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kenya_mapPopulation: 43,178,141

HDI ranking: 145/187

HDI score: 0.519

In 2010, Kenyans overwhelmingly approved a new Constitution designed to decentralize authority and promote local citizen participation. Municipal elections were successfully held in 2013, and the country continues to try to strike a balance between high citizen expectations and the difficult realities of a transition to decentralized governance.



Local governance at a glance

  • At the national level the Ministry of Devolution and Planning is tasked with leadership and coordination of planning and policy formulation.
  • In 2010, Kenyans approved a new constitution replacing 175 elected councils with 47 county level governments (CLGF, 2013).
  • In March 2013, national elections put in place county governments, solidifying Kenya’s new devolved system of government by transferring certain state authority, resources and key services from the national to subnational level of government (IRI, 2013; UPI, 2013).
  • The 47 county governments consist of an elected assembly, governor and executive committee. The county is responsible for health care, water supply, and local transport, among other services (CLGF, 2013).

Major civil society actors include

  • The Institute for Education in Democracy (IED)’s mission is to promote democratic elections in Kenya and the Africa region through monitoring and observation of all aspects of the electoral and democratic processes; provision of civic/voter education; technical support to key institutions of governance; and research and advocacy.
  • The International Republican Institute in Kenya (IRI) seeks to strengthen the skills of elected local leaders and local civil society. IRI has also conducted budget forums, bringing citizens and county governments together to develop local resource and development priorities.

Capacity building institutions

Fiscal control

  • The 2010 Constitution guarantees a minimum of 15.5% of total government revenue be transferred to the county level. Counties are granted limited revenue-raising powers (World Bank, 2012).
  • The government has allocated approximately 1.98 billion Kenyan shillings ($23.5 million) to the county governments for the coming fiscal year, according to the 2013 Division of Revenue Bill (UPI, 2013).
  • The Constitution also establishes an Equalization Fund, at 0.5% of national revenues to address deep inequalities at the local level (World Bank, 2012).

Key Initiatives for participatory local governance

  • The Kenya Local Government Reform Programme was established in 1998 to spearhead local government reforms for good governance, efficient service delivery and local economic development (KLGRP, 2010).
  • The Local Government Reform Strategy (2008-2012) aimed to put in place ‘a democratic and responsive system of Local Government that delivers quality effective and efficient services to Kenyans’. The Strategy has seven pillars including: Institutional Development, Governance, Economic Development, Social Development, Knowledge Management, Information Education & Communications, and cross cutting issues of gender, youth, disabilities and HIV/AIDS (KLGRP, 2010).

Challenges for participatory local governance

  • In 2010, the Kenyan Local Government Reform Programme identified the following challenges at the local level:
    • Weak local authorities incapable of delivering effective and efficient services
    • Lack of capacity (human and financial) to effectively undertake reforms
    • Licenses used as revenue source rather than for regulation (KLGRP, 2010).
  • “Kenya‘s devolution is to a very large extent a response to distributional grievances, which in turn have contributed to the political strife. Thus it is absolutely critical that devolution delivers on the promise of a more equitable distribution of public resources in the first instance, as well as development outcomes” (World Bank, 2010).
  • The World Bank warns that Kenya’s decentralization “is a massive undertaking… and the transition will inevitably encounter teething problems. Since Independence, Kenya’s leaders have held diverging views about devolution. From one perspective, it offers the potential to redress perceived ethnic and political bias by giving local communities far greater control over resources and decisions about service delivery.  However, from another perspective, devolution could potentially undermine national unity by encouraging fragmentation of the state along partisan lines or by ‘decentralizing corruption’, leaving citizens worse off if local elites are able to capture resources to the detriment of the majority or if newly established counties fail to put in place the systems needed for effective and transparent service delivery.” The report concludes, “managing the transition to the new system and people’s expectations will be critical” (World Bank, 2012).

Recent posts on this website about this country:


List of sources (in order of citation)

CLGF, 2013: Local Government of Kenya

IRI, 2013: International Republican Institute, “Kenya Overview”

UPI, 2013: United Press International, “Kenyans look to newly decentralized government to improve services”

World Bank, 2012: “Devolution Without Disruption – Pathways to a Successful New Kenya”

Kenyan Local Government Reform Programme (KLGRP), 2010: “Promoting Regulatory Reform at Local Government Level in Kenya”

World Bank, 2010: “Decentralization in Kenya Background Note”

Additional Resources: