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These 10 sectors of the Kenyan economy hold the most potential and have thrived in the last decade

Vision 2030 as the grand plan was called would be implemented through a series of 5 year Medium Term Plans (MTPs) which would act as guiding steps under which Kenya would become a globally competitive and prosperous nation with a high quality of life by 2030.

The first medium term plan (MTP I) was hatched and run from 2008 -2012, the second medium term plan (MTP II), 2013 –2017 and the third medium term plan (MTP III) running from 2018-2022 is currently under preparation.

Kenya identified three pillars under which the vision would be brought to life; Economic Pillar where the country sought to maintain a sustained economic growth of 10% p.a. for most of the next 20 years.

Social Pillar where Kenya would be a just and cohesive society enjoying equitable social development in a clean and secure environment and Political Pillar, where by 2030, an issue-based, people-centered, result-oriented, and accountable democratic political system would be a reality in Kenya.


Since then the secretariat has been tracking the economic, social and political progress of the country.

Close to a decade later, Kenya;s economy currently stands at 5.5%, a 0.5% dip from 2016's 6.0% due to prolonged drought, electioneering period and slowdown in credit growth to the private sector.

The country is also struggling with huge public debt, corruption, insecurity and lack of adequate health care.

However, despite the setback, Kenya’s economy has largely been resilient due to its diversity and is currently the ninth largest economy in  Sub-Saharan Africa.

Kenyans have an admirable quality to forget their differences and come together when it matters most, someone even joked that Kenyans are like tea bags, you don't know how strong they are until they are in hot water.


The country’s macroeconomic indicators have  remained fairly stable with; GDP growth rate being consistent within  the  past 5 years while retaining competitiveness with comparator regional economies

Here are ten sectors that hold the most potential and have thrived in the past decade.

Kenyan Population

The biggest resource of a country is its people and Kenya’s has no shortage of it,  the country is endowed with 47 million patriotic, hardworking and above all youthful population to spur economic growth and prosperity.

The country also has one of the most educated populations in the continent which is key in ensuring skills transfer and market adaptability, the creation of revolutionary money transfer service, Mpesa is proof enough of this.


Nairobi was ranked as the most intelligent city in Africa according to an article carried by CNN.

According to the latest UN world population report, from only 22 million working-age people today, Kenya will have about 56 million working-age people by 2050.

Life expectancy in Kenya is also projected to increase from 54 years today to 68 years by 2050.

Kenyans have prospered in the last decade and are among the wealthiest people in the continent, according to 2017 Africa Wealth Report.

In order to address skills gap challenge and ensure its population adapt to the market the country recently introduced a new education model which emphasises practical skills rather than theory and memorization just to pass exams, which would be key in today's modern world where skills and thinking outside the box are in huge demand.


The country however has to deal with the ‘youth unemployment’ time bomb sooner than later and ensure that while the country seeks to progress no man is left behind.

Four in every 10 Kenyans of working age have no jobs, the worst level of unemployment in the region.


Agriculture is the backbone of the Kenyan economy and accounts to about 24% of  the GDP

The sector employees 78% of the country’s total employment and accounts for 65% of Kenya's total exports.


Despite its importance, Kenya is yet to fully commercialize the sector and long term sustainable policies is lacking.

As a result the country still relies on short fixes and knee jerk reactions to solve otherwise complex issues afflicting the sector such as  cost of living and food security.

The sector is held back by traditional production, post-harvest loss and low value addition to mention but just a few yet the country has over 57,000 km² of arable land.

Going forward Kenya needs to diversify from traditional maize and wheat to high value crops such as horticulture, spices, nuts,tropical fruits such as Avocado etc.

Reviving industrial crops such as Cotton, Cashew Nuts and Pyrethrum which boomed in the 90s wouldn't hurt either.


Kenya also stands to benefit more should it go the value addition route and instead of just exporting raw materials to the west process it first locally increasing its price by ten folds and fetching far higher returns in the process.

