Country Reporting Kenya

Country Reporting Kenya


Like the other world, in last 25 years, Kenya has witnessed unprecedented growth in number of nonprofit and non-governmental institutions. As a part of global association revolution, the non-governmental organizations in Kenya are formed to harmonize state service in response to the dilapidating capacity of the government to provide public service and development. “Kenya has a rich tradition of philanthropy and voluntarism with roots in the communal relationships of rural African society” (Salamon 2004). the civil society sector in Kenya were formed to provide alternative to the government in health, economic activities, in education, in protecting the environment, improving local services, and generally in improving human welfare.

In last twenty five years the region of East Africa experienced a great deal crises including draught, famine, and civil wars. Although Kenya was not immune all of these troubles, it has the most stable institutions; therefore, Kenya became a hub for the major international and local non-governmental organizations that are working and responding to the widespread crises in the region such as Somalia and South Sudan.

Country summary:

Kenya, officially called the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East African bordered by Tanzania to the south, Uganda to West, South Sudan to the northwest, Somalia to the northeast, and Ethiopia to the north. Kenya also has long coast with the Indian Ocean to its south-east. According to Encyclopedia of Britain, as the most African nations gone through, Kenya had experienced a colonial exploitation. The roots of the Colonial history goes back to the Berlin Conference in 1885, when the continent of Africa divided into territorial colonies by the European powers, and subsequently, the British Government conquered most of the East African nations including Kenya. Although Kenya gained its independence in 1963, poverty, inequality, and corruption remain the greatest challenges to the retaliation of economic, cultural, social, and human rights (Juma Dan 2008).

About the non-profit Sector in Kenya:

During 80s, the country has witnessed a dramatic growth of non-governmental organizations carrying out a variety of nonprofit work. The nonprofit sector in Kenya includes a very diverse consortium of organizations ranging from small welfare and community based or localized traditional welfare organizations. The last three decades has seen unprecedented growth in number and activities of civil society originations. There are four primary types of non-for-profit organizations operating in Kenya; they call companies, societies, trusts, and no-governmental organizations. Several factors account for the growth of NPOs. First, the country’s rich tradition of philanthropic and voluntarism the roots in the communal relationship of an African society have great influence to this sector’s growth (Salamon 2004). Kenya has a well-known slogan when addressing self-help activities; Harambee (pooling together or resources to provide basic services) is an expression of this tradition and the spirit of voluntarism. This Harambee tradition is the foundations on non-profit initiatives in the country (Kanyinga & Mitullah 2000). Others factors include the decline of state capacity to provide basic services, and the donors shift their attention to funding NGOs instead of government institutions.

The constitution of Kenya guarantees freedom of association, assembly, expression, and movement. Also bars discrimination on the grounds of sex, religion, gender, race, marital status, social origin, color and age (The Constitution of Kenya, Articles 26-51). Therefore, non-governmental actions must ensure equality of opportunity for all.

Size and Scope:

Kenya has a sizeable and diverse civil society sector that include a number of indigenous grassroots organizations and self-help groups, healthcare center, schools, foundations, welfare groups, religiously affiliated organizations, secular non-government organizations, political parties, and business and professional associations (Salmon 2004). The Kenyan civil society organizations are larger than those in most other developing countries; yet the civil society organization workforce in Kenya is les far smaller than those in developed countries (Salamon 2004). According to Salamon (2004), the non-profit sector is a significant economic force in Kenya. In 2000, the sector accounted for about US$270 million in expenditure. This was equivalent to 2.5% of the Gross Domestic product (GDP) and the workforce either paid or volunteers represent over 290,000 full time equivalent workers with almost 39 percent of this number are volunteers.The civil society sector in Kenya employs about 43 percent as many people as the public sector (Salamon 2004). According to Kinyinga & Mitullah report, a review of evidences for the period between 1997 and 2005 discloses that there were about 350,000 registered non-profit organizations in Kenya. The estimate for total membership of non-profit organizations in Kenya was about 5 million members in 2000 or about 17 per cent of the national population (Kinyinga & Mitullah).

Country’s Tax Law:

Kenya’s tax law is complicated and in inconsistent form. Kenya exempts from corporate tax the income of certain non-governmental organizations that perform specific types of services. Kenya also subject certain services and goods to Value Added Tax (VAT) with a quite range of exempt activities. In order to exempt from income tax, an organizations must have established exclusively on charity to reduce poverty of the public, or for purpose to enhance education or religion.

Sector Sustainability:

In order to look the sustainability of Kenya’s non-profit sector, two important measures of the size of this sector are revenue and operating expenditures. However, because of inconclusive data we have regarding these two areas, people have been raising questions about whether the sector is sustainable. Although fees and membership charges are the main sources of the non-governmental organizations in Kenya, they also heavily rely on external funding. According to report by Kinyinga & Mitullah, in 2005 data shows that the total revenue of all the NGO’s in Kenya was about $285 million; of this amount close to 90 percent came from donors (mainly international), and about only 6 percent of this came for own sources; while the rest contributed by private institutions and individual donors.


The civil society sector plays a significant role in political, economic, and the social fields in Kenya. It offers vital human services, especially in the country’s vast rural areas (Salamon 2004). Although Kenya’s civil society sector is growing in number and revenue in comparing with other developing countries, they are vulnerable and facing a huge challenges. Lack of funding is the major challenge that this sector is currently facing. NGO’s in Kenya are expressing difficulties in finding sufficient, appropriate, and continuous funding for their work. Lack of skills and poor governance was also recognized with in the sector; in particular, they extremely lacking skills such as management, mobilizations, project implementation, capacity building, and organizational sustainability. “The Kenyan government’s policy toward this sector has been somewhat ambivalent, however. Where the government views civil society organizations as potential partners in national development, it often reluctant to let these organizations operate without constraints” (Salamon 2004, p.108).


Salamon, Lester M. ( 2004). Global Civil Society. Dimensions of the Nonprofit Sector

Juma, Dan (2008), Deputy Executive Director/Programmers Coordinator, Kenya Human Rights Commission. Report on Nonprofit Sector in Kenya.

Erica, Poff : Ohio University Center for International Studies

Encyclopedia of Britain (2010). World History

Kanyinga, Karuti & Mitullah, Winnie (2000). The Non-Profit Sector in Kenya. What we know and what we don’t know. Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi.