Discrimination against sexual minorities in Kenya is costing the country up to $1.3 billion(Sh130B) annually, a report by a coalition of global businesses shows.
The report by Open For Business – an alliance of big companies including tech companies Google and Microsoft and Deutsche Bank – attributed the losses to missed tourism earnings, poor health and less employment of LGBT+ people.
It is estimated that anti-gay attitudes are shaving off up to 1.7 percent of Kenya’s annual gross domestic product (GDP).
“A lot of the conversations on LGBT inclusion across the world are based on people’s perceptions, rather than facts,” Yvonne Muthoni, Kenya program director at Open For Business, told Reuters.
“This report aims to provide a fact-based argument that LGBT inclusion is not just good for the LGBT community, but for the economy – and that means for every single citizen in the country.”
According to the report, Kenya’s tourism industry was missing out on up to $140 million per year in foreign earnings because LGBT+ tourists were opting not to visit due to homophobic views.
A lack of access to medical services due to discrimination against LGBT+ people meant the poor health of sexual minorities was leading to lost productive working time, said the study, valuing losses at $1 billion annually – or 1.4 percent of GDP.
The lack of LGBT+ people in the job market, as well as lower wages faced by members of the community due to discrimination, was costing Kenya over $100 million every year, the report adds.
According to Muthoni, the study’s findings supported research done in other countries which showed that open, inclusive and diverse societies improve prospects for growth – while discrimination can cause long-term economic damage.
Campaigners said the report’s backing by big corporates, such as Barclays bank, American Express, Thomson Reuters, the global consultancy McKinsey and audit firm KPMG, could influence the Kenyan government to put in place more inclusive policies.
“The report’s sobering statistics highlight the economic consequences as a result of not being open and including LGBT+ people in our society,” said George Morara, vice chairman of the state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.
“Our economy is struggling, youth unemployment is high, foreign investment is low, so we should be tapping every resource possible. We will use the data to advocate the government for more inclusion.”
Campaigners are hopeful that the findings of the report could help in changing negative perceptions of LGBT+ people in Kenya, and also strengthen the argument for same-sex relations to be decriminalised ahead of a high court ruling on May 24.