The African continent is comprised of 54 nations, each with its own independent government and sovereignty, GNP, culture, natural resources, language(s), military, and religion. The treasure trove of mineral and raw material wealth has scarcely been touched and the continent's largely untapped fertile lands could feed the world. Herewith is Jewel of Africa, an interactive adventure in the cradle of mankind, an exploration of nations from A-Z in alphabetical order.
Kenya: Land of God's grace; haven of abundance
The Republic of Kenya, is located in East Africa famed for its scenic landscapes and vast wildlife preserves. At 224,081 square miles, Kenya is the world's 48th largest country by area. With a population of more than 56.2 million in the 2019 census, Kenya is the 29th most populous coun- try. Its Indian Ocean coast provided historically important ports by which goods from Arabian and Asian traders have entered the continent for many centuries.
Along that coast, which holds some of the finest beaches in Africa, are predominantly Muslim Swahili cities such as Mombasa, a historic center that has contributed much to the musical and culinary heritage of the country. Inland are populous highlands famed for both their tea plantations, an economic staple during the British colonial era, and their variety of animal species, including lion, elephant, cheetah, rhinoceros, and hippopotamus. Kenya’s western provinces, marked by lakes and rivers, are forested, while a small portion of the north is desert and semi-desert. The country’s diverse wildlife and panoramic geography draw large numbers of European and North American visitors, and tourism is an important contributor to Kenya’s economy.
Kenya's capital and largest city is Nairobi, while its oldest city and first capital is the coastal city of Mombasa. Kisumu City is the third-largest city and also an inland port on Lake Victoria. Other important urban centers include Nakuru and Eldoret. As of 2020, Kenya is the third-largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria and South Africa. Kenya is bordered by South Sudan to the northwest, Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the east, Uganda to the west, Tanzania to the south, and the Indian Ocean to the southeast.
The geography, and climate of Kenya vary widely, ranging from cold snow-capped mountaintops (Batian, Nelion and Point Lenana on Mt. Kenya) with vast rainforests, wildlife and fertile agri- cultural regions to temperate climates in western and rift valley counties and dry less fertile arid and semi-arid regions and arid deserts (Chalbi Desert and Nyiri Desert).
Government and foreign relations
Kenya is a presidential representative democratic republic, in which elected officials represent the people and the president is the head of state and government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly and the Senate. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
Kenya has close ties with its fellow Swahili-speaking neighbors in the African Great Lakes region. Relations with Uganda and Tanzania are generally strong, as the three nations work toward economic and social integration through common membership in the East African Community. Relations with Somalia have historically been tense, although there has been some military co-ordination against Islamist insurgents. Kenya has good relations with the United Kingdom. Kenya is one of the most pro-American nations in Africa, and the wider world.
The Kenya Defense Forces are the armed forces of the Republic of Kenya. The Kenya Army, Navy, and Air Force comprise the National Defense Forces. The current Kenya Defense Forces were established, and its composition laid out, in Article 241 of the 2010 Constitution of Kenya; the KDF is governed by the Kenya Defense Forces Act of 2012. The president of Kenya is the commander-in-chief of all the armed forces.
Nairobi is the capital and the largest city in the Republic of Kenya. Its urban sprawl measures 269 square miles. The name comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nyrobi, which translates to "cool water," a refer- ence to the Nairobi River which flows through the city. Nairobi is the most populous city in Kenya boasting 5.1 million people. Nairobi is the only city in the country with a population exceeding one million. The city is popularly referred to as the Green City in the Sun. Nairobi was founded in 1899 in British East Africa, as a rail depot on the Uganda Railway. The town quickly grew to replace Machakos as the capital of Kenya in 1907. After independence in 1963, Nairobi became the capital of Kenya.
