Improved life expectancy lifts Kenya’s ranking

Friday December 21 2018

Kenya's capital, Nairobi

Kenya's capital, Nairobi, just before dusk on on December 14, 2015. Kenya has slightly improved its standing in the global human development parade, moving to position 142 up from last year’s ranking of number 143. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

GEOFFREY IRUNGU
By GEOFFREY IRUNGU
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Kenya has slightly improved its standing in the global human development parade, moving to position 142 up from last year’s ranking of number 143.

The Human Development Index (HDI), which ranks 189 nations in total, on the basis of three key parameters including life expectancy at birth, years of schooling and gross national income (GNI) per capita measured in purchasing power parity (PPP) means that it takes into account what the local currency can buy rather than merely its exchange rate against the hard currencies.

Kenyans are now expected to live up to an average of 67.3 years or nearly 10 years more than 27 years ago, have an average of 6.5 years of schooling out of an expected 12 years, and with an average GDP per capita of $2,961 in PPP terms.

“Kenya’s HDI value for 2017 is 0.590, positioning it at 142 out of 189 countries and territories. Between 1990 and 2017, Kenya’s HDI value rose from 0.468 to 0.590, an increase of 26.1 percent,” said the report.

“Between 1990 and 2017, Kenya’s life expectancy at birth increased by 9.8 years, mean years of schooling increased by 2.8 years and expected years of schooling rose by 3.0 years. Kenya’s GNI per capita increased by about 28.9 percent between 1990 and 2017,” the report says.

The 189 countries are divided into three major groups those with very high, high, medium and low human development. Kenya falls in the category of countries with medium level of human development.

“[It is] a composite index measuring average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development — a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living,” says the report that seeks to measure progress not merely by economic production alone, but also by the health and education of the people.

Prove policy makers

Its findings are meant to provoke policy makers to question and align income to other development outcomes.

“The HDI was created to emphasise that people and their capabilities should be the ultimate criteria for assessing the development of a country, not economic growth alone,” the UN says in the report adding that the HDI can also be used to question national policy choices, ask how two countries with the same level of GNI per capita can end up with different human development outcomes.

“These contrasts can stimulate debate about government policy priorities,” the report says.

Roselyn Wanjiru, a development economist and an independent researcher, said health and education are critical components in the report because the two tend to have an impact on economic production of people and therefore development.

“We have seen more emphasis on education and health — both physical and mental health — as well as sensitisation of people about the importance of this. This must have impacted the position of Kenya,” said Ms Wanjiru.

She said that for Kenya to improve further on the HDI there should be more investment in social infrastructure and stability of the political environment.