September 30, 2019


Basic income is paving a path to freedom in Kenya: Kenya is running the world's most ambitious basic income pilot yet, but will its results be enough to forge a whole new approach to poverty reduction? (Caroline Teti, 30 September 2019, openDemocracy)

We are currently sending money to 20,000 Kenyans in different communities. It's a randomised control trial, which means these 20,000 people are divided into three different groups. Those in the first group receive the basic income as a lump sum. In the second group, everyone 18 years old or older receives $22 per month for two years. Adults in the third group also receive $22 per month, but this time for twelve years. This experiment began a year and a half ago.

Both the scale and ambition of this project are truly massive. Now that you're 18 months in, do you have some preliminary results you could share?

We don't yet have statistical data, but we have already had many conversations with participants about how their basic incomes have impacted their lives, work, risk-taking, migration, financial planning, personal relationships, and even experiences with domestic violence.

In terms of work, we've been told that the basic income has given people their first feeling of what it's like to be an employed person. To feel what you and I feel when we earn money every month. And what they say is that for the first time, they're able to plan. They don't just spend money at the spur of the moment because it came, or live each day as it comes. They plan for their month, and they are even working harder because they realise that this money has given them a head start. They need more than just what the money can offer.

We have seen situations where recipients have moved from their original villages to small towns or lake sides to look for work. People who previously were grounded in their villages now say, 'You know what? I have some little money. I can travel. I can afford a house for $5, and so I can take the risk to stay in a neighbouring town and look for a job. And if I get that job, it can supplement what I'm doing.'

I remember one lady who, the moment she started receiving the basic income, left her baby with her mother. For six months she went to the nearest town and started a small business. That business grew, and today she has taken back her baby. This money gave her a head start in opening a small business, and now that business can take care of the two of them.

We also see parents taking their children to school, responding to their medical needs, including taking out government medical insurance so that they can better handle risks. It's as if basic income is giving people a new lease of life. I have seen them become vibrant, as if they're living life anew. Why? Because basic income has increased the number of meals people take in a day. Nutrition has improved across board.

Posted by at September 30, 2019 12:00 AM