Situation and cooperation

Women singing to welcome a foreign delegation in a village in Kenya.

Following a handover of power that met the highest democratic standards, the new Kenyan government under President Mwai Kibaki began launching major political, economic and social reforms in 2003. In response, the international community considerably scaled up their development work in Kenya. Ultimately, however, the government did not manage to truly overcome the entrenched power structures or clientelism and corruption.

In the run-up to the elections at the end of 2007, Kenyan politicians tried to exploit ethnic allegiances for the purposes of their political power struggle. This led in early 2008 to violent clashes and general political instability. With the support of the international community, including Germany, and also a number of African leaders, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan took on the role of mediator and achieved a peaceful solution to the crisis. The 2008–2013 parliament was then led by a grand coalition.

In March 2013, elections were held again in Kenya. These were followed by a peaceful hand-over of power by the outgoing government to the incoming one. The current government led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto is working towards implementing the Vision 2030 strategy for Kenya's development and the new 2010 constitution.

The constitution includes a set of basic rights and provides for the restructuring of Kenya's centralist state into a decentralised republic. That decentralisation project is very ambitious, as regional political or administrative structures will have to be newly established.


Thanks to international support, public administration in Kenya has become more professional and more effective in some areas. One major impediment to development continues to be widespread corruption – which often goes unpunished – in political circles and among police officers and justice personnel. As a result, even poor people sometimes have to pay substantial bribes in order to receive state services that are actually free of charge.

On the Corruption Perceptions Index published in 2015 by the non-governmental organisation Transparency International, Kenya ranks 139th out of the 168 countries indexed. In autumn 2011, an ethics and anti-corruption commission was set up. However, it is not given sufficient resources, and only rarely are criminal proceedings instigated or offenders sentenced.


Picking coffee beans at the coffee cooperative in Embu, Kenya

Agriculture is the mainstay of the Kenyan economy. Some seventy per cent of the population earn their living in the agricultural sector. Tea and coffee along with cut flowers are the country's main exports. The service sector, especially IT and tourism, is also flourishing and making a significant contribution to economic growth. However, because of the poor security situation on the coast of Kenya, turnover in the tourism industry suffered badly in 2014 and is still slow to recover.

In 2014, economic growth was 5.3 per cent, with the World Bank predicting growth to continue at five to six per cent in the next few years.

Kenya's is the largest national economy in Eastern Africa; the World Bank classes the country as a lower-middle-income state. In 2014, the gross national income per capita amounted to 1,290 US dollars.

Development goals

Thanks to its annual growth, the fairly high level of political stability and the reforms launched so far, Kenya has made significant development progress. Progress has been achieved, for example, on primary education, the empowerment of women and HIV/AIDS control.

By contrast, the reduction of maternal and child mortality has faltered, and Kenya has not yet succeeded in significantly bringing down the number of poor people. The high rate of population growth (2.6 per cent in 2014) is making it difficult to make progress in these areas. The current Human Development Index (HDI) ranks Kenya 142nd out of 189 countries.


Cultivation of land in northern Kenya

Parts of Kenya, particularly the north and northwest, where many livestock farmers and smallholders are to be found, are frequently hit by drought. The most recent one was in 2011, when about 3.5 million people in those regions suffered severe water shortages and hunger. At the same time, Kenya was coming to the aid of hundreds of thousands of Somalians who had fled across the border to escape the drought and political conflicts in their own country. As a result of the climatic phenomenon known as "El Niño", 2015 again saw droughts and flooding which severely affected crop harvests and livestock farming in large parts of East Africa.

De­vel­op­ment potential

Man doing welding work in Karagita, Kenya

With its "Vision 2030" programme, the Kenyan government is pursuing a long-term strategy of social and economic development. The goal of the strategy is to create, by 2030, a globally competitive and thriving Kenya with a high quality of life and to graduate into the category of emerging economies. Compared with other African states, Kenya has a sound economic basis and a well-trained workforce in the manufacturing sector. If it succeeds in expanding the agricultural sector, tapping new markets and developing its tourism sector, it could also reduce its dependence on global market prices for tea and coffee.

Kenya is a founding member of and a driving force behind the East African Community (EAC), to which Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi also belong. Since 2010, these five countries have maintained a common market, with free movement of goods and persons for the over 150 million inhabitants living within their borders. The EAC's long-term goal is political union, with a common currency, along the lines of the EU.

