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Understanding the Behavior and Aspirations of Kenya’s Middle Class

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John is a 32- year old self-employed worker; he lives in Nairobi with his wife and young son. John is confident about his future economic situation; he expects to spend not on the luxuries of life such as holidays, but essential items such as housing and schooling. –   STANDARD CHARTERED AND GLOBESCAN STUDY.

The above character is a typical middle income earner in Kenya, according to a recent study by Standard Chartered Bank in partnership with research consultancy Globescan.

The study offers insight into the aspirations of the middle class consumer in Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria using a sample space of 1000 middle class respondents. The respondents were classified as “Affluent” or “Emerging affluent” based on assessing household belongings and activities such as access to internet.

On the basis of this, 7% Kenyans are considered Affluent and 16-20% as Emerging Affluent. Presented below is a summary of the study as well as explanations on the veracity of the study results as well as its socio-economic implications.

  • EDUCATION TO EMPLOYMENT TRANSITION – The study revealed that 1% of sample size had no access to school, 22% completed primary education, 51% completed high school, 7% have access to vocational training, 18% had university degree, and 1% has post graduate degree completed.

o   What we found out: We explored further and found out that the 1% with no access to schooling was due to ignorance and dogmatic beliefs. We are a bit skeptical about the 22% on primary education since primary education is free in Kenya. The 51% who complete secondary school can be attributed to high cost of school fees, peer pressure and poverty. 18% tertiary and 1% post graduate degree completion were due to few places in the university and high cost of tertiary education.

o   Asides budgetary allocation to education for the past three years, which stood at 10% (2011), 12% (2012) and 8% (2013), compared with 26% benchmark for developing countries, most Kenyans have wrong educational motives i.e. they study to get employed, and get frustrated when they can’t find jobs. Self-employment becomes an only option as evidenced in that 46% of Kemyan Middle Class are economically engaged in the informal sector.

o   We also observed that despite increased savings and wealth, Kenyan middle class are least optimistic with respect to affording quality education for their children in the next five years. This is possibly due to fear of economic uncertainties like inflation, increased cost of living and increased cost of education.

  • FUTURE ECONOMIC EXPECTATIONS – Kenya is an import dependent economy, whose main imports are machinery, electronics and other finished goods. The study revealed that 12% of her sample size has complete confidence in the growth prospects of her country, while 28%, 18% and 23% have some confidence, are indifferent and have little or no confidence respectively.

o   We found out that this is due to corruption and security concerns.

  • THE WEALTH NOTION – Following the study, results from her sample size reveals that, the amount saved by middle class Kenyans is key to feeling wealthier. 17% noted that, living in the neighbourhood they want would make them feel wealthier.

o   Our findings reveal people choose so due to more security, better social amenities, improved living standards, high social status, less pollution and a more serene environment. The study also show 63% of would feel wealthier by increasing her amount of savings.

  • USE OF TECHNOLOGY – The study shows that 37% Kenyans use technology for social networking, 26% to keep up with news and current affairs, 16% on study/education, 2% on shopping, 2% on online banking and 6% on other things.
  • FUTURE SPENDINGS – It showed that top of the spending by Kenyans in five years include, housing, moving to a better neighbourhood, purchasing more insurance, making more investments and buying a new car or motorcycle. Finally, in the next five years, domestic trips within Kenya are to remain while younger Kenyans are likely to travel abroad.

I reserve my analysis on the economic implication of these till we have explored for Ghana and Nigeria. Make it a date with us next time. Keep soaring!

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About Author

CRO – Project Change Initiative A 21st Century Leadership, Organizational and Economic Development Strategist For comments, please visit Obele Jesuite on facebook, on twitter, gospel_obele@yahoo.com. For email: or contact 08130070991.


  1. Pingback: Understanding the Behavior and Aspiratio | The Spectacles Magazine

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