Mombasa (left), featu- ring two of many swank hotels, is a coastal city in southeastern Kenya along the Indian Ocean. The city is known as the white and blue city in Kenya. It is the nation's oldest and second-larg- est city with a population of 1.3 million people, and chief port of Kenya, situa- ted on a coralline island in a bay of the Indian Ocean. The island is linked to its mainland municipal territory of 100 square miles and has an area of 5.5 square miles. Mombasa has two ports, Mombasa Old Port on the island’s east side and Kilindini Harbor on the west. The old port is now used only by dhows and small craft, bringing trade from Arabia, the Persian Gulf, and India.
Mombasa is very much
Kenya is a country found in Eastern Africa famous for its game reserves and wildlife. Kenya also boasts a long coastline along the Indian Ocean. As a result, Kenya is home to a number of incredible beaches. Visitors to this East African nation will find peaceful, scenic beaches like Nyali close to Mombasa or a popular surfer's beach like Diani. Kenya's world-class beaches are among the world's finest, yet their seclusion or breathtaking views are largely unfamiliar to a large segment of the tourism industry.
Diani Beach is a major beach on the Indian Ocean coast of Kenya (in eastern Africa). It is located 19 miles south of Mombasa, in Kwale County. It has been voted Africa's leading beach destination for the sixth time running since 2015. It is not unusual to see camels lapping up the sun and cool sea breezes on Diani Beach, as camel riding is a favorite activity of tourists. The beach is roughly 11 miles long, from the Kongo river to the north and Galu beach to the south (the southern point of reference is an old Baobab tree). Diani is one of the most prominent tourism resort areas of Kenya. The general area is known for its coral reefs, black-and-white colobus monkeys, and for the Shimba Hills National wildlife reserve on the Indian Ocean.
procurement of armored personnel carriers. Further, the wisdom and prudence of certain decisions of procure- ment have been publicly questioned.
Kenya is divided into 47 semi-autonomous counties that are headed by governors. These 47 counties form the first-order divisions of Kenya. The smallest administrative units in Kenya are called locations. Locations often coincide with electoral wards. Locations are usually named after their central villages/towns. Many larger towns consist of several locations. Each location has a chief, appointed by the state. Constituencies are an electoral subdivision, with each county comprising a whole number of constituencies. An interim boundaries commission was formed in 2010 to review the constituencies and in its report, it recommended the creation of an additional 80 constituencies. Previous to the 2013 elections, there were 210 constituencies in Kenya.
The Republic of Kenya is named after Mt. Kenya. The mountain's name was accepted, pars pro toto, as the name of the country. It did not come into widespread official use during the early colonial period, when the country was referred to as the East African Protectorate. The official name was changed to the Colony of Kenya in 1920.
At 224,081 square miles, Kenya is the world's 48th-largest country (after Madagascar). From the coast on the Indian Ocean, the low plains rise to central highlands. The highlands are bisected by the Great Rift Valley, with a fertile plateau to the east. The Kenyan Highlands are one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa. The highlands are the site of the highest point in Kenya and the second highest peak on the continent: Mt. Kenya, which reaches a height of 17,057 feet and is the site of glaciers. Mt. Kilimanjaro, 19,341 feet, can be seen from Kenya to the south of the Tanzanian border.
Kenya's climate varies from tropical along the coast to temperate inland to arid in the north and northeast parts of the country. The area receives a great deal of sunshine every month. It is usually cool at night and early in the morning inland at higher elevations. The "long rains" season occurs from March/April to May/June. The "short rains" season occurs from October to November/December. The rainfall is sometimes heavy and often falls in the afternoons and evenings. Climate change is altering the natural pattern of the rainfall period, causing an extension of the short rains, which has begat floods, and reducing the drought cycle from every ten years to annual events, producing strong droughts such as the 2008-09 Kenya Drought.
The temperature remains high throughout these months of tropical rain. The hottest period is February and March, leading into the season of the long rains, and the coldest is in July, until mid-August. Climate change in Kenya is increasingly impacting the lives of Kenya's citizens and the environment. Climate change has led to more frequent extreme weather events like droughts which last longer than usual, irregular and unpredictable rainfall, flooding and increasing temperatures. The effects of these climatic changes have made already existing challenges with water security, food security and economic growth even more difficult. Harvests and agricultural production which account for about 33 percent of total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are also at risk. The increased temperatures, rainfall variability in arid and semi-arid areas, and strong winds associated with tropical cyclones have combined to create favorable conditions for the breeding and migration of pests. An increase in temperature of up to 2.5°C by 2050 is predicted to increase the frequency of extreme events such as floods and droughts.
