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Results Briefs December 2, 2019

Building Capacity to Improve Data Collection in Kenya

A Nairobi cityscape. © Sarah Farhat/World Bank

A Nairobi cityscape. © Sarah Farhat/World Bank

Propelled by a fast-growing economy and by reforms which have strengthened several public programs including its legislature and judiciary, Kenya is poised to take on the role of commercial gateway to East Africa and better the lives of its 48.5 million people. But to achieve better development outcomes, Kenya needs to leverage modern systems and produce reliable statistics. Since 2007 a team of experts from the World Bank has been helping Kenya build statistical capacity by reshaping its National Bureau of Statistics for the modern age. With World Bank’s support, the National Bureau of Statistics implemented a range of surveys to update key indicators of official statistics and improved the data ecosystem.


The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) is mandated to generate high-quality economic statistics that can inform and attract investments and help grow the economy. Without better and more accessible data, policymakers may find it difficult to address major problems of economic development including unemployment and climate change.

The World Bank began working with Kenyan authorities in 2007 to tackle the problem of inadequate collection and dissemination of data. The latest project to support this objective started in 2015, with a focus on producing high-quality data with high frequency and timely dissemination. For example, Kenya collected data to estimate poverty in 2005/6 followed by the next survey in 2015/16 with the official poverty estimates only being released in 2018. However, the World Bank recommends that poverty surveys should be conducted every three years, and released within 12 months of data collection.

The dearth of regular data collection was not the only challenge. With the statistics bureau chronically underfunded, data was collected with paper and pen, rather than using modern technology like tablets that help to minimize transcription errors and can improve the quality and timeliness of data availability. The statistics bureau was and remains understaffed, especially lacking people with the advanced technical skills to crunch data, with staffing shortages leading to delays in the collection and analysis of data. Of about 300 employees nationwide, only a few have the analytical computer skills needed to analyze numbers in the context of modern Information Technology systems.

3 years

It's recommended that poverty surveys be conducted every three years and that results be released within 12 months of data collection.


The World Bank team designed a project around the objective to support the KNBS to generate better and more accessible data to inform policymakers and contribute to strengthening its capacity. That meant, for example, publishing key data on employment on a quarterly basis.

With the Kenya project, the World Bank made the first use of its new Program-for-Results financing instrument in the context of project supporting statistical capacity. 

“With a Program-for-Results approach, Kenya uses its own institutions and processes to implement each part of the project and pays for it out of its Treasury,” said Johan Mistiaen, lead economist and program leader in the World Bank, who led the design and initial implementation phase of the Program. “Only after the government achieves specific program results does the World Bank disburse funds.” This helps build capacity within the country, enhances effectiveness and efficiency and leads to achievement of tangible, sustainable program results.

“We have created a lot of government ownership,” said the current project leader Utz Johann Pape, senior economist with the World Bank Poverty and Equity Global Practice. “With the new project design, we are now able to focus much more on technical – rather than administrative – processes. This also helps to create a deeper relationship with the government, and especially KNBS, to produce higher-quality results. It is working very smoothly in Kenya.”

The Program included funding and technical assistance for essential data production activities combined with improvements for the quality of data, for example by adhering to international standards while also contributing to an enhanced dissemination system including an online data archive, an advanced release calendar and compliance with international standards in terms of timeliness and frequency of dissemination.


Since the project began, the statistics bureau has ramped up data collection efforts by implementing new surveys and increasing the frequency of traditional surveys. As part of the Program, the National Statistics Bureau implemented the Kenya Integrated Budget Household Survey, the Micro- and Small-Enterprise Survey, the Census of Establishments, the Integrated Survey of Services and a Survey of Industrial Production as well as the Kenya Continuous Household Survey. This helped to update key indicators of official statistics (GDP, labor, poverty) and also allowed for the rebasing of GDP, an essential statistical maintenance operation to anchor official statistics. The frequency of updated labor and poverty statistics are increased from every several years to quarterly (labor) and annually (poverty).  

It also has improved the quality of data collection by complying with a more advanced set of quality standards and introducing a transparent peer-review process before the dissemination of results. The Program ensures compliance with the International Monetary Fund’s Data Quality Assessment Framework improving the reporting of comparable statistics. The peer-review process involves experts from local and international institutions to provide comments before the publication of reports, contributing to adherence with international quality standards.

A man in Kenya demonstrates a logistics management information system. Photo: Sarah Farhat/ The World Bank
© Sarah Farhat/The World Bank

Finally, the project improved the dissemination system, for example, by launching and maintaining a National Data Archive, introducing an Advanced Release Calendar and complying with the Special Data Dissemination Standards, which provide guidelines for the quality, frequency and timeliness of data dissemination for a set of essential socio-economic indicators.

And even though the project is focused on results without monitoring procurement and fiduciary processes in detail, it has supported the implementation of an electronic financial management system and put in place identified anti-corruption measures helping to improve transparency and administrative efficiency as well as effectiveness.

World Bank Contribution

The Kenya Statistics Program-for-Results project is funded by $50 million from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA). Other partners include the International Monetary Fund and international as well as local partners.


The international development partners included African Development Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, Paris 21, Statistics Sweden, Statistics Norway, UKAID, The United Nations Children's Fund and World Food Programme. The local partners include the Ethic and Anti-Corruption Commission, the Kenya Institute of Public Research and the University of Nairobi. 

Moving Forward

The project is slated to end in 2020, but the World Bank is looking for ways to sustain momentum and support more progress.