alexa As a few drink Sh85,000 in posh restaurants, the majority live in slums - Daily Nation

As a few drink Sh85,000 in posh restaurants, the majority live in slums

Saturday October 20 2012

Innumerable Kenyans continue to wallow in abject poverty even as others swim in money. The ongoing economic boom has created a bigger gap between the poor and the middle class.

In Nairobi, for instance, while some are buying houses worth tens of millions of shillings, others continue living in informal settlements where the rent is around Sh800.

Millions around the country cannot afford a meal every day. They have to trek long distances to look for menial jobs.

Chris Obure, who has broken into the new middle class, says he is concerned that he might not enjoy his wealth peacefully with so many hungry people around.

“I want this wealth to be spread. I don’t just want to be rich alone,” he said. On some nights, he spends up to Sh85,000 entertaining business partners.

For a long time Kenyans have complained that they have “not felt” the economic boom being experienced under the Kibaki administration.

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The economy grew at a rate of 1.4 per cent in 2003 before accelerating to 7 per cent in 2007. The steady rise was slowed down by the post-election violence to 1.5 per cent in 2008 before picking up to reach 5.6 per cent in 2010. It dropped to 4.4 per cent last year.

The majority of Kenyans, however, are yet to feel the impact.

A whopping 46 per cent still live on less than a dollar a day, although this has decreased from 56 per cent in 2003. Martin Kirema, a security guard who works on Moi Avenue, says he has to walk to his Mathare shanty every day.

“I earn Sh5,000 and Sh1,200 goes to rent. The fare is Sh50 and there are no trains on my route. Where is this growth you people are talking about?” Mr Kirema asked.

Silvia Wangeci, a shoeblack in the city, says she is yet to feel the growth. “You mean there are Kenyans who are drinking Sh85,000 in a night? I have never held Sh20,000 at once in my hands,” she said.

Her colleague Naomi Kilonzo says the money has gone into a few pockets. “That money has gone to the MPs and their business partners. If there are ordinary Kenyans who have gone from poverty to riches then it was by fluke,” she said.

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