Hot and dry conditions in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) make droughts or flooding brought on by extreme weather changes even more dangerous. Coastal communities are already experiencing sea level rise and associated challenges such as saltwater intrusion. All these factors impact at-risk populations like marginalized communities, women and the youth.
Kenya has considerable land area devoted to wildlife habitats, including the Masai Mara, where blue wildebeest and other bovids participate in a large-scale annual migration. More than 1 million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras participate in the migration across the Mara River. The "Big Five" game animals of Africa, that is the lion, leopard, buffalo, rhinoceros, and elephant, can be found in Kenya and in the Masai Mara in particular. A significant population of other wild animals, reptiles, and birds can be found in the national parks and game reserves in the country. The annual animal migration occurs between June and September, with millions of animals taking part, attracting valuable foreign tourism. Two million wildebeest migrate a distance of 1,802 miles from the Serengeti in neighboring Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya, in a constant clockwise fashion, searching for food and water supplies. This Serengeti Migration of the wildebeest is listed among the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa.
Kenya's macroeconomic outlook has steadily posted robust growth over the past few decades mostly from road, rail and water transport infrastructure projects. However, much of this growth has come from cash flows diverted from ordinary Kenyan pockets at the microeconomic level through targeted monetary and fiscal measures coupled with poor management, corruption, massive theft of public funds, over-legislation and an ineffective judiciary
To describe Kenya as a
land of abundance would be putting it lightly. The Indian Ocean yields big game deep-sea fishing for the stout of heart. During October to April, the waters of the Kenyan coast are world-renowned for hosting some of the best deep sea fishing for marlin, sailfish, kingfish, tuna, dorado, wahoo, and barracuda. The pristine fresh water lakes and rivers of the nation are popular for Nile perch, omena, tilapia, common carp, and black bass. Kenya's fishing industry contributes about 0.5 percent of the national GDP and about 2 percent
of the national export earn- ings. The industry employs over 60,000 fishers directly and an estimated 1.2 million people directly and indirect- ly within the fishing, produc- tion and supply chain.
The agricultural sector is the backbone of the economy, contrib- uting roughly 33 percent of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product. The agriculture sector employs more than 40 percent of the total population and 70 percent of the rural population. However, agricultural productivity has stagnated in recent years. Small farmers and agricultural enterprises continue to face challenges growing their businesses and improving the quality of agriculture.
The country's major agricultural exports are tea, coffee, cut flowers, and vegetables. Kenya is the world's leading exporter of black tea and cut flowers. Kenya's high rainfall areas constitute about 10 percent of Kenya's arable land and produce 70 percent of its national commercial agricultural output. Kenya imports a wide mix of agricultural products from fellow African countries, with the most significant products being milk and cream, sugar, corn, tobacco, grain sorghum, soybean meal and fresh fruits, and vegetables.
The diversity of Kenya's wildlife has garnered international fame, especially for its populations of large mammals. Mammal species include lion, cheetah, hippopotamus, Cape buffalo, wildebeest, African bush elephant, zebra, giraffe, and rhinoceros. Kenya has a very diverse population of birds, ostrich and flamingo.
Reptilians make up the vast population
as well. The Nile crocodile is a large native specie to freshwater habitats in Africa, where it is present in 26 countries. It is widely distributed throughout the nations below the Saharan, occurring mostly in the central, eastern, and southern regions of the continent, and lives in different types of aquatic environments such as lakes, rivers, swamps, and marshlands.
Kenya is home to 126 snake species, venomous and not. Its poisonous snakes are among the most dangerous on Earth — black mamba, cobra, puff adder, boomslang, and African rock python.
Last but not least among the spectacular abundance, beauty, grace, and charm of Kenya are its people, its kings and queens.
resulting in diminished incomes in ordinary households and small businesses, unemployment, underemployment, and general discontent across multiple sectors. Kenya ranks poorly on the Fragile States Index at number 25 out of 178 countries, ranked in 2019, and is placed in the ALERT category. In 2014, the country's macroeconomic indicators were re-based, causing the GDP to shift upwards to low-middle-income country status.
Kenya has a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.555 (medium), ranked 145 out of 186 in the world. As of 2005, 17.7 percent of Kenyans lived on less than $1.25 a day. In 2017, Kenya ranked 92nd in the World Bank ease of doing business rating from 113rd in 2016 (of 190 countries). The important agricultural sector is one of the least developed and largely inefficient, employing 75 percent of the workforce compared to less than 3 percent in the food secure developed countries. Kenya is usually classified as a frontier market or occasionally an emerging market, but it is not one of the least developed countries. The economy has seen much expansion, seen by strong performance in tourism, higher education, and telecommunications, and decent post-drought results in agriculture, especially the vital tea sector. Kenya's economy grew by more than 7 percent in 2007, and its foreign debt was greatly reduced. This changed immediately after the disputed presidential election of December 2007, following the chaos which engulfed the country.
Telecommunications and financial activity over the last decade now comprise 62 percent of GDP. 22 percent of GDP still comes from the unreliable agricultural sector which employs 75 percent of the labor force (a consistent characteristic of under-developed economies that have not attained food security—an important catalyst of economic growth). A small portion of the population relies on food aid. Industry and manufacturing is the smallest sector, accounting for 16 percent of GDP. The service, industry and manufacturing sectors only employ 25 percent of the labor force but contribute 75 percent of GDP. Kenya also exports textiles worth over $400 million under AGOA. Privatization of state corporations like the defunct Kenya Post and Telecommunications Company, which resulted in East Africa's most profitable company—Safaricom, has led to their revival because of massive private investment. As of May 2011, economic prospects are positive with 4-5 percent GDP growth expected, largely because of expansions in tourism, telecommunications, transport, construction, and a recovery in agriculture. The World Bank estimated growth of 4.3 percent in 2012.
In March 1996, the presidents of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda re-established the East African Community (EAC). The EAC's objectives include harmonizing tariffs and customs regimes, free movement of people, and improving regional infrastructures. In March 2004, the three East African countries signed a Customs Union Agreement.
Kenya has a more developed financial services sector than its neighbors. The Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) is ranked 4th in Africa in terms of market capitalization. The Kenyan banking system is supervised by the Central Bank of Kenyaa (CBK). As of late July 2004, the system consisted of 43 commercial banks (down from 48 in 2001) and several non-bank financial institutions including mortgage companies, four savings and loan associations, and several core foreign-exchange bureaus.
Tourism in Kenya is the second-largest source of foreign exchange revenue following agriculture. The Kenya Tourism Board is responsible for maintaining information pertaining to tourism in Kenya. The main tourist attractions are photo safaris through the 60 national parks and game reserves. Other attractions include the wildebeest migration at the Masaai Mara, which is considered to be the 7th wonder of the world; historical mosques, and colonial-era forts at Mombasa, Malindi, and Lamu; renowned scenery such as the white-capped
Mt. Kenya and the Great Rift Valley; tea plantations at Kericho; coffee plantations at Thika; a splendid view of Mt. Kilimanjaro across the border into Tanzania; and the beaches along the Swahili Coast, in the Indian Ocean. Tourists, the largest number being from Germany and the United Kingdom, are attracted mainly to the coastal beaches and the game reserves, notably, the expansive East and Tsavo West National Park, 8,034 square miles to the southeast.
Agriculture is the second largest contributor to Kenya's gross domestic product (GDP) after the service sector. In 2005, agriculture, including forestry and fishing, accounted for 24 percent of GDP, as well as for 18 percent of wage employment and 50 percent of revenue from exports. The principal cash crops are tea, horticultural produce, and coffee. Horticultural produce and tea are the main growth sectors and the two most valuable of all of Kenya's exports. The production of major food staples such as corn is subject to sharp weather-related fluctuations. Production downturns periodically necessitate food aid—for example in 2004, due to one of Kenya's intermittent droughts. A consortium led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has had some success in helping farmers grow new pigeon pea varieties instead of maize, in particularly dry areas. Pigeon peas are very drought-resistant, so can be grown in areas with less than 650 mm annual rainfall.
