Kenya’s economy is highly dependent on climate-sensitive and nature-based sectors . It is estimated that 42% of Kenya’s GDP and 70% of overall employment is derived from natural resource related sectors . The wealth of natural capital, biodiversity, wildlife and marine ecosystems are under increasing strain by climate change and sub-optimal management of natural resources, as seen in land degradation, deforestation, wildlife poaching and overfishing. Over 80% of the country’s landmass is arid and semi-arid, while coastal ecosystems are under pressure from climate-induced acidification and sea-level rise. This affects the livelihoods and resilience of a large part of the population .
The Inclusive Wealth Index (IWI) provides a tool for countries to measure whether they are developing in a way that allows future generations to meet their own needs . The IWI differs from GDP in that it is the aggregate value of all capital assets in a given region, including human capital, social capital, public capital, and natural capital. Kenya’s IWI shows a negative trend – a non-sustainable production pattern.
Most towns and cities in Kenya have insufficient and ineffective waste collection and recycling systems. A study conducted in Nairobi indicates that about 30% of municipal solid waste remains uncollected and about 20% of the municipal solid waste generated is recovered, while the rest is disposed at dumpsites with limited control. Furthermore, most manufacturing processes are linear, taking raw materials from the environment and turning them into new products, which are eventually discarded into the environment. Kenya needs to develop a circular economy, through efficient recycling of resources, and adopting and expanding resource efficient and circular production technologies and measures in manufacturing industries .
Although diverse regulatory frameworks governing economic activities exists, uptake of eco-innovations in the different sectors is unlikely to induce momentum for a shift to sustainable consumption and production practices that underpin a green economy regime. Transformation requires repositioning of sustainable consumption and production practices. Consequently, all sectors of the economy need to ecologically innovate their policies, legislations and strategies to create sustainable wealth, avail green jobs and protect the environment .
For instance, green economy approaches in Kenya’s agricultural sector are missing. Poor post-harvest management renders much agriculture unprofitable. A 2014 report, estimated that 40% of harvested crops are lost every year, representing financial losses of up to USD 500 million .
Changing consumption patterns are also drivers of non-sustainable production, as wealthy Kenyans prefer meat in their diet. Awareness raising about the public health risks associated with heavy meat consumption is needed.
Key policies and governance approach
Kenya has prioritized the transition to a green economy as a means of achieving sustainable development and seeks a continued cooperation with development partners in implementing its objectives, while engaging constructively in the global environmental and climate governance framework and diplomacy .
The Constitution of Kenya (2010) identifies sustainable development as an important value and principle of governance and grants the right to a clean and healthy environment to all citizens (Article 42). Sustainable development is also entrenched in the long-term national economic blueprint, the Vision 2030. Key to attainment of the Vision is a sustained economic growth of 10% per annum and creation of a just, cohesive and equitable social development in a clean and secure environment. The second Medium Term Plan (MTP II) 2013-2017 prioritized the development of a National Green Economy Strategy to guide Kenya’s development trajectory to one characterized by high growth, cleaner environment and high productivity relative to the “business as usual” growth scenario .
Kenya’s Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan 2016–2030 (GESIP) aims to enable Kenya to attain a higher economic growth rate, in line with Vision 2030. It will guide Kenya’s transition to a sustainable path in five thematic areas, namely: sustainable infrastructure development; building resilience; sustainable natural resources management; resource efficiency; and social inclusion and sustainable livelihood. Implementation of the GESIP will be guided by a set of principles meant to boost sustainable consumption and production, namely: equity and social inclusion; resource efficiency; Polluter-Pays-Principle; precautionary principle; good governance; and public participation. These will contribute to the national implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change and the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals .
Related green economy policies and legislation in Kenya includes the Climate Change Act (2016), the National Climate Change Action Plan 2018-2022, and the National Adaptation Plan 2015-2030 .
Successes and remaining challenges
There is growing national and international support for Kenya’s transition towards a green economy development pathway. However, Kenya is faced with several challenges in effectively implementing the GESIP, including: inadequate compliance and weak enforcement of environmental laws and regulations across sectors; inadequate information about green technologies resulting in limited standards for green technologies, goods and services; integrating natural capital into economic growth, prices and policy regimes do not fully account for the external costs associated with technologies, products and practices that are environmentally friendly; financial constraints, particularly in the energy sector where up-front costs for clean technologies are high; and gaps in human capacity and skills in some aspects of green economy across the thematic areas .
In addition, the responsibility for transitioning to a green economy rests with many stakeholders operating at different levels and scales. This makes co-ordination a big challenge. The specific roles of different stakeholders in facilitating, synergising and supporting the transition process need to be defined and nurtured .
Green economy solutions for the private sector are hampered as businesses struggle with onerous Government formalization processes and access to finance. In particular, women entrepreneurs need support and access to capital to expand opportunities.
Initiatives and Development Plans
The European Commission’s Green Deal encompasses a Team Europe Initiative (TEI) to support Kenya’s efforts to build a circular economy and transition to a green economy. Five areas for support have been identified as particularly relevant due to their high transformational impact: (i) Circular economy; (ii) Climate-smart and sustainable agricultural value chains; (iii) Renewable and accessible energy; (iv) Natural capital and Biodiversity; and (iv) Sustainable urbanization and infrastructure .
In 2016, supported by UNEP, the country launched the Kenya Green University Network (KGUN) to promote environmental and sustainability practices among Kenyan universities. The network will serve as a knowledge and innovation hub and support the sharing of best practices to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change .
Goals and Ambitions
Kenya aims to be a middle-income rapidly industrializing country by 2030, offering its citizens a higher quality of life. This transformation of the economy is pegged on sustainable economic growth rates of 10% per annum leveraged on a stable macro-economic environment, modernization of infrastructure and social services, diversification and commercialization of agriculture, and a higher contribution of the manufacturing sector .
- Mainstream green economy in policy planning and budgeting processes both at the National and County level.
- Ensure related policy initiatives and processes are complementary and not in conflict or duplicated.
- The specific roles of different stakeholders in facilitating, synergising and supporting the transition process need to be defined and nurtured.
- Encourage the private sector to adopt green economy technologies and practices in a self-sustaining way.
- Encourage research institutes to reorient their research, innovation and training towards activities that target priority green economy initiatives.
- Raise awareness on green economy.
- Establish green funds or sovereign wealth funds.
- Develop strong partnerships with emerging economies.
- Focus on leveraging existing funds to new opportunities.
- Access to international climate financing will entail continued Kenyan engagement in international climate financing mechanisms; and demonstrating transparency and sound fiscal management. This underscores the need for close integration of green economy and climate change plans.
 The Standard (2014). [Online]. Available: https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/news/article/2000108810/post-harvest-losses-cost-farmers-sh50-billion.
 UNESCO (2016). [Online]. Available: https://en.unesco.org/news/unep-launches-kenya-green-university-network.