Covid-19: Kenya Economy Contracted to 0.3% in 2020

The growth in Kenya's real GDP in 2020 contracted to -3 per cent as compared to the growth rate of 5.0 per cent in 2019

The growth in Kenya’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2020 contracted to -3 per cent as compared to the growth rate of 5.0 per cent in 2019 the statistics body said Thursday.

“The economy was supported by accelerated growth in agricultural production, construction and health services,” the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) said in its 2021 Economic Survey Report.

“In 2021 there are two main factors that affected the production of the report… Covid-19 and late submission of data at some stages. Revision of national accounts was the second reason for the late release,” said Treasury CS Ukur Yatani.

“The revision process entailed taking stock of the available data and assessing their suitability; formulation of a data collection strategy to fill the gaps; conducting various surveys and censuses; analysing and validating the data; compilation of revised and rebased estimates and a consultative review of the revised estimates,” said Yatani when he unveiled the Economic Survey 2021.

During the year in review, the KNBS says GDP  was $97.8 billion compared to the 2019 estimate of Ksh 10.256 trillion. This is in reference to the year 2016 from 2009, compared with Ksh 9.74 trillion previous data series. 

“The revised and rebased national accounts has resulted in an increase in the size of GDP, increase in per-capita income, change in the production structure and revised GDP growth rates among other changes,” said Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Director-General Macdonald Obudho.

Kenya GDP Growth Rates (%), 2010-2019

The new data contains the 2017 Census of Industrial Production, the 2017 Integrated Survey of Services, the 2015/16 Kenya Integrated Household Survey, the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census and the 2016 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Survey.

In 2020, Agriculture grew 4.8 per cent, compared with 2.3 per cent in 2019. The education sector contracted by 10.7 per cent.

On the other hand, the accommodation and food services category shrunk by almost 48 per cent. 

Wage employment in the private sector declined by 10.0 per cent from 2,063,000 jobs in 2019 to 1,856,000 jobs in 2020. Within the public sector, wage employment increased from 865,200 in 2019 to 884,600 in 2020.

83 per cent of jobs recorded in 2020 were in the informal sector while 2.9 million jobs were in the formal sector.

The nominal wage bill for private and public sectors declined from Ksh2.3 trillion in 2019 to Ksh2.2 trillion in 2020.

The Kenya Bureau of National Statistics economic Survey 2021.


Charles Robertson, Global Chief Economist, Head of Macro Strategy Unit, Renaissance Capital in a commentary via his Tweet feed says, “With the new data, Kenya’s GDP in 2020 is estimated at $102 billion, the 6th largest economy in Africa (and still bigger than Ethiopia). It represents about 4 per cent of all of Africa’s GDP last year.”

“With Kenya rebasing its GDP, Renaissance capital expected an upward revision, but not as big as the 25 per cent, that we saw in 2014 because a sizeable share of the informal economy was incorporated then. Plus, as the economy gets bigger, the percentage upside is likely to get smaller”- Yvonne Mhango, Acting Head of Research Africa, Africa Economist, Renaissance Capital said on Wednesday.

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