Kenyan economic survey 2021

Drafted in collaboration with the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.


As of September 2021, Kenya ranks among the countries with one of the largest refugee populations in Africa by hosting over 500,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Somalia, South Sudan, DRC, and Ethiopia [1]. Moreover, the convergence of drought and conflict in Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan presents a real possibility of an increase in the flow of refugees to Kenya.

Many refugees in Kenya have been displaced for decades. They reside primarily in the Dadaab camp in the southeast, Kakuma camp in the northwest, and in Nairobi. Given the magnitude and longevity of this crisis, reliable statistics are essential to inform national policy and response, as well as to understand how refugees’ living conditions compare to the national population.

In recent years, Kenya has undertaken remarkable efforts to incorporate refugee populations into the national statistical system, under the leadership of the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS). A module on refugees and stateless persons was included in the 2019 population and housing census. More recently the inclusion of refugees in the Economic Survey accentuates Kenya’s commitment to producing, coordinating and disseminating statistics on these vulnerable populations.


Economic Survey

The Economic Survey serves as a highly relevant example of inclusion of refugees in the national statistical system as it is produced regularly with the aim of informing the national budget allocation.

The Economic Survey is an annual publication prepared by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) [2] that provides socio-economic information covering a five-year period. Statistics presented in the report are produced in line with internationally agreed methods regarding the fundamental principles of producing official statistics.

The report includes a set of modules that provide statistics on Kenya’s economic performance, labor market situation, education, health services, and social inclusion, among others. Within the report, refugee statistics are included in the section entitled “Governance, Peace and Security” where the data is provided by the Refugee Affairs Secretariat (RAS) in collaboration with UNHCR. The Economic Survey 2021 includes statistics on the number of registered refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya by age and sex from 2016 to 2020.

The use of the international recommendations

The International Recommendations on Refugee Statistics (IRRS) and KNBS’ participation in EGRISS since the group’s early days, have influenced this process in multiple ways.

Firstly, the existence of the EGRISS and the endorsement of the IRRS, have served as an important advocacy tool. The existence of international standards endorsed by the Statistical Commission has bolstered efforts towards recognizing refugee data as an integral part of population statistics at the national level. This has contributed to the KNBS endeavor to include this vulnerable population in the Economic Survey.

Secondly, the recommendations have also served as a guiding tool for data disaggregation. The Economic Survey provides data not only on the refugee stock over the five-year period, but further contains information on the age, sex, geographic location, and country of origin of the studied population. While the disaggregation of data was made possible by pre-existing statistics, IRRS provided guidance to the disaggregation of available data and is informing ongoing discussions about opportunities to strengthen this in future iterations.

Lastly, the IRRS has facilitated more effective coordination among relevant agencies. The Refugee Affairs Secretariat is now included as a formal member of the established Technical Working Group that supports and guides the production of the annual Economic Survey. Improved coordination between RAS and KNBS, will also impact other areas of official statistics production on refugees.


“The IRRS have been an effective advocacy tool at the national level helping to include refugees as an integral part of national population statistics. They have also provided valuable technical and operational guidance in the area of data disaggregation and coordination.”

Ms. Renice Akinyi Bunde, specialist Governance, Peace and Security Statistics, Kenya National Bureau of Statistics


The case of Kenya represents good practice in the production of official statistics on refugees and implementation of the international recommendations. Both the census conducted in 2019 and the inclusion of refugees in the Economic Survey are key milestones in this regard.

The work carried out by Kenya presents an opportunity to reinforce peer-to-peer learning by gathering knowledge from Kenyan experience and sharing this with other countries. Excitingly, Kenya’s efforts do not stop here as the KNBS is thinking about conducting a National Survey on Migrants in 2022 which, if successful, will significantly deepen the available data on these vulnerable populations for enhanced national decision-making.