Full operation of the Galana/Kulalu project which occupies 1.75 million acres would also be a game changer.


Tourism has not only recovered but thrived in the last decade.

Kenya is a beautiful country filled with magical scenes and amazing people and it seems the world can’t get enough of it.


Tourism is among Kenya’s top earner and accounts to 10 % of the GDP compared to a mere 2.39% in 2007.

With Jomo Kenyatta International Airport granted category one status  meaning it could offer direct flights to US,  It is just a matter of time before the country begins connecting Nairobi to Washington.

Kenya is set to know its fate on the direct flights to the US before Christmas following completion of the final audit by an American transport agency, (it would be the perfect Christmas gift for Kenya) and tourism is posed to grow even further.

In 2016, Kenya received  97,883 tourists from USA compared to 96,404 from UK according to data from Kenya Tourism Board statistics (KTB).

The sector is ripe for even more growth should it diversify from traditional game safaris and beach tourism and start offering say cruise ship safaris as well.


Kenya and South Africa have announces plans to co-own a cruise ship by 2020 and should it come to pass it would reinforce Kenya's legacy as a leader in tourism in the region.

The Cabinet Secretary for Tourism, Najib Balala who is also the chair of the UN World Tourism Organisation Commission for Africa recently conquered MT. Kenya after successfully ascending until Lenana peak, the third highest summit in a bid to to raise awareness of Kenya’s adventure tourism offering while profiling the mountain as a favourable tourist destination.

This came on the back of yet another incredible feat he pulled in 2016 where he flew to heights of over 10,000 feet and spectacular dropped from the skies in an act designed to promote coastal tourism and protect endangered turtle species.

Wholesale and Retail

The retail sector has really opened up in Kenya over the last decade.


According to a report by property management firm Knight Frank, Nairobi is Sub-Saharan Africa’s top destination for developers setting up shopping malls and has a total shopping mall space of 391,000 square metres with an additional 470,000 sqm in the pipeline.

Kenya’s burgeoning middle class with a taste of finer things in life is the sector biggest asset and incentive.

As a result, global brands such as LC Waikiki, Woolworths, Carrefour, Furniture Palace, Bossini and KFC among other have come calling and set base in the country.

However, in equal light, Some of Kenya’s biggest brands have gone under in the past decade mainly occasioned by poor financial practices, sheer incompetency, corruption and mismanagement.

Kenya’s once biggest retain chain, Nakumatt and Uchumi are such sad examples and the country needs to urgently  shakeup  the wholesale and Retail sector going forward with sound policies which makes transparency and submission of financial records mandatory.



A decade ago ‘made in Kenya’ was a foreign concept not anymore, more and more high quality products are being manufactured in the country, earning Kenya a tidy sum not to mention invaluable skills in the process.

Manufacturing and Agriculture enjoy a symbiotic relationship and the sector can focus on value addition on the agricultural produce to commercialize the sector.

Rather than trying to compete with Asian manufacturing giants such as China, India and South Korea, Kenya can identify a niche area in the manufacturing sector and exploit it.

While on his first visit to Africa, Chinese richest man and Alibaba founder, Jack Ma while speaking at the University of Nairobi said Africa does not need to copy the west to be successsfull.


“ Africa does not need to copy China or Europe to be successful it has to find what it is good at and then sell that to the world, it has to find a problem and solve it.” Jack said.

Multinational companies in the last decade have set their bases in the country further raising Kenya’s profile as a hub fr business and proofing the sector is ripe for growth.

Business process outsourcing (BPO)

In 2008 Kenya laid out an ambitious goal to be the top off-shoring destination in Africa, slowly and surely that goal is being realized.


Nairobi is currently the leading destination for Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies and appeared on the Fortune 500 list with Dubai, Johannesburg, Casablanca, Lagos and Cairo, as one of the highly coveted investment destinations.

President Uhuru Kenyatta during his inauguration ceremony announced that Kenya would open its borders to all Africans.

