How Kenyans will enjoy Christmas amid economic decline

There are mixed feelings ahead of Christmas on Wednesday

In Summary

• Kenyans will prioritise food and drinks, clothes and travel and accommodation 

Santa Claus with his helpers.
THE SEASON: Santa Claus with his helpers.
Image: FILE

With the current state of the economy, only two per cent of Kenyans are earning more than half a million shillings monthly, while 23 per cent earn up to Sh10,000. 

Another 23 per cent earn between Sh10,0001 and Sh50,000, 35 per cent between Sh50,001 and Sh100,000 and 15 per cent between Sh100,001 and Sh500,000. 

This is according to a Shoppers Christmas Wishes survey released this month by the Retailers Association of Kenya and Viffa Consult. 


Some 45 per cent have planned to spend their money after receiving their December/November salaries, while 25 per cent have scheduled to spend a few days before Christmas. 

Kenyans will prioritise food and drinks, clothes and travel and accommodation as they prepare to celebrate Christmas on Wednesday. 

Other items that will top purchases this Christmas include: toiletries, personal effects, books and stationery, electronics, kids' toys, kitchenware and furniture. 

However, the survey shows a steep fall in the disposable incomes of Kenyans, with spending in the two-month cycle expected to drop by nearly three-quarters.

"The private sector has experienced yet another tough year, with at least 15 listed companies issuing profits warning followed by layoffs of over 1,700 employees, with SMEs continuing to struggle," reads the survey. 

This is despite the SMEs accounting for over 80 per cent of new jobs created in the economy, according to the 2019 economic survey. 



Bethany lost her job this year at a travel firm, where she was earning a gross salary of Sh15,000.

She told the Star Christmas will have to be different this year because everything is more expensive. 

"The amount of money I have right now cannot allow me to spend as before. Prices for most commodities are high," she said. 

She will join her family upcountry for the holiday, although she would have preferred to do something else on her own. 

Despite admitting the economy has been tough this year, Benjamin says his Christmas will be the same. 

Without a family of his own to worry about, the bachelor will take a road trip out of town with his friends. 

"However, I have been forced to work thrice as hard to ensure my holiday was not interrupted," he said.

"But I can't miss having my favourite whiskey this Christmas. Forty per cent and above."

Since he is expected to work over Christmas, he will not visit his parents in Luanda. 

"But I went to see them in November and will go again either at the end of January or beginning of February," he said. 

For Moses, his wife will have to entertain their children because he will not make it home.

 "I have to be at work for Christmas so the mother will arrange for them to do something, I will be with them for New Year," he said. 

He will be at his Nairobi home, listening to music and cooking.

"I might have some activities to do with some friends, too," he said. "My finances will not be affected any differently this season because it is another normal day."

He said people should not look at Christmas differently when it comes to finances because it is something you can plan for. 

"If you are in a Sacco then they can help you save some money throughout the year, or you can start small savings each month and have something for Christmas," he said. 


Wambui has always spent Christmas with her family but wants to do something different this year. 

"I don't have enough money to have the Christmas I want, but I can always pool with my friends," she said. 

She arranged a last-minute trip to Coast with her best friend. 

"We had to take a lot of our savings but we found a beautiful beach house for less than Sh30,000 and we took it," she said. 

She adds they will ask their parents to chip in so they have enough for food and entertainment.

"It's been a hard year and we just wanted to go out of town and reflect. Maybe next year will be better," she said. 

Brandon wanted to be left at home by his parents for Christmas as they are travelling to upcountry until next year.

"When I thought about it though, I realised I had no money for food or any kind of entertainment," he said.

He adds he couldn't be left at home idle so he decided to join them.

"I'm unemployed so I may actually get some money from home this Christmas so I'm travelling with my family on Monday," he said.

Ted has been planning to visit Kampala for the holiday for two years. "At this point that is just a dream, the economy is bad," he said.

He adds he had to go back to school in the hope his salary would be increased so he could afford to travel. 


According to an article by Business Daily, domestic airfare has doubled due to increased demand. 

Ticket prices from Nairobi to Kisumu have risen to a peak of Sh14,800 from an average of Sh6,800 during weekdays and about Sh10,000 on weekends.

Flights to the coastal city of Mombasa from Nairobi are almost fully booked, with the cost of remaining seats increasing to Sh15,800, from an average of Sh7,800 in November.

These were the quoted prices on December 17. 

A spot check by the Star at the beginning of the month within Malindi and Watamu showed that hotels are fully booked and tourists, including a high number of locals, are already enjoying their holidays.

Hoteliers said they were recording an increase in tourists at their resorts for the December holidays. 

In Malindi and Watamu, stakeholders expressed optimism the foreign tourism numbers will increase this season following the key infrastructure put in place by the government. 

They added most hotels are 80 per cent full.

The number of Italian tourists who visit Malindi and Watamu is expected to hit 80,000 this year and up to 100,000 next year. The number was last reached in 2005.

Last year, 65,000 Italian tourists visited after years of decline in numbers due to the economic crisis in Italy and insecurity cases in Kenya.

The report says the ripple effect of a struggling economy is a net reduction in disposable income, leading to budget cuts at the household level.

According to the survey, five per cent of Kenyans will not spend more than Sh5,000 this holiday, while 55 per cent plan to spend between Sh5,001 and Sh30,000. 

Another 25 per cent are expected to spend between Sh30,001 and Sh50,000, while 10 per cent will spend between Sh50,001 and Sh100,000, and five per cent spending between Sh100,001 and Sh500,000.