Charts that explain the nation


The winner of Kenya’s presidential election on August 9 will face a host of difficult political and economic issues when he takes office. Here, in charts, we explain some of the things on the minds of voters as they cast their ballots.

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Chart showing food price changes

Chart showing food price changes

The next president may have to come up with a way to help people afford some essential goods.

Kenyans, like others around the world, have been finding that their money is not going as far as it used to when it comes to buying the basics.

In June, annual inflation was 7.9%, but the increase in the price of some key food items, including maize flour and cooking oil, was much higher. To ease the problems the outgoing government of President Uhuru Kenyatta subsidized the cost of maize flour in July, but it is not clear if this policy will be continued.

And with an ongoing drought affecting three million Kenyans, many are struggling to afford any food at all.

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Chart showing rising debt

Chart showing rising debt

The government has also been subsidizing the price of petrol to keep it more affordable. But this policy comes at a big cost – $141m (£120m) in July – potentially adding to the huge debt the country owes.

This has been skyrocketing under the presidency of Mr Kenyatta, and now amounts to some 68% of GDP. The government borrowed to pay for big infrastructure projects like the Chinese-built railway linking the capital, Nairobi, to the coast.

Investment in infrastructure can help long-term economic growth but the sums involved are huge – the railway costs $3.2bn.

A large amount of the money is owed to Chinese banks. The government spends about half its revenue paying back the debt and the interest it has accrued.

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Bar chart showing the population

Bar chart showing the population

More than three-quarters of Kenya’s population are under 35 and a large chunk of those are of voting age.

Addressing the concerns of young people could be a significant vote winner.

The lack of formal employment is a big issue. Many between 18 and 35 have no job at all despite having degrees or other suitable qualifications.

The large number of under-18s suggests that boosting investment in education needs to be a priority.

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Chart showing the numbers going on to secondary education from primary

Chart showing the numbers going on to secondary education from primary

In recent years, Kenya has been successful in improving performance in education.

The government introduced free primary school education in 2003, which led to many more children going to school.

An increasing proportion have gone on to secondary school, which, since 2008, has been subsidized.

Nevertheless, one in five secondary pupils in Kenya do not graduate.

Many parents still prefer to pay for their children to go to what they see as better-quality, privately-run schools.

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Chart showing ethnic groups

Chart showing ethnic groups

Another key factor in how people will vote is likely to be ethnicity.

It is assumed that the two main candidates, Raila Odinga (a Luo) and William Ruto (a Kalenjin), will get many of the votes of their respective ethnic groups.

But this is the first Kenyan election in the multiparty era where none of the front-runners are from the biggest group, the Kikuyu.

Both main candidates are aware of the need to attract this key constituency and have chosen Kikuyu running mates.

The violence that followed the 2007 election was driven by ethnicity but 15 years on there is an argument that it is becoming less significant in determining how people vote.

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Chart showing Kenyan GDP and other countries

Chart showing Kenyan GDP and other countries

Kenya is a regional economic giant and what happens there affects the rest of East Africa.

In recent years it has lost ground to Ethiopia, but if you look at the average income per person in Kenya then, at just over $2,000 a year, it is more than double its northern neighbor.

However, this crude figure, estimated last year, masks the huge inequalities in the country and may not include the full impact of the shutdowns introduced in response to the Covid pandemic.

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Chart showing access to the internet and power

Chart showing access to the internet and power

Kenya’s regional dominance is also reflected in the proportion of people who have access to electricity and the internet.

The figures however show that nearly three out of every 10 Kenyans do not have power and the large majority do not have internet access.

Improving these indicators will be a measure of success for whoever wins the presidency.

Election branding

Election branding

Election branding

Election branding



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