Experts: Millions risk sinking into poverty upon retirement

Friday, January 14th, 2022 05:00 | By
Pensions provide invaluable support to older people, not only directly, but also to their families and wider communities. (INSET) Zamara Group chief executive officer, Sundeep Raichura. Photo/File

More than 10 million Kenyans face poverty upon retirement as they fall short of adequate savings once they leave work, experts have warned.

Although cracks have been forming in the foundation of the country’s retirement security for decades now, analysts believe the Coronavirus pandemic has only made it worse with lean solutions in sight.

Statistics show that less than 10 per cent of Kenyan population retire financially independent with one of the reasons being cited for the sorry state being that when saving for retirement, most people underestimate how much they will have to pay for medical expenses during their retirement years.

As a result it is feared about 16 million salaried Kenyans could be sleepwalking into a retirement catastrophe.

 Insurance life covers

“I can tell you Kenyans are sleepwalking into disaster,” according to  Zamara Group CEO Sundeep Raichura, adding that the problem is widespread with as many Kenyans not having insurance life covers to cater for their crucial needs such as disability.

Unless Kenya prepares for the challenge, a retirement calamity of immense proportions could happen sooner rather than later,” he added.

Raichura also questioned the delay by authorities to implement the National Social Security Fund Act of 2013 whose execution was expected to provide an obligatory superannuation pension plan for all salaried Kenyans.

It was also expected to address some of the challenges facing the sector today.

The new NSSF Act received assent from President Uhuru Kenyatta on December 24, 2013 and came into force on January 10, the following year but its implementation has been overlooked.

Raichura noted that the NSSF Act of 2013 is in the national interest of the country…because “what it does is it brings a compulsory pension for everybody who is earning a salary, it makes savings at a sensible rate.” 

“For whatever reasons stakeholders went to court and blocked its implementation, I feel it is sad a solution hasn’t been found to date,” he added.

The Act provided the contribution at the rate of 6 per cent and was to be phased over a period of five years.

It establishes that the National Social Security Fund provides social security for workers and self-employed persons and their dependents.

Hosea Kili, County Pension Fund (CPF) and Local Authorities Pensions Trust (LAPTRUST) chief executive, agrees with Raichura’s concerns. 

He has called on Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA), the sector regulator, to consider expanding social security coverage by making pension contributions mandatory for all Kenyans if the sector is to grow beyond its potential.

Establishment of a universal fund, he believes, would assist by allocating a percentage of the national budget to go towards universal pension and medical coverage.

“This can be achieved by introducing a pension levy on mandatory goods and services to realise mandatory State social security.

It could also look at a levy on vital goods such as airtime, a small portion of which can be built over time,” advised Kili.

The two now want sector players to focus on the informal sector which makes up for the 80 per cent untapped market with financial literacy a key determinant if the industry is to grow beyond its current market value of Sh1.4 trillion.

Economic projections

While there have been improvements in the sector amid the pandemic, many industry experts such as the Association of Pension Trustees and Administrators of Kenya (APTAK) are surprised by the growing reluctance from Kenyans to subscribe to annuity covers, considering positive economic projections and expectations in the sector.

In 2020, around 17.4 million people were employed in Kenya, down from 18.1 million individuals in the previous year, mostly drawn from the informal sector. Roughly 14.5 million in the informal and 2.9 million in the formal sector.

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