Kenyans walking in Nairobi streets.Photo/Monicah Mwangi
Kenya’s human capital declines, new study says
Kenya’s human capital has declined from position 137 in 1990 to 139 out of 195 countries in 2016, a report by the World Bank shows.
The score measures educational attainment, learning and functional health. It is topped by European countries of Finland, Iceland and Denmark. African states of Niger, South Sudan and Chad have the poorest human capital.
Human capital refers to the skills, knowledge and experience possessed by an individual or population and viewed in terms of their value or cost to an organisation or country.
The new report places Kenya ahead of Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia. Gabon was the highest scoring country in Sub-Saharan Africa at position 118.
Kenya has however shown improvement on the health component of the study. The study looked at how many years a people can expect to live between the ages of 20 and 65 when they are most active. On average, Kenyans lived 38 of those 45 years between 1990 and 2016. Earlier, they only lived on average of 35 years.
But Kenya has not improved as quickly as other nations with the country being ranked 153 in the world in terms of years workers can expect to live.
The study, “Measuring human capital: A systematic analysis of 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016,” was published in the international medical journal The Lancet. It is based on the analysis of an extensive array of data from numerous sources, including government agencies, schools and healthcare systems.
IGNORE AT OWN PERIL
The study’s measure of functional health placed Kenya at position 146. It calculates the work impact of ailments like stunting, hearing and vision loss and infectious diseases like malaria or tuberculosis.
Kenya scored better than Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda, and South Sudan but fell below South Africa.
Nations failing to invest in health and education are at risk of stagnating economies and lower per capita GDP, the study says.
The report was the first-ever scientific study ranking countries for their levels of human capital.
“Our findings show the association between investments in education and health and improved human capital and GDP. Policymakers ignore them at their own peril,” said Dr Christopher Murray.
Murray is the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. “As the world economy grows increasingly dependent on digital technology, from agriculture to manufacturing to the service industry, human capital grows increasingly important for stimulating local and national economies,” Murray said.
Kenyan workers receive more education than they did in 1990. In 2016, Kenyans spent about 11 years out of a possible 18 years learning. The country rose 16 places in terms of years spent in school to be ranked 111 in the world.
But the quality of education in Kenya is still lagging. While the country has shown improvement since 1990 and now outranks Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia, it is still ranked 157 in the world in terms of quality education.
There has been limited progress in building human capital of the last quarter century among countries that started at a high baseline. The US was ranked sixth in human capital in 1990 but dropped to position 27 in 2016. The decline was partly attributed to minimal progress in educational attainment, which dropped from 13 to 12 years.
Health and education advocates and economists often use the findings as evidence to push for greater attention and more resources in improving their country’s human capital.
Researchers found that nations with greater improvements in human capital also tend to have faster growth in per capita GDP.