Kenya’s ambition of becoming a middle-income economy hangs in the balance as the government struggles to meet key growth targets under its long-term development plan the “Vision 2030.”

According to the latest World Bank classification criteria, middle-income countries are those with a gross national income (GNI) per capita of more than $1,045 but less than $12,736 while low-income economies are those with GNI per capita of $1,045 or less. High-income economies are those with a GNI per capita of $12,736 or more.

Latest data from the Kenya Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat paints a grave picture of the achievements made in the past eight years with concerns over low levels of economic growth, domestic savings, national investments and employment figures. Kenya’s economy has grown at an average rate of 4% in the last eight years against a planned rate of 10%, thanks to the poor performance of key economic sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and tourism.

Kenya is still at the lower end with respect to national savings as compared with the other East African countries. Kenya’s regional counterparts have also developed their own development blueprints, Uganda has formulated Vision 2040, Tanzania Vision 2025, Burundi Vision 2025 and Rwanda has Vision 2020 but there are plans to align all of them to the EAC Vision 2050.

Official government data shows that Kenya is lagging behind in achieving its key objectives under the development plan. During the first five years (2008-2012) of the plan, Kenya’s economy grew at an average rate of 4.18 % against a target of 8.66 % while investment averaged 20 % of gross domestic product (GDP) compared with a target of 27 %.

Annual averages of 511,000 jobs were created during the period against a target of 740,000 jobs of which about 80 % were in the informal sector. This is against a target of 3.7 million new jobs for the five years. Gross national savings during the 2008-2012 periods fell to an average of 12 % per annum against a target of 22%. According to data from National Treasury, gross national savings stood at 12.7%, 14.5 % and 15.9% in 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively.

In the second medium-term plan (2013-2017), national investment is expected to grow from 24.7 % of GDP in 2013 to 30.9 % in 2017 while gross national savings are expected to grow from 16.4 % to 25.7 % over the same period. But data from the National Treasury shows that national investments as a percentage of GDP for the years 2013, 2014 and 2015 stood at 21.7%, 23.5 %and 23.5 % respectively.

Gross international reserve coverage is expected to increase from 4.1 months of import cover to six months. Currently, foreign exchange reserves stand at $7.37 billion (equivalent to 4.7 months of import cover) according to data from the Central Bank of Kenya. The debt to GDP ratio is projected to decline to 39.2 % by 2017/2018 from 43.9 % 2013/14. Currently the debt ratio stands at 43.7 %.

In the second medium-term plan under the Vision 2030, the government projected growth to gather pace from about 6.1% in 2013 to 8.7 % in 2015 and reach 10.1 % in 2017. Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, however, said the economy grew by 5.3 per cent in 2014 and is projected to expand by 5.6 per cent in 2015, six per cent in 2016 and 6.5 per cent in the medium term.

During the second MTP, the government is expected to create one million new jobs annually to address youth unemployment and improve skills training. A total of 5,170 employment opportunities were to be created over the five-year period (2013-2017) translating into an average of 1,034 jobs — 1,513 formal and 3,657 informal per year.
Kenya’s Vision 2030, which was officially launched in July 2008, aims to transform Kenya into a newly industrializing globally competitive and middle-income country providing a high quality of life to all its citizens by 2030. According to the Kenya Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat, challenges related to lack of funding, lengthy procurement processes and litigation on tender awards, land acquisition and compensation issues as well as high transaction costs have worked out to stifle implementation of flagship projects.

The key flagship projects under the plan include paving of 10,000 kilometers of roads by 2017, generation of over 5,000 MW of power in 40 months, the Lamu Port Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor project, the Konza Techno City, modernisation of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (Greenfield terminal and second runway), expansion of the port of Mombasa, and the standard gauge railway (SGR).

Sources: Annual economic survey report, budget policy statement 2016, CBK, vision 2030 secretariat, the east African.