Underdevelopment in Kenya
Irene Theresa Whalen
Thesis DT 3 .5 1975 W552
iii, 119 leaves; 29 cm.
This is an analysis of the way in which a capitalist approach to development in Kenya has resulted in continued underdevelopment and dependency. It uses as its tool of analysis underdevelopment theory which sees development and underdevelopment as a part of the same dialectical process. Most works on economic development in Kenya in the post colonial period have stressed Kenya's rapid economic growth and applauded her development policies. However, Kenya's economy is now coming under more critical scrutiny. The distortions and inequalities in the Kenyan economy suggests that post colonial policies have failed to alter Kenya's dependency on foreign capital. During the period of 1967-70, there was a major influx of foreign investment into Kenya, particularly in the manufacturing industries and Kenya was often presented as a model for development to other African countries. Certainly Nairobi had all the trappings of western prosperity. However, little was said about the distribution of profits in Kenya and who controlled the Kenyan economy.
The colonial period initiated the process of underdevelopment through the alienation of African land and labor. The African was transformed from an independent producer of self sufficient economy to a semi-proletarianized labourer dependent upon the European settlers for subsistence. Beginning with the Swynnerton Plan, "A Plan to Intensify the Development of African Agriculture in Kenya" in 1955, a period of social engineering was inaugurated to bring the African more fully into the capitalist system. This capitalist class was to act as a buffer between the masses of the exploited Africans and the Europeans. By 1963, when Kenya became independent, the British had been successful in developing a small class of privileged Africans who supplanted the Europeans in the post colonial period. As leaders of government, they sought not a transformation of the economy, but a perpetuation of the privileges the Europeans had enjoyed through their underdevelopment of the African people. Sessional Paper No. 10, "African Socialism and its Application to Planning in Kenya" clearly laid out Kenya's capitalist plan for development under the guise of "African Socialism".
However, the Kenyan experience cannot be understood in terms of Kenya alone but must be viewed from the standpoint of international capitalism and the role it plays in the continued underdevelopment of the third world. While Kenya provides an outstanding example of imperialist domination, many other African countries have adopted similar policies of development (for example, Ivory Coast and Senegal) with similar results, a period of rapid growth followed by deterioration and constriction of the economy. It is at this point that the contradictions of capitalism come to the fore. The economy is no longer able to absorb an increasing labour force despite growth in the foreign investments by international companies which utilize capital-intensive rather than labour-intensive techniques. The result is increasing inequality between a small, privileged elite and the masses of peasants and workers.
The contradictions within Kenya which were apparent at independence were temporarily disguised by such stop gap measures as land redistribution, the replacement of expatriates by Africans in the public sector and increasing jobs. However, those who sere not accommodated in the system at independence, the "masikini" (poor people) have again raised their voices and in some cases have resorted to violence as demonstrated in the recent bombings in Nairobi. The many divisions in Kenya which were inhibited by the reverence for Jomo Kenyatta are now intensifying. As a result there exists an air of uncertainty is evident. Capitalism has not led to autonomous development in Kenya but has emmeshed her more deeply in the quagmire of dependency and development.
This thesis relied primarily on secondary sources, books, articles, and journals. I was also able to interview several individuals who have been to Kenya and who are intimately familiar with the rampant inequalities of post colonial Kenya.