Kenya: Lamu, Isiolo and Nyeri Top the List of Richest Counties

10 August 2020

If you are looking for large numbers of poor Kenyans, then visit Turkana, Kakamega and Mandera counties.

This is after a new report by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) ranked them as the top three devolved units with high concentration of people living below the poverty line.

The report released on Monday shows that, by absolute numbers, Turkana had 752,359 poor people -- representing nearly 79 percent of its entire population.

This means that for every 10 people you meet in the county led by Governor Josphat Nanok, eight of them are living below the poverty line and have been denied at least three of the seven key indicators of physical development -- proper nutrition, health, education, child protection, information, water, sanitation and housing.

Oil exporters

The irony is that Kenya discovered oil in Turkana, the poorest part of the country, and hopes that the black gold will propel it to the league of oil exporters.

Despite being one of the top five recipients of devolution funds, Kakamega has the second highest number of poor people.

The report found that at least 580,834 people in the county are living below the poverty line.

Kakamega is the home of Council of Governors chairman Wycliffe Oparanya and the revelation could stain his legacy, given that he has been one of the best-ranked devolution chiefs in the country in terms of performance. However, this is just 35 percent of his population, which means a majority are above the poverty line.

Mandera, whose 77 percent of the population are below the poverty line, came in third. The data shows that 513,207 of its people are barely scrapping by. This translates to seven in every 10 people being poor.

The other regions on the list of poor counties are Kilifi (473,738 people), Kitui (459,250), Busia (434,080) and Kisii (395,800).

To complete the top ten list are Bomet (379,997) and Nakuru (373,617) counties, which are in the populous Rift Valley region. The numbers could now be more since the report was modelled from data collected about five years ago.

Wealthy Kenyans

The report found that there are many wealthy Kenyans, at least those living above the poverty line, in Lamu, Isiolo and Nyeri.

Lamu tops the list of counties with few poor people in Kenya in absolute numbers, with just 27.7 percent of its population, or 20,208 people, living below the poverty line. This translates to about three people in every 10. Lamu is a relatively small county in terms of population and this means it has less work to do if it is to lift everyone out of poverty.

Isiolo comes in second in absolute numbers, with just 46,965 of people living below the poverty line. But this statistic may not tell the complete story given that this reflects half its population.

The third wealthiest county is Nyeri, which has only 63,005 poor people, and this translates to only 19 percent of its population living below the poverty line.

It also means that it has the least percentage of its population that are poor.

The other wealthy counties are Taita-Taveta, which has 70,891 people living below the poverty line, Tharaka-Nithi which has 72,065 poor people and Kirinyaga with 77,580 citizens unable to meet their daily needs.

Others are Nyandarua (88,738), Embu (96,634), Elgeyo-Marakwet (119,826) and Mombasa (122,600).

The report is likely to ignite fresh controversy on just where Kenya's poorest people reside and where most devolution funds should be channelled.

The Comprehensive Poverty Report ranked and broke down the poorest counties where most children, youth, men and women reside. The poorest children are found in Kakamega, Turkana and Bungoma counties.

They are followed by Narok, Kitui and Homa Bay counties. On the list of the top ten counties with the poorest children is also Migori, Mandera, Kilifi and Nakuru counties.

According to the study, the richest children are in Lamu, Isiolo, Taita Taveta, Kirinyaga and Nyeri counties. The other well off young ones are found in Nyandarua, Embu, Mombasa, Elgeyo Marakwet and Kiambu.

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