In Summary

  • Nigerians and Egyptians spend about 40 per cent of their disposable income on food. Kenya is at about 45 per cent.
  • Households that spend a greater proportion of their incomes on food generally consume fewer calories than those who spend a smaller proportion.
  • The consumption of beer, however, moved in the opposite direction: going up when that of sugar went down and vice-versa.

Kenyans spend the lion’s share of their disposable income on food and beverages, a review of consumption data by Nation Newsplex reveals.

For every Sh100 that a Kenyan spends, Sh45 goes to food and drink.

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that between 2010 and 2015, Kenyans spent nearly half of their disposable income on these items. Their spending remained steady at between 43 per cent and 46 per cent of total consumption expenses during this time. 

Spending a large portion of one’s income on food and drink — which are needed for basic survival — is an indicator of poverty. Such a spending pattern means that little money is left over to be spent on other things that are important for quality life, including clothing, shelter and transportation.

Indeed, spending on clothing and shoes was equivalent to five per cent of the expenditure on food and beverages. That means for every Sh45 that Kenyans were spending on food, they were spending about Sh2.50 on clothes and shoes.

The relatively large spending on food and drinks is in line with the characteristics of a lower middle income economy in which wages are low.

As countries develop, people spend proportionally less on food and that leaves more money for investments as well as luxuries. 

POORER NEIGHBOURHOOD

Research from the United States Department of Agriculture and Washington State University shows that households that spend a greater proportion of their incomes on food generally consume fewer calories than those who spend a smaller proportion.

This exposes children to the risk of malnutrition, which can also affect both their physical development and their ability to remain in school.

Generally, the US proportionally spends less on food than anyone else in the world. According to research from US Department for Agriculture Americans spend less than 10 per cent of their income on food and drinks compared with 20 per cent for South Africans and 25 per cent for Indians. Nigerians and Egyptians spend about 40 per cent of their disposable income on food. Kenya is at about 45 per cent.

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