On 1 May this year, while observing Labour Day celebrations, Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, announced an 18 per cent hike in the minimum wage, the country’s most ambitious raise in just about a decade and one that scaled up the minimum wage to Kes 20,296 – about US$ 196.8. (Computation based on the gazetted minimum wage for Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu as indicated by the Kenya National Economic Survey 2016)
The move came against the backdrop of a resurgence of a clamour for raises in the minimum wage in select markets across Africa, with South Africa set to introduce a 3,500 Rand (about $ 260.0) per month minimum wage in 2018. In the meantime, headlines abound of an impending hike in Nigeria from the present 18,000 Naira (about $ 56.9).
This bodes a welcome shift in policy focus to wage/income inequality as a key issue facing economies in the continent, especially at a time when a general economic downturn and relatively high inflation have eroded households’ purchasing power. In April 2017, inflation stood at 17.3 per cent in Nigeria and 11.5 per cent in Kenya.