The move is set to transform Nairobi from just a mere capital city to a regional hub for the entire continent, the strategic location of Kenya and the country boosting of modern infrastructure such as Port of Mombasa, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), wide paved roads faster Internet than even the United States to mention but just a few Kenya is beckoning.

Kenyan private sector has welcomed the directive saying the gains that will accrue from open borders will be more than the negative effects of “a closed society”.

Kenya Private sector is among the strongest in the continent and in recent years through public private partnerships (PPPs) has collaborated and even presented policies to the government to open up the Kenyan economy even further


Kenya’s trade volumes is set to increase as Ugandans and Tanzanians can now easily travel to Kenya and directly procure goods and services.

Just nine months  after launching the new terminal, East Africa’s biggest port a recorded a 10.6 per cent more traffic and handled 22.8 million tonnes of cargo between January and September compared with 20.6 million in the same period last year.

Financial Services

The Kenyan financial institutions have come of age in the last decade.

Buoyed by an open market and friendly policies the financial sector has thrived and continues to thrives.


Kenya moved up 21 places to be ranked 92nd out of 190 countries in the in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report, 2017.

Unlike a decade ago where financial institutions operated much as they liked without adhering to bank Acts, the Central Bank has streamlined the sector and tighten the noose on rogue local and international financial institutions in recent years.

As a result Kenya's financial sector is currently among the most robust in the continent and the 4th fastest growing digital economy.

The country's financial sector has come of age and is able to adapt to technological changes in the market from embracing the revolutionary money transfer service, Mpesa rolling out online services to now offering video banking services.

Kenya’s largest bank by assets, KCB Group, was named as the country’s 2017 Bank of the Year by London-based Financial Times.



With Kenya expected to start exporting crude oil by 2021, the sector cannot be dismissed and will play a crucial role in opening up the Northern frontier of the country which has been neglected since the country attained independence.

Kenya's 'light and sweet' crude oil which has less sulphur (below 0.5 per cent) is known to  fetch higher prices in the global market because dealers find it easier to refine and it produces high-value products such as petrol and diesel has had global economies rubbing their hands in glee and licking Kenya’s palm.

Tullow Oil has since 2012 struck 750 million barrels of the black gold, considered commercially viable, leading to plans of constructing the 865-kilometre pipeline from Lokichar, Turkana, to coastal Lamu town.

Ordinary Kenyans will have a stake at Turkana Oil through an initial public offering (IPO) worth Sh103bn ($1billion) before the country start exporting the precious commodity.


In the mean time the country can invest in sound policies on equitable oil wealth distribution, environmental impact conservation and public participation to avoid the 'Oil Curse' which has afflicted several African Countries enriched with Oil.


This is one of the most untapped sectors of the Kenyan economy and has a huge potential.

Kenya has a rich deposit of rare minerals, coal and oil and mineral explorer Cortec recently announced it had discovered by far the largest mineral deposit in the county, niobium deposits estimated to be worth $35 billion.

The country has been literally sitting on a gold mine because of lack of data and continuous under funding of the mining sector.


This is set to change however after the government early year give a Chinese company mapping tender to carry out countrywide survey to find out what type and quantity of minerals it possesses signaling ‘a bright sparky future’ for Kenya, it  may just discover a fortune.

Blue economy

This is another sector that has been greatly underutilised but has great potential to unlock Kenya’s future and push the economy above double digits.

Kenya’s total maritime territory covers 230,000 square kilometers and a distance of 200 nautical miles offshore or more locally it is as big as 31 of the 47 counties combined according to Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA).

The country can start by formulating sound policies, integrate innovative technologies such as bunkering (fuelling) facilities, effective leadership, and increase funding towards blue economy research and exploration.


Early this year, Kenya and Seychelles signed bilateral agreement on cooperation in  marine time, tourism and trade signaling the country may finally be on the path to prosperity just like Vision 2030 had envisoned.


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