Priority areas of German co­op­er­a­tion with Kenya

Minister Müller visiting the world's largest refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya in March 2016

Germany is a major donor to Kenya. At the gov­ern­ment negotiations in 2013, Germany committed funds totalling 138 million euros to Kenya for direct intergovernmental co­op­er­a­tion in the period 2014 to 2016. Of this, 106.5 million euros was allocated to Financial Cooperation and 31.5 million to Technical Cooperation. In addition to these funds, Germany is also providing Kenya with a reduced-interest loan and funding from the German government's Special Energy and Climate Fund. It was agreed with the Kenyan gov­ern­ment to focus co­op­er­a­tion on the following priority areas:

  • Agriculture: improving food and nutrition security and strengthening resilience in the event of droughts

  • Water supply and sanitation: improving access to water and sanitation, in particular in expanding urban areas, as well as water resources management

  • Health: setting up a system of sustainable health funding

Other areas in which the two countries are working together are education and renewable energy/energy efficiency. The German government is also helping Kenya to fight corruption.

The priority areas of German cooperation are aligned with the goals both of Kenya's development strategy, Vision 2030, and of its five-year development strategy, Medium-Term Plan II, for the period of 2013 to 2018. These priority areas have also been coordinated with other European donors, within the joint programming of the European Union.

Under its "ONE WORLD – No Hunger" initiative, the BMZ is also helping Kenya with its programmes to improve food security and soil quality.

And Germany is using funds from its initiative "Tackling the root causes of displacement, reintegrating refugees" to help Kenyan partner organisations provide support for displaced people and refugees from South Sudan.

Developing the ag­ri­cul­tur­al sector

Working the land on a small farm in Ishiara, Kenya

Agriculture is the single most important sector of the Kenyan economy. Twenty-nine per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is directly attributable to agriculture; if one includes the informal sector, that figure is considerably higher. At any rate, it plays a crucial role in the overall economic and social development of the country.

Typically, most farms in Kenya are small, are heavily dependent on rainfall and still have relatively low yields. Increasingly, the growth that is being achieved in the agricultural sector is to the detriment of the environment and of water resources. Given the high rate of population growth, the current structures in Kenya's agricultural sector mean that the country is not able to produce enough food to feed its people.

As part of the move towards decentralisation – laid down in the constitution – some 90 per cent of all services are being devolved to the counties. This is also having an effect on the agricultural sector. With its development cooperation Germany supports this reform process.

There are also plans to set up a "Green Innovation Centre" – an innovation centre for the agricultural and food sector – in Kenya as part of the BMZ's Special Initiative "One World – No Hunger". The Centre will support the efforts of small farms to increase their production and income on a lasting basis.

Since 2011, the BMZ has been working closely with the Israeli government's development agency MASHAV on a triangular cooperation project to support the development of fish farms in Kenya. The aim is to reduce pressure on Lake Victoria, which is overfished, and open up new sources of income for local fishermen.

De­vel­op­ment of the water and sanitation sector

Slum residents collect water in Nairobi, capital of Kenya

Over a third of Kenya's population are not properly connected to the drinking water supply, and around 70 per cent have no proper sanitation facilities. That is why Germany's government is supporting Kenya in its efforts to reform the water and sanitation sector. The aim is to make sure that access in urban areas to clean water and basic sanitation is sustainable and equitable, and to conserve the country's water resources. Key areas of involvement are:

  • Reform and improvement of the country-wide conditions: advice and capacity development support for the relevant institutions, from the local level up to the national Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.
  • Improvements in water supply and sanitation in poor urban areas: investment in the infrastructure of medium-sized towns around Lake Victoria and in the growing urban area of Nairobi; support for the Water Service Trust, which since 2009 has given over 1.4 million people in poor urban areas improved access to water and more than 150,000 people access to basic sanitation.
  • Integrated water resource management: protection of the environment and the most important watersheds from further degradation.


The Biafra clinic in Eastleigh, a slum area of Nairobi

The Kenyan health system is facing huge challenges. This is evident when one looks at the high rate of maternal mortality, for example. In Kenya, 510 mothers die for every 100,000 live births. (In Germany, the figure is 6 deaths per 100,000 live births.) Although basic health care is free, illness-related costs can lead to financial ruin for most Kenyans. Only about 20 per cent of the population have any form of health insurance. Therefore, a social health insurance system that is both sound and financially feasible in the long term is badly needed.

The aim of German development cooperation in this sector is to improve access for the poor and disadvantaged to high-quality basic health care. Kenyans are to be covered against the financial risks arising from illness and the quality of health care available is also to be improved.

BMZ glossary

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