Revisiting the Consensus on Kenyan Economic Growth, 1964-1995

Morten Jerven

Journal of Eastern African Studies 5 (1), 2-23, 2011

For a long time Kenya was the African exception a country that embraced a capitalist path to development in the midst of widespread state-led development. More recently it has been used as one of many examples of neopatrimonial rule in Africa, following its reputation for endemic corruption and its failure to successfully embrace economic and political reforms. Most interpretations of Kenya’s economic development record rest heavily on the evidence of growth. This article revisits that evidence, and the associated causal claims, and finds little support for the consensus view. In the 1960s and 1970s there was nothing exceptional about economic growth in Kenya, while in the 1980s and 1990s Kenya performed relatively well if external conditions are taken into consideration. Finally, the article questions whether this finding should compel scholars to re- evaluate the relative merits of the Kenyatta and Moi regimes.

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