Gap between the rich and poor widens in Kenya

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The gap between the rich and poor in Kenya is widening with a paltry 0.1 per cent of the country’s population or 8,300 people holding the bulk of wealth, limiting equal access to opportunities.

A new report by Oxfam notes that even with impressive economic growth since 2005, millions of Kenyans still live below the poverty line.

“It appears that a minority of wealthy individuals and investors are creaming off the yields of the country’s economic performance.

“While this minority of super-rich Kenyans are accumulating wealth and income, the fruits of economic growth are failing to trickle down to the poorest” Oxfam said.

The richest 10 per cent of people in Kenya earned on average 23 times more than the poorest 10 per cent, it further noted, adding that the number of super-rich in Kenya is one of the fastest growing in the world.

Official figures from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) show that the proportion of Kenyans living in poverty fell by 10.5 percentage points between 2005/6 to 2016.

Only 8,300, representing 0.1 per cent of the population, are reaping the benefits of the country’s economic improvement.

“If inequality remained at the same level for the following five years, 2.9 million more people could be living in extreme poverty,” Oxfam added.

Oxfam, a charity organisation focusing on alleviating poverty, says Kenya has one of the highest growth of super-rich people in the world.

The organisation predicts that Kenya will see an 80 per cent increase of rich people over the next decade.

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The reality is denying a majority of Kenyans access to healthcare and education among other services critical to their development and contribution to human progress.

Oxfam’s study, emphasise that the war on extreme poverty is being lost and children are among the most vulnerable group paying the highest price.

The report remarks that on average in Kenya, a child from a rich family will have double the amount of education compared to a child from a poor family.

The London-based organisation says in their annual study that a girl from a poor family in Kenya has a one in 250 chance of doing continuing her studies beyond secondary school.

This indicates that women and girls are the hardest hit by the growing wealth gap in the country.

“Nearly one million primary school-aged children are still out-of-school — the ninth highest number of any country in the world. Kenya’s level of spending on education has gradually fallen each year since the early 2000s,” the report says.

Oxfam points at the government and corporate companies for exacerbating inequality in the country. According to the group, Kenyan government underfunds healthcare and education making them inaccessible to the majority who leave below a dollar a day.

According to the study, having money is a ticket for better healthcare and education not only in Kenya but across the world.

“A quarter of the Kenyan population regularly lack access to healthcare. A recent study estimated that nearly 2.6 million people fall into poverty or remain poor due to ill health each year,” the report says.

Corporate tax dodging, according to Oxfam, is robing Kenyans of Sh100 billion annually, which is twice what the country spent on health in the 2015-2016 financial year.

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A report by World Poverty Clock last year ranked Kenya eighth on the global extreme poverty list. According to the report, 29 per cent (14.7 million) of the 49,684,304 people are very poor as they consume less than $1.90 (Sh197) per day or Sh5,910 monthly.

The Vienna-based World Poverty Clock further noted that with a poverty escape rate of 0.5 people per minute, the drive to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals is at risk.

Globally, the study found that 26 richest people own same wealth as the poorest half of the world population.

To reduce the inequality, Oxfam recommends increasing taxes on the super-rich and deep cutting reforms that would make quality education and healthcare affordable.

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