Successive projects encouraged the commercialization of legumes by stimulating the growth of local seed pro- duction and agro-dealer networks for distribution and marketing. This work, which included linking producers to wholesalers, helped to increase local producer prices by 20-25 percent in Nairobi and Mombasa. The commer- cialization of the pigeon pea is now enabling some farmers to buy assets ranging from mobile phones to pro- ductive land and livestock, and is opening pathways for them to move out of poverty.
Tea, coffee, sisal, pyrethrum, corn, and wheat are grown in the fertile highlands, one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa. Livestock predominates in the semi-arid savanna to the north and east. Coconuts, pineapples, cashew nuts, cotton, sugarcane, sisal, and corn are grown in the lower-lying areas. Kenya has not attained the level of investment and efficiency in agriculture that can guarantee food security, and coupled with resulting poverty (53 percent of the population lives below the poverty line), a significant portion of the population regularly starves and is heavily dependent on food aid. Poor roads, an inadequate railway network, under-used water transport, and expensive air transport have isolated mostly arid and semi-arid areas, and farmers in other regions often leave food to rot in the fields because they cannot access markets. This was last seen in August and September 2011, prompting the Kenyans for Kenya initiative by the Red Cross.
Kenya's irrigation sector is categorized into three organizational types: smallholder schemes, centrally-managed public schemes, and private/commercial irrigation schemes. The smallholder schemes are owned, developed, and managed by individuals or groups of farmers operating as water users or self-help groups. Irrigation is carried out on individual or on group farms averaging 0.1-0.4 ha. There are about 3,000 smallholder irrigation schemes covering a total area of 47,000 ha. The country has seven large, centrally managed irrigation schemes, namely Mwea, Bura, Hola, Perkera, West Kano, Bunyala, and Ahero, covering a total area of 18,200 ha and averaging 2,600 ha per scheme. These schemes are managed by the National Irrigation Board and account for 18 percent of irrigated land area in Kenya. Large-scale private commercial farms cover 45,000 hectares, accounting for 40 percent of irrigated land. They utilize high technology and produce high-value crops for the export market, especially flowers and vegetables.
Kenya is the world's 3rd largest exporter of cut flowers. Roughly half of Kenya's 127 flower farms are concentrated around Lake Naivasha, roughly 60 miles northwest of Nairobi. To speed their export, Nairobi airport has a terminal dedicated to the transport of flowers and vegetables.
Industry and manufacturing
Although Kenya is a low middle-income country, manufacturing accounts for 14 percent of the GDP, with industrial activity concentrated around the three largest urban centers of Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu, and is dominated by food-processing industries such as grain milling, beer production, sugarcane crushing, and the fabrication of consumer goods, e.g., vehicles from kits.
Kenya also has a cement production industry. Kenya has an oil refinery that processes imported crude petroleum into petroleum products, mainly for the domestic market. In addition, a substantial and expanding informal sector commonly referred to as jua kali engages in small-scale manufacturing of household goods, auto parts, and farm implements. Kenya's inclusion among the beneficiaries of the US Government's African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has given a boost to manufacturing in recent years. Since AGOA took effect in 2000, Kenya's clothing sales to the US increased from $44 million US to $270 million (US 2006). Other initiatives to strengthen manufac- turing have been the new government's favorable tax measures, including the removal of duty on capital equipment and other raw materials.
The country has an extensive network of paved and unpaved roads. Kenya's railway system links the nation's ports and major cities, connecting it with neighboring Uganda. There are 15 airports which have paved runways.
