Since the devolved governments became operational in 2013, only a quarter of the counties have their per capita GCP (in real terms) greater than the national GDP per capita.
Interestingly, while Nairobi has been the biggest revenue generator for the country, the myth that it was contributing more than 60% to Kenya’s economy was busted to show the real contribution standing at 21%.
Another interesting fact is that Nairobi’s GDP relative to the average national growth (2013-2017) was still sluggish even falling behind the national government’s.
Counties whose GDPs were above the average national growth are Elgeyo Marakwet, Nyandarua, Laikipia, Siaya, Tharaka Nithi, Nakuru, Bungoma, Busia, Migori, Nyeri, Kiambu, Mombasa, Taita Taveta, Vihiga, Kajiado and Bomet in descending order.
Average growth in counties relative to average national growth (2013-2017)
With the small percentage of the counties surpassing the national government’s GDP, the World Bank in a 2019 report notes that this also highlights the huge disparities across counties.
The World Bank notes that the county governments negotiated a working relationship with the national government in terms of power and revenue sharing, and have encountered political, fiscal and administrative challenges in the delivery of services to Kenyans.
Counties’ average contribution to Gross Domestic Product in Kenya (2013-2017)
“As new entities, county governments lacked the capacity, knowledge and resources to effectively deliver the devolution dividend of shared prosperity, enhanced delivery of vital services and improved management of public resources,” notes the Bretton Woods Institution.
Despite the challenges that have come with devolution, the bank notes that there are several bright spots, successes and good practices across the 47 counties.
“Kenya now has first Citizen’s Accountability Audit (CAA) Engagement Framework in Africa; the first County Data Desk, while Maarifa Centre is the first award-winning platform which collates, shares and promotes homegrown innovations from counties,” adds the bank.
The report adds that there are significant differences in the size of the economy across counties with urban counties – Nairobi (21.7%), Nakuru (6.1%), and Mombasa (4.7%) – making large contributions to the national GDP.
“This indicates large disparities in the size of GCP across the counties but also elevates the uniqueness in each of these units in tackling the pressing needs of reducing poverty and promoting inclusive growth.”
The bank adds that although some counties have a small contribution to the national cake (as share of GDP), they show greater potential with a faster rate of growth over time but also the potential for a catch-up with the dominant contributors.
It adds, “With the exception of Nairobi and Mombasa counties, agriculture remains a key driver of growth in most counties.”