Regions endowed with abundant natural resources are expected to thrive economically, but this is not the case for Kenya’s coastal region. Communities in this region believe they are working hard enough but are still held in abject poverty by circumstances not of their own making. This state of development raises one pertinent question – who is responsible for this poor state of development and rampant poverty? When it is about an individual, it is easy to attach success to talent and hard work, and sometimes sheer luck, but it is difficult to generalize the “hard-working” argument to an entire community of unskilled or low skilled people in informal sectors. In most cases, many successful communities point to their government’s policies and management of public and private resources as the reason they are either poor or in a state of stability and prosperity. While ownership of resources by communities is a necessary condition, it cannot by itself guarantee national and local economic growth especially with the competitiveness in the current global environment in the areas of innovation, technology, and trade.
The country itself must provide the tools for pulling communities out of poverty. The successful use and development of local resources to meet community needs is dependent on how well the mix of local enterprises is doing relative to the mix of similar enterprises at the macro levels: national, regional, and global. This chapter mainly examines poverty in Kenya’s coastal communities in the context of the “resource curse” syndrome and determines how the region can unlock its economic growth potential and alleviate existing abject conditions. An analysis of administrative processes, institutional reforms, and global experiences, with reference to relevant theories is performed to identify management obstacles and the best policies to address underlying causes of poverty.
As a country, Kenya has all the necessary ingredients for communities in both the formal and informal sectors from every region to prosper. There is a relatively stable political climate, a well-developed and professional civil service, and an efficient and development-oriented environment that is conducive to private business and banking. In addition, Kenya is endowed with more land and oceanic natural resources, compared with landlocked countries or islands in the region. This chapter explores how and to what extent both the national and county governments from the coastal region can level the playing field in the economic sector to increase productivity and provide local communities with a firm stake in the use and sustainable management of coastal resources.
The next section discusses the development challenges faced by Kenya’s coastal communities. This is followed by theoretical reflections and a discussion of problems associated with public management. The steps that have been taken to unlock the coastal region’s economic potential and address poverty challenges are then examined. This is followed by a discussion on whether location makes a difference in the socio-economic lives of local communities and finally, the conclusion.
Atisa, George. 2021. “Resource Curse in Kenya’s Coastal Region: A Symptom of Institutional Failure.” In Illusions of Location Theory: Consequences for Blue Economy in Africa, edited by Francis Onditi and Douglas Yates, 1st ed., 303–22. Vernon Press. https://vernonpress.com/book/1084
Illusions of Location Theory: Consequences for Blue Economy in Africa