Incomes and resources are very unequally distributed in Kenya, in both regional and social terms. Poverty is particularly severe in the northern part of the country. People in that region suffer greatly from the impacts of the various crises that have hit the country. They include the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme drought, and sharp rises in the prices of food and fertiliser brought about by Russia's war of aggression on Ukraine.
Five failed rainy seasons in a row have caused tremendous crop loss and a decline in milk production. Pastoral communities travel long distances in search of water and food, which is leading to increasing conflict with local people. More than five million people in Kenya are experiencing acute food insecurity (as at March 2023).
The situation is further exacerbated by the rapid population growth (1.9 per cent in 2021). The current population of about 53 million is projected to double by 2050. Currently, nearly 40 per cent of Kenya's people are under the age of 15.
Poor prospects for young people
As a consequence of Kenya's population growth, the level of unemployment amongst young people is high. According to estimates, up to one million young Kenyans join the labour market every year. Their chances of finding decent employment depend on a number of factors such as place (urban or rural area, which region), gender, and ethnic background.
More and more people are moving into towns and cities in search of opportunities to earn a living. However, there is a huge shortage of affordable housing in Kenya's urban areas. But the influx of people into cities also means opportunities: in the larger cities, a highly innovative middle class has evolved.