Are Kenyans really paying 16 bribes per month?

Probably not. The popular news is widely reporting this figure based on results from a pilot study sponsored by Transparency International, a German NGO.

“In East Africa’s most prosperous economy, the average city resident pays up to 16 bribes per month, according to Transparency International. Locals have dubbed Kenya “ya kitu kidogo” — the land of the “little something” — a kind of homeland of the bribe. And on the streets of Eastleigh, Nairobi, the victims of those bribes point their finger at one perpetrator.” – USA Today

Aside from the popular press, it is even being quoted in scholarly works.

I grew suspicious as I only pay about two to three bribes per month. While bribery and corruption are persistent problems in Kenya, 16 seems rather excessive based on my experience there.

So I went digging. And found the original research. Turns out, as noted above, it is a pilot study, done with little funding, using a convenience sample pulled off people walking on the streets of Nairobi, or rather a single place where the researchers pulled people aside and asked them questions. The respondents are mostly in their 20s and educated.

The sampling design appears to be not a sampling design at all:

“The survey was designed to capture citizens’ interaction with the government institutions primarily, but the survey itself sought information on both the public and private sector. The sample was selected by cluster sampling from three clusters as follows: i. Micro and small enterprise operators (“jua kali”) sample, drawn from membership of microfinance organisations

ii. Corporate sector, drawn from the membership lists of industry and professional associations

iii. Random “street” sample. The survey was administered to a random sample in public places (restaurants, bus stops, public parks and residential areas etc) to capture people not represented in the other two clusters (e.g. public sector workers and the unemployed) The “jua kali” and “street” clusters were administered through personal interviews. The questionnaire was sent to the corporate cluster respondents by business reply mail and followed up by telephone. However, the response rate was extremely low and had to be complemented with personal interviews to obtain an acceptable response rate.”

I suspect, given the demographic of the respondents, they were hanging out around the U. Nairobi area in the CBD of Nairobi and NOT in Eastleigh as the USA Today article suggests. In fact, the report doesn’t mention Eastleigh at all.

The authors, to their credit, caution against the use of the results:

“The survey is a pilot study, whose primary objective is to establish the viability of empirical corruption research. It was not designed to provide a representative sample from which statistically valid conclusions about the urban population as a whole can be drawn. ”

So… while I get that there isn’t a whole lot of research on the subject, and any contribution is, well, a contribution worth examining, the results of this study should NOT be presented as fact, given the poor sampling design.

We can, of course, excuse the popular press, since they don’t care, but scholars should be extremely wary.

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

2 responses to “Are Kenyans really paying 16 bribes per month?”

  1. cartogscura says :

    Well, if they’re not them Cambodians, at least, probably are. The solution is simple. Stop paying policeman only $USD30 A MONTH. Are you kidding me.

  2. cartogscura says :


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