According to a recent survey by Oxfam Kenya, the wealthiest high-net-worth individuals (HNWI) in Kenya had a combined net worth of Sh333 billion ($2.71 billion).
The “Survival of the Richest” report, by Oxfam in collaboration with the Fight Inequality Alliance, Institute for Policy Studies, and Patriotic Millionaires, examined the situation of financial equality.
It demonstrated that the top four wealthiest Kenyans are far wealthier than the bottom 40 percent of Kenyans, who number 22 million.
Despite not naming the top four wealthiest Kenyans, Oxfam identified them in a subsequent study published in January 2022. They included Samir Naushad Merali, Bhimji Depar Shah, Jaswinder Singh Bedi, and the family of former President Uhuru Kenyatta, who had a combined fortune of Sh311.7 billion.
The most recent analysis also revealed that the top 130 wealthiest people in Kenya possess wealth equal to 19% of the country’s GDP, or Sh3.3 trillion, or 70% of the nation’s current budget (GDP).
“The analysis shows that there are 1,890 individuals in Kenya with a net worth of $5 million (Sh615 million) or more, with wealth totalling $39.9 billion (Sh4.9 trillion). This also includes 130 individuals with $50 million (Sh6.15 billion) or more with a combined wealth of $18.7 billion (Sh2.3 billion),” Oxfam noted.
The global charity organisation that fights inequality said the growing wealth gap between the rich and the poor is a shame.
“The analysis shows that the increasing extreme wealth of the rich and increasing extreme poverty of the poor driven by low taxes on the richest Kenyans by virtue of tax breaks, incentives, avoidance and evasion, alongside unfairly higher taxes on poorest Kenyans, directly through income tax and indirectly through taxes on fuel, food and basic commodities, is a social ill and a shame,” Dr John Kitui, Oxfam Kenya’s Country Director, said.
“Kenya super-rich are increasingly amassing enormous wealth even as most Kenyans grapple with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, rocketing prices of basic items, drought and unemployment,” Oxfam added.
Oxfam proposed the introduction of a net wealth tax for the super-rich, saying the country could do unfathomable things with that revenue.
“If a net wealth tax could be introduced in the country at the rate of two percent on millionaires worth above Sh615 million and three percent on those above Sh6.15 billion, the revenue potential could be Sh89.9 billion a year,” they said.
“Kenya’s tax policy on paper is one of the most progressive in the world, at 11th out of 161 countries. But it is failing to tax the richest adequately,” Oxfam added.
Oxfam also noted that many workers in Kenya have no rights in the workplace, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and low wages even as the rich grow wealthier.
“When minimum wage doesn’t keep pace with the cost of living, it becomes poverty wages,” they said.
Oxfam says it is time to tax the rich.