In September 2015, leaders of 193 countries at the UN General Assembly adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure world peace and prosperity by 2030.

The goals came into effect in January 2016, and respective countries have domesticated them and laid out plans for their achievement. In Kenya, they have been incorporated in the relevant ministries’ agenda and the activities aimed at achieving them are ongoing.

One of the most important of the 17 is SDG 8, on decent work and economic growth. Specifically, promotion of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth is very critical for Kenya, given the high level of economic inequality.

Despite a steady economic growth over the past decade, inequality remains very high. Less than 0.1 per cent of the population own more wealth than the bottom 99.9 per cent. The inequality is found even in access to services.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, individuals in Nairobi have about 15 times more access to secondary education than those living in, say, Turkana County. Also, a household in the city county is 36 times more likely to have electricity for lighting compared with one in Tana River. This high level of inequality is a threat to the attainment of SDGs, as well as Vision 2030 targets. And coupled with unsustainable economic growth, it could spell doom for Kenya.

To ensure inclusive and sustainable economic growth, deliberate measures must be put in place. These include the formulation and implementation of progressive economic policies and legislation to reform the fiscal system and provide an enabling environment for inclusive and sustainable growth.

An audit of existing economic policies should be undertaken to identify gaps and hurdles that may work against the efforts. The government should also take deliberate steps to promote better access to financial services. For example, the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should be facilitated to access affordable credit that will enable them to expand and sustain their business.

Promoting the use of technology in accessing financial services is also key, as is formulating enabling laws and policies. With increased access to financial services, many low-income groups would improve their economic well-being, thereby reducing inequality.

Narrowing the gap for women is also vital. Most women are disadvantaged economically despite making significant contributions to wealth creation. Some 96 per cent of rural women work on farms and make significant contributions to their families’ wellbeing, yet only six per cent of Kenyan women hold title deeds. More women should be empowered to access economic opportunities, own properties and uplift their standards of living.

Kenya’s development partners have a critical role to play in ensuring inclusive and sustainable economic growth for Kenya. The Bretton Wood institutions should put in place mechanisms to ensure that projects that they support have sound plans for promoting inclusivity and sustainability of economic growth.

They should continually communicate to Kenyans their role to ensure the country achieves the SDGs, especially No. 8. The government, through its ministries, departments and agencies, should also engage the public more on its agenda regarding inclusive and sustainable economic growth and provide channels for feedback and public participation. Achieving inclusive and sustainable economic growth requires a concerted effort by various actors and everybody must take up their role