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March 25, 2018


Though a majority of Kenyans keep smiling through it also seems that a majority of them want out

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Goodbye Kenya? A Majority Want to Leave the Country


In the last week various surveys and reports have been published which highlight the difficulties of living in Kenya even though Kenyans themselves invariably maintain a smile on their faces. Yet though a majority of Kenyans keep smiling through it also seems that a majority of them want out – out of Kenya that is.


Try these for a few indices that point to the realities of daily life in Kenya.

According to figures released in the Kenya Integrated Households Budget Survey, 4.5 million Kenyans do not have a toilet and have to relieve themselves in the bush.

The same survey revealed that approximately 5.2 million Kenyans who are capable of economic activity are unemployed or very much under-employed.

A survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) released on Thursday puts the figure of Kenyan unemployment at seven million, a third of the country’s working-age population.

Even for many in employment the amount they earn is not sufficient to ward of extreme poverty. The KNBS survey found that 16.4 million Kenyans live in ‘severe deprivation’, i.e., surviving on Sh3,252 per month ($32) or less.

Despite all the trumpeting by politicians over recent years that Kenya is on the up and that “we have so much to be proud of”, the KNBS figures reveal that the number of people classified as being poor has only dropped by 200,000 in the last 10 years.


Little wonder then that in these straightened times more than 60 per cent of Kenyans of working age (Kenya Integrated Households Budget survey) survive by getting credit from ‘informal services’, that is local shops or kiosks, Chamas, relatives and friends.


Even given all of that it was still a surprise to read the figures quoted in a survey by the US-based Pew Research Centre, also published last week, which stated that 54 per cent of Kenyans want to emigrate and 19 per cent claim they are actively planning to leave the country.

Of the 54 per cent of Kenyans who want to leave the country, 55 per cent say they would like to move to the United States, the second preference being the European Union, Norway or Switzerland.

There is already a substantial Kenyan Diaspora in the US, about 120,000 of them, with another 180,000 in Europe. Kenya is by no means alone in seeing the flight of its people to greener grass overseas, or the desire by many others to do so. 280,000 Nigerians now live in the US, along with 220,000 Ethiopians and 160,000 originating from Ghana.


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