Kenya Economy - 2021


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Economic overview

Kenya is the economic, financial, and transport hub of East Africa. Kenya’s real GDP growth has averaged over 5% for the last decade. Since 2014, Kenya has been ranked as a lower middle income country because its per capita GDP crossed a World Bank threshold. While Kenya has a growing entrepreneurial middle class and steady growth, its economic development has been impaired by weak governance and corruption. Although reliable numbers are hard to find, unemployment and under-employment are extremely high, and could be near 40% of the population. In 2013, the country adopted a devolved system of government with the creation of 47 counties, and is in the process of devolving state revenues and responsibilities to the counties.

Agriculture remains the backbone of the Kenyan economy, contributing one-third of GDP. About 75% of Kenya’s population of roughly 48.5 million work at least part-time in the agricultural sector, including livestock and pastoral activities. Over 75% of agricultural output is from small-scale, rain-fed farming or livestock production. Tourism also holds a significant place in Kenya’s economy. In spite of political turmoil throughout the second half of 2017, tourism was up 20%, showcasing the strength of this sector. Kenya has long been a target of terrorist activity and has struggled with instability along its northeastern borders. Some high visibility terrorist attacks during 2013-2015 (e.g., at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall and Garissa University) affected the tourism industry severely, but the sector rebounded strongly in 2016-2017 and appears poised to continue growing.

Inadequate infrastructure continues to hamper Kenya’s efforts to improve its annual growth so that it can meaningfully address poverty and unemployment. The KENYATTA administration has been successful in courting external investment for infrastructure development. International financial institutions and donors remain important to Kenya's growth and development, but Kenya has also successfully raised capital in the global bond market issuing its first sovereign bond offering in mid-2014, with a second occurring in February 2018. The first phase of a Chinese-financed and constructed standard gauge railway connecting Mombasa and Nairobi opened in May 2017.

In 2016 the government was forced to take over three small and undercapitalized banks when underlying weaknesses were exposed. The government also enacted legislation that limits interest rates banks can charge on loans and set a rate that banks must pay their depositors. This measure led to a sharp shrinkage of credit in the economy. A prolonged election cycle in 2017 hurt the economy, drained government resources, and slowed GDP growth. Drought-like conditions in parts of the country pushed 2017 inflation above 8%, but the rate had fallen to 4.5% in February 2018.

The economy, however, is well placed to resume its decade-long 5%-6% growth rate. While fiscal deficits continue to pose risks in the medium term, other economic indicators, including foreign exchange reserves, interest rates, current account deficits, remittances and FDI are positive. The credit and drought-related impediments were temporary. Now In his second term, President KENYATTA has pledged to make economic growth and development a centerpiece of his second administration, focusing on his "Big Four" initiatives of universal healthcare, food security, affordable housing, and expansion of manufacturing.

Real GDP growth rate

5.39% (2019 est.)

6.32% (2018 est.)

4.79% (2017 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

5.1% (2019 est.)

4.6% (2018 est.)

8% (2017 est.)

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: B+ (2007)

Moody's rating: B2 (2018)

Standard & Poors rating: B+ (2010)

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$227.638 billion (2019 est.)

$216.046 billion (2018 est.)

$203.206 billion (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$95.52 billion (2019 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$4,330 (2019 est.)

$4,204 (2018 est.)

$4,046 (2017 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

Gross national saving

8% of GDP (2019 est.)

8.6% of GDP (2018 est.)

9.2% of GDP (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 34.5% (2017 est.)

industry: 17.8% (2017 est.)

services: 47.5% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 79.5% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 14.3% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 18.9% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: -1% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 13.9% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -25.5% (2017 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores

Overall score: 73.2 (2020)

Starting a Business score: 82.7 (2020)

Trading score: 67.4 (2020)

Enforcement score: 58.3 (2020)

Agricultural products

sugar cane, milk, maize, potatoes, bananas, camel milk, cassava, sweet potatoes, mangoes/guavas, cabbages


small-scale consumer goods (plastic, furniture, batteries, textiles, clothing, soap, cigarettes, flour), agricultural products, horticulture, oil refining; aluminum, steel, lead; cement, commercial ship repair, tourism, information technology

Industrial production growth rate

3.6% (2017 est.)

Labor force

19.6 million (2017 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 61.1%

industry: 6.7%

services: 32.2% (2005 est.)

Unemployment rate

40% (2013 est.)

40% (2001 est.)

Population below poverty line

36.1% (2015 est.)

Gini Index coefficient - distribution of family income

40.8 (2015 est.)

42.5 (2008 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 1.8%

highest 10%: 37.8% (2005)


revenues: 13.95 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 19.24 billion (2017 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

17.6% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-6.7% (of GDP) (2017 est.)

Public debt

54.2% of GDP (2017 est.)

53.2% of GDP (2016 est.)

Fiscal year

1 July - 30 June

Current account balance

-$57.594 billion (2019 est.)

-$56.194 billion (2018 est.)


$10.078 billion (2019 est.)

$10.1 billion (2018 est.)

$9.723 billion (2017 est.)

Exports - partners

Uganda 10%, United States 9%, Netherlands 8%, Pakistan 7%, United Kingdom 6%, United Arab Emirates 6%, Tanzania 5% (2019)

Exports - commodities

tea, cut flowers, refined petroleum, coffee, titanium (2019)


$18.729 billion (2019 est.)

$19.116 billion (2018 est.)

$18.653 billion (2017 est.)

Imports - partners

China 24%, United Arab Emirates 10%, India 10%, Saudi Arabia 7%, Japan 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, cars, packaged medicines, wheat, iron products (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$7.354 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$7.256 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

Debt - external

$29.289 billion (2019 est.)

$25.706 billion (2018 est.)

Exchange rates

Kenyan shillings (KES) per US dollar -

111.45 (2020 est.)

101.4 (2019 est.)

102.4 (2018 est.)

98.179 (2014 est.)

87.921 (2013 est.)

NOTE: The information regarding Kenya on this page is re-published from the 2021 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Kenya 2021 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Kenya 2021 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 16 Dec 23, Copyright © 2023 ITA all rights reserved.