health and psychiatry, optical and dental technology. There is an opportunity here to ramp up investment in technical and vocational training to respond to the enormous manpower needs in the health sector.

On employment, 83 per cent of Kenya’s workforce is employed in the informal sector. Furthermore 60 per cent of those employed in the informal sector work in the retail, food and hospitality sectors, where wages are low.

The informal sector is characterised by poor working conditions, and attracts very low wages. While the informal sector is the largest employer, the rate of growth of new jobs is about 4.2 per cent. The formal sector, which accounts for only 17 per cent of jobs, grew at an average of 16 per cent between 2011 and 2015.

I don’t know who the audience for the Economic Survey report is. But I think the department of Planning and Finance must pay attention to the report, especially with respect to investing in quality education, health and priorities for skills development. Job growth in the informal sector is plateauing. But job growth in the formal sector remains sluggish. What is the plan?


Dr. Alex O. Awiti is the director of the East African Institute at Aga Khan University


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