Named: Kenya’s richest and poorest counties

Saturday December 17 2011

Naikuni speaks on the future of Kajiado County
An overview of Kitengela town . Photo/JENNIFER MUIRURI
Photo/JENNIFER MUIRURI/FILE An overview of Kitengela town .
By EMMAN OMARI ([email protected])

Kajiado is the richest county, according to new government statistics that have exposed the massive disparities in wealth among the country’s regions.

Only 12 in every 100 people in Kajiado are classified as poor in a country where the average number of people considered not to be rich is 46 per cent of the total population.

Kajiado’s wealth status is radically different from the poorest county, Turkana, where 94 people in every 100 residents are considered poor. (IN PICTURES: Kajiado County)

The findings are contained in the first ever audit of wealth and poverty since the new Constitution was passed, with a key accent being the devolution of resources to the counties.

According to a new report released this week, more than half of the people in 23 counties are living below the poverty line underlining the serious differentials in livelihoods.

Only half of the country’s 47 counties have their residents listed as living above the national poverty averages. Countrywide, 46 per cent of the country’s population of 40 million live in poverty.

Historical inequalities

So uneven is the distribution of wealth that the document notes that many Kenyans will look to devolution to help even out the country’s richness.

“The data on education and health, water and sanitation, access to electricity and the road network tell the story of historical inequities and to some extent the failure of the State to equalise opportunities for Kenyans,” the report, dated December 2011, states.

“Kenyans have embraced devolution with such passion because they expect that it will help fill these service delivery gaps.”

The document suggests that positive developments in counties rated as rich should be borrowed to benefit those that fair poorly.

The commission challenges counties to focus on wealth creation so their achievements could spread out to other parts of the country to improve overall development.

According to the report, the distribution of poverty will have significant implications in the distribution of money to the counties.

This is because there is always a link between poverty and other social aspects such as access to health services and development.

Also to determine the distribution of cash to the counties will be the population of the regions. It is the first time that counties, created by the Constitution that came in force last year, have been listed based on their wealth status.

According to the Kenya County Fact Sheets report published by the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA), Kajiado, with 89.4 per cent of its people classified as rich, has displaced Kiambu region which, for decades, was rated the richest area in the country. (READ: Sh9 billion business reaches its centenary)

It is followed by Nairobi county whose 22.5 people live in poverty, perhaps because of the households in the slums. The poorest county, according to the document, is Turkana where 94 people in every 100 are poor.

“Immediately after the next (elections), 47 county governments will replace the provincial and local government administration systems which were at independence,” the document says.

Before the publication of the CRA document, all existing official data was based on either districts or provinces and sometimes constituencies after the introduction of the Constituency Development Fund.

The new document gives detailed information that will be used to share out money to the counties.

These include population, poverty rate, health, existing infrastructure, education and prevalence of diseases such as malaria and HIV/Aids.

According to the document, the data on key indicators of wealth and poverty show how imbalanced the country is.

Few rich people

From the data, it emerges that the country’s resources are largely in the hands of a few rich people, a majority of them in the urban areas.

Counties that are home to large towns, those that are agriculturally rich and those that attract tourists fair well in the rankings. They include Nairobi, Kiambu, Lamu, Nyeri, Nakuru, Mombasa, Kericho and Narok.

The report reveals that most counties are still predominantly rural. Only five counties have half of their population living in urban areas while the rest have at least 80 per cent of their people living in rural areas.

“Reliable data is the cornerstone of firm policy decisions,” says CRA chairman Micah Cheserem.

Commenting on the fortunes of Kajiado district, commission Vice-Chairperson Fatuma Abdulkadir said: “Kajiado’s riches are concentrated on areas in proximity to Nairobi.”

She cited Ngong, Ongata Rongai, Kitengela, Isinya and Kajiado town. “The interior is as poor as any other marginalised areas of the country,” she said.

Kirinyaga is third, with a poverty rate of 25.2 per cent of its 528,054 population. Kiambu comes fourth where its 1.6 million has 27.2 poor.
Meru, Murang’a follow Kiambu in that order.

Lamu, the county with the smallest population in the country, 101,539, is ranked seventh with only 32.7 per cent of its people classified as poor.

It is notable the region has done well most likely because of its income from tourism, which some of its neighbours lack.

Nyeri, ranked eighth, has 32.7 per cent of its people classified as poor, same as Lamu, but its population of 693,558 is much bigger.

The ninth county is Narok, another rich local authority that also attracts many tourists. With a population of 850,920, about a third of them are poor.

Nyanza’s Siaya county is the 10th with a poverty rate of 35.3 per cent.

The 10 poorest

The report shows that arid and semi-arid counties are at the bottom end of poverty.

Listed as the poorest, Turkana happens to the second biggest in geographical area, 68,680 square kilometres after Marsabit county whose area is 70,961 square kilometres.

Data of the poorest counties depicts a sorry state of development ranging from poor infrastructure, health to education.

Mandera county with a population of one million is rated to have a poverty rate of 87.8 per cent. It is one of the areas whose 2009 population census results were cancelled over irregularities.

Another arid region, Wajir county, has a poverty rate of 84 per cent. Marsabit comes fourth with a population of 291,166 with a poverty rate of 83.2 per cent.

At fifth is Tana River county followed by Kwale, Samburu, Isiolo, Kilifi and West Pokot.