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KENYA’S VITAL STATISTICS: WHAT SHAPE ARE WE IN?

It was the British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill who is supposed to have said that there are, “Lies, damn lies and statistics”. He may have been right but what is for sure is that the results of surveys and opinion polls make for column inches in our newspapers which if viewed with an objectively critical eye and thereafter swallowed with a pinch of salt can provide some valuable, or at least interesting, insights.

It was back at the end of August that the Business Daily’s quarterly pull-out, The Edge, reported on ‘Kenya Consumer Trends’.

Apparently 66 per cent of us living in ‘urban’ areas have a sofa to sit on compared to 36.1 per cent in ‘rural’ areas which at least means there are enough places to put ‘bums on seats’ for the 52.6 per cent of Kenya’s urban dwellers who own a television and the 22 per cent rural folk who do so. However, a note to marketers, advertising agencies and the like: the same survey revealed that 90 per cent of the urban population has access to a radio, as do some 80 per cent in the countryside. Old fashioned radio, for the time being at least, is still top dog in the media stakes. [Source: ‘Financial Access Survey’]

ARE WE ALL ‘MIDDLE CLASS’ NOW?

Much of The Edge’s coverage concentrated on Africa’s ‘Middle Class’ based in part on a survey by the African Development Bank entitled ‘The Middle of the Pyramid of Middle Class in Africa’. This, it must be said, seemed somewhat at odds with that survey’s own findings that 77 per cent of East Africa’s population lives on $2 (200/-) a day or less but then the income denoting ‘Lower middle class’ was set at $4 – $10 a day (400/- to 1,000/- per day) which by the Forum’s reckoning makes a street newspaper seller ‘lower middle class’. Even so, the ‘middle class’ does seem to have increased in size from 27 per cent of the population in 1990 to over 34 per cent by 2010.

YOUNG KENYANS DON’T WORSHIP DISCOS AND VIDEO HALLS

Young Kenyans - Church and Mosque the "best things in life"

Of more interest to the Forum (and therefore, we hope, to our readers) was the table set out in The Edge under the title ‘The Best Things in Life’ that categorized what ‘the youth’ of Kenya like to do best of all. No surprise that 21 per cent of 20-24 year olds like to go to discotheques, or that 12 per cent of 13-19 year olds like ‘video halls’. The figures that did jump out of the page at the reader however, were those showing that 59 per cent of 20-24 year olds regarded their church or mosque as the ‘best thing in life’ (a figure that rose to 75 per cent for the 7-12 year old age range). That provides a very different picture as to the reality of the young people of Kenya.

Some of The Edge’s reporting was misleading, for example, the headline figures of 74 per cent of the ‘youth’ using social media with 94 per cent on Facebook should have been qualified to reflect that it meant 74 and 94 per cent of the 35 per cent of Kenya’s youth population who in some way are connected to the Internet. That said, the figures reveal the rapidly changing ways Kenyans, particular the young, are communicating.

M-PESA - Ksh. 47 billion transactions last year

THERE’S MORE MONEY IN THE AIR…

Further evidence of such trends was revealed in The Nation today which reported that M-Pesa transactions in Kenya are now more numerous than all Western Union does globally, according to the International Monetary Fund’s ‘October outlook on the African economy’, and that 70 per cent of Kenya’s adult population (about 14 million people) now use their mobile phones as a banking facility, accounting for Sh47 billion’s worth of transactions last year.

…BUT KENYA HAS BEEN RELEGATED

These trends are certain to continue and no doubt the ‘middle class’ will continue to grow but that growth will be hampered if Kenya’s leaders don’t take notice of another survey, this time by the World Bank entitled ‘Doing Business’, which showed Kenya dropping to 109th place (down from number 82) out of 183 countries surveyed in the ‘ease of doing business’ league. To put this in perspective, Rwanda, would you believe, moved up five places from the last study, to number 45.

According to The Business Daily it was Kenya’s ‘Poor protection of property rights and electricity shortages’ that was putting off foreign investors. The Nation meanwhile, reported that the study had found that it takes 11 procedures and 33 days to register a business in Kenya and that getting electricity connected ‘needs four procedures and a wait for up to 163 days’.

Kenya is rapidly changing but to get anywhere near achieving the 2030 ‘Vision’ our country’s leaders need to take us into the Premier League of countries in which it’s good to do business. Improving the electricity supply and cutting red tape would be a good start.

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