The largest share of Kenya's electricity supply comes from geothermal energy, followed by hydroelectric stations at dams along the upper Tana River, as well as the Turkwel Gorge Dam in the west. A petroleum-fired plant on the coast, geothermal facilities at Olkaria (near Nairobi), and electricity imported from Uganda make up the rest of the supply. A 2,000 MW powerline from Ethiopia is nearing completion. The project is estimated to serve approxima- tely 870,000 Kenyan households by 2018 and 1.4 million households by 2022.
Kenya's installed capacity increased from 1,142 megawatts between 2001 and 2003 to 2,341 in 2016. The state-owned Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), established in 1997 under the name of Kenya Power Company, handles the generation of electricity, while Kenya Power handles the electricity transmission and distribution system in the country. Shortfalls of electricity occur periodically, when drought reduces water flow. To become energy sufficient, Kenya has installed wind power and solar power (over 300 MW each), and aims to build a nuclear power plant by 2027.
Chinese investment and trade
Published comments on Kenya's Capital FM website by Liu Guangyuan, China's ambassador to Kenya, at the time of former President Jomo Kenyatta's 2013 trip to Beijing, said, "Chinese investment in Kenya ... reached $474 million, representing Kenya's largest source of foreign direct investment, and ... bilateral trade ... reached $2.84 billion" in 2012. Kenyatta was "[a]ccompanied by 60 Kenyan business people [and hoped to] ... gain support from China for a planned $2.5 billion railway from the southern Kenyan port of Mombasa to neighboring Uganda, as well as a nearly $1.8 billion dam", according to a statement from the president's office, also at the time of the trip.
Base Titanium, a subsidiary of Base resources of Australia, shipped its first major consignment of minerals to China. About 25,000 tons of ilmenite was flagged off the Kenyan coastal town of Kilifi. The first shipment was expected to earn Kenya about KSh15-20 billion in earnings. In 2014, the Chinese contracted railway project from Nairobi to Mombasa was suspended due to a dispute over compensation for land acquisition.
In 2007, the Kenyan government unveiled Vision 2030, an economic development program it hopes will put the country in the same league as the Asian Economic Tigers by the year 2030. In 2013, it launched a National Climate Change Action Plan, having acknowledged that omitting climate as a key development issue in Vision 2030 was an oversight failure. The 200-page Action Plan, developed with support from the Climate & Development Knowledge Network, sets out the Government of Kenya's vision for a “low-carbon climate resilient development pathway.” At the launch in March 2013, the Secretary of the Ministry of Planning, National Development, and Vision 2030 emphasized that climate would be a central issue in the renewed Medium-Term Plan that would be launched in the coming months. This would create a direct and robust delivery framework for the Action Plan and ensure climate change is treated as an economy-wide issue.
Kenya has proven oil deposits in Turkana County. President Mwai Kibaki announced on 26 March 2012 that Tullow Oil, an Anglo-Irish oil exploration firm, had struck oil, but its commercial viability and subsequent production would take about three years to confirm. In 2006, Chinese president Hu Jintao signed an oil exploration contract with Kenya, part of a series of deals designed to keep Africa's natural resources flowing to China's rapidly expanding economy. The deal allowed for China's state-controlled offshore oil and gas company, CNOOC, to prospect for oil in Kenya, which is just beginning to drill its first exploratory wells on the borders of Sudan and the disputed area of North Eastern Province, on the border with Somalia and in coastal waters. There are formal estimates of the possible reserves of oil discovered.
Microfinance in Kenya
Twenty-four institutions offer business loans on a large scale, specific agriculture loans, education loans, and loans for all other purposes. Additionally, there are emergency loans, which are more expensive in respect to interest rates, but are quickly available; group loans for smaller groups (4-5 members) and larger groups (up to 30 members) and loans for women, which are also available to groups of women. Out of approximately 40 million Kenyans, about 14 million are unable to receive financial service through formal loan application services, and an additional 12 million have no access to financial service institutions at all. Further, 1 million Kenyans are reliant on informal groups for receiving financial aid.
Kenya had a population of approximately 48 million in January 2017. The country has a young population, with 73 percent of residents under 30 because of rapid population growth, from 2.9 million to 40 million inhabitants over the last century. Nairobi is home to Kibera, one of the world's largest slums. The shantytown is believed to house between 170,000 and 1 million people. The UNHCR base in Dadaab in the north houses around 500,000.
Kenya has a diverse population that includes many of Africa's major ethno-racial and linguistic groups. Although there is no official list of Kenyan ethnic groups, the number of ethnic categories and sub-categories recorded in the country's census has changed significantly over time, expanding from 42 in 1969 to more than 120 in 2019. Most residents are Bantus (60 percent) or Nilotes (30 percent). Cushitic groups also form a small ethnic minority, as do Arabs, Indians, and Europeans.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), in 2019, Kenya had a total population of 47.5 million people. The largest native ethnic groups were the Kikuyu (8.14 million), Luhya (6.8 million), Kalenjin (6.3 million), Luo (5 million), Kamba (4.6 million), Somali (2.71 million), Kisii (2.7 million), Mijikenda (2.4 million), Meru (1.9 million), Maasai (1.1 million), and Turkana (1 million). The North Eastern Province of Kenya, formerly known as NFD, is predominantly inhabited by the indigenous ethnic Somalis. Foreign-rooted populations include Somalis (from Somalia), Arabs, Asians, and Europeans.
Kenya's various ethnic groups typically speak their mother tongues within their own communities. The two official languages, English and Swahili, are used in varying degrees of fluency for communication with other populations. English is widely spoken in commerce, schooling, and government. Peri-urban and rural dwellers are less multilingual, with many in rural areas speaking only their native languages. British English is primarily used in Kenya. Additionally, a distinct local dialect, Kenyan English, is used by some communities and individuals in the country, and contains features unique to it that were derived from local Bantu languages such as Kiswahili and Kikuyu. It has been developing since colonization and also contains certain elements of American English. Sheng is a Kiswahili-based cant spoken in some urban areas. Primarily a mixture of Swahili and English, it is an example of linguistic code-switching.
There are 69 languages spoken in Kenya. Most belong to two broad language families: Niger-Congo (Bantu branch) and Nilo-Saharan (Nilotic branch), spoken by the country's Bantu and Nilotic populations respectively. The Cushitic and Arab ethnic minorities speak languages belonging to the separate Afro-asiatic family, with the Indian and European residents speaking languages from the Indo-European family.
Urban centers Religion
Most Kenyans are Christian (85.5 percent), with 53.9 percent Protestant and 20.6 percent Roman Catholic. The Presbyterian Church of East Africa has 3 million followers in Kenya and surrounding countries. There are smaller conservative Reformed churches, the Africa Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Independent Presbyterian Church in Kenya, and the Reformed Church of East Africa. Orthodox Christianity has 621,200 adherents. Kenya has by far the highest number of Quakers of any country in the world, with around 146,300. The only Jewish synagogue in the country is in Nairobi.
Islam is the second largest religion, comprising 10.9 percent of the population. 60 percent of Kenyan Muslims live in the Coastal Region, comprising 50 percent of the total population there, while the upper part of Kenya's Eastern Region is home to 10 percent of the country's Muslims, where they are the majority religious group. Indigenous beliefs are practiced by 0.7 percent of the population, although many self-identifying Christians and Muslims maintain some traditional beliefs and customs. Nonreligious Kenyans are 1.6 percent of the population. There are
Hindus living in Kenya. The numbers are estimated to be around 60,287 people or 0.13 percent of the population.
Healthcare is largely funded by private individuals, families and employers through direct payments to health care providers, the National Hospital Insurance Fund and private health insurance firms. Additional funding comes from local, international and some government social safety net schemes. Public hospitals charge patients fees for services and are a major source of revenue for the county and national governments making them highly political enterprises. Minimum and maximum fees that may be charged by healthcare providers are determined and controlled by the government through the regulatory bodies.
Private health facilities are diverse, highly dynamic, and difficult to classify, unlike public health facilities, which are easily grouped in classes that consist of community-based (level I) services, run by community health workers; dispensaries (level II facilities) run by nurses; