WB says Kenya on threshold of major transformation

08:05, June 03, 2011      

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Kenya is on the threshold of a major demographic transition and rapid urbanization, which could have a positive development impact if well managed, the latest World Bank analysis says.

The June 2011 Kenya Economic Update says the east Africa's biggest economy could become a middle income country by 2019 if its economy grows at six percent a year.

"Kenya is at the beginning of a major transformation that will shape its development prospects for decades to come," Johannes Zutt, World Bank Country Director for Kenya said during the launch of the report in Nairobi on Thursday.

The report, the fourth in a series, indicates that, by 2033, half of Kenya's population, or 33 million people, will be living in the cities.

The theme of the report, turning the tide in turbulent times, reflects the challenges and opportunities that the Bank sees as Kenyans strive to improve their growth and incomes.

"Every year, Kenya's population grows by about one million people, who are healthier, better educated and moving to cities. With improved urban infrastructure and connectivity, particularly through the port of Mombasa, Kenya's new entrepreneurs will increasingly find new paths to prosperity."

The report underlines the need for Kenya to expand and modernize the port of Mombasa as well as to strengthen the competitiveness of its coastal cities, which are Kenya's gateway to the thriving markets on the Indian Ocean.

It should also improve the infrastructure within and between Mombasa and Nairobi--Kenya's gateway to East Africa and beyond.

The Bank also considers the ongoing devolution under the new constitution an important step in creating dynamic growth poles in Kenya's medium-sized cities of 100,000 – 400,000 people.

According to the WB, decentralization can be inclusive if the government invests in social services and basic infrastructure equitably.

In the short term, the Kenyan economy will need to navigate through another economic storm and manage rising inflation caused by higher food and fuel prices, says the report.

For 2011, the growth rate is expected to decline to 4.8 percent, half a percent lower than predicted earlier.

While this is less than the 5.6 percent achieved in 2010, it is still higher than the average of the last decade, the Bank says.

"Kenya can achieve higher growth of at least six percent per annum in the mediumterm," said Wolfgang Fengler, the Bank's Lead Economist for Kenya.

"The challenge is to sustain high growth over several years. Then Kenya can reach middle income status in the current decade."

The World Bank's half-yearly economic reports on Kenya are prepared in close partnership with Kenyan stakeholders, including the Central Bank of Kenya, the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Planning and National Development, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis. The Kenya Economic Updates are produced twice a year (June and December), and aim to inform and stimulate debate on topical policy issues to improve Kenya's economic management.

The first Economic Update, Still Standing: Kenya's slow recovery from a quadruple shock was issued in December 2009, with a special focus on the food crisis. The second edition published in June 2010, Running on One Engine, focused on the port of Mombasa as an important infrastructure asset for Kenya and regional trade.

Source: Xinhua
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