Kenya could lose ‘billions’ if harsh anti-LGBTQ+ law comes into force

Demonstrators are seen marching with an LGBTQ+ flag during a protest in Nairobi.

A recent study has raised serious concerns regarding potential consequences to Kenya’s economy if the nation’s government goes ahead with planned anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

According to a report by economist and social scientist Professor Fred Ogola, Kenya risks serious economic losses estimated at roughly Ksh 4.186 trillion (approximately £23.12 billion) if president William Ruto approves the controversial Family Protection Bill.

The bill heavily mirrors Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill and has severe penalties if passed for those identifying with or supporting the LGBTQ+ community, including the death penalty.

One major reason for this potential economic decline is Kenya’s heavy reliance on foreign aid. The country currently gets funding from the European Union (EU), the United States and the International Monetary Fund for various forms of sectoral assistance and development.

Around Ksh 2.4 billion (£13.15 million) is given by the EU for humanitarian funding alone.

These institutions have set conditions for their ongoing support, including equal protection and non-discrimination of all individuals irrespective of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender.  

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“Violating any of these conditions may lead to withholding of financial support. Therefore, if the bill is signed into law, Kenya must be ready to lose around Ksh 4.186 trillion,” said Professor Ogola during the launch of the report.

Edwin Chiloba
LGBTQ+ activist Edwin Chiloba, who was found dead on the side of the road in Kenya in January 2023. (Credit: (AFP/Getty Images/Lawrence Leteipa)

Loss of potential

The study also takes into account the potential for major losses in staff productivity and damage to the labour market with a discriminatory law in force. The anti-LGBTQ+ law would have adverse effects on an individual’s mental and physical health, leading to productivity loss. It also suggests that LGBTQ+ students may be forced to drop out of university due to fears related to the law.

Another potential economic impact mentioned by the study could come from LGBTQ+ citizens moving elsewhere to escape it. It is estimated that Kenya already loses as much as Ksh130 billion (£725.6 million) every year due to LGBTQ+ discrimination.

“Anti-LGBTQI legislations suppress [LGBTQ+ people’s] freedom through homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and consequently diminish their capacity to contribute to the economy,” the study explains.

These findings are similar to the research carried out in other countries with homophobic legislation, such as Uganda, Indonesia and Latvia.

LGBT refugees from South Sudan, Uganda and DR Congo walk on the way to their protest to demand their protection at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Nairobi, Kenya.
LGBTQ+ refugees from South Sudan, Uganda and DR Congo walk on the way to their protest to demand their protection at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Nairobi, Kenya. (YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty)

Invisible forces at play

A survey from the Pew Research Center in 2019 found that 83 per cent of Kenyans think society should not accept homosexuality. This anti-LGBTQ+ public sentiment has been fuelled in various ways, most notably by religious leaders, politicians, media organisations – and even more shadowy groups.

An Open Democracy investigation in 2020 found that numerous ring-wing US-based groups had funnelled at least $54 million (around £45 million) into African countries since 2007 to lobby for this sort of legislation.

The Family Protection Bill, if approved, would not only strengthen colonial-era legislation and prejudice against the LGBTQ+ community, but also further widen the gaps of socio-economic inequality in the country and political stability of Kenya in global networks. 

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