COVID-19 has destroyed this false sense of privilege among urban households and exposed the blatant lie of Africa’s socio-economic demarcations, particularly those categorized as non-poor. It has exposed the precarious nature of their jobs vis-a-vis consumer behavior, which does not coincide with perceptions of a middle class that should sustain domestic consumption and growth in the future (even when out of an income for some time). The fact that this crisis is driven by the loss of income (projected to affect 75% of the population in Kenya) rather than rising food prices that have characterized previous global crises buttresses the vulnerability of urban households. As such, the resilience of rural households will be much higher compared to their urban counterparts because of expenditure patterns.
All African countries, including Kenya, latched onto the ‘Africa rising’ narrative peddled in the early 2000s after a series of labels and terminologies like the hopeless continent, basket case, or lagging. The reason for the Africa rising narrative was the economic growth of between 2.5% and 5% experienced by several countries, and which was higher than what was experienced even in developed countries. Unfortunately, economic growth, measured in gross domestic product (GDP), is an accounting system that calculates the value of production (of both goods and services) in a given period while GDP per capita divides that value by the total population. GDP, therefore, does not really indicate the sustainability of the sectors driving the economy or the wellbeing of the population, and that is why two countries with the same GDP can have different poverty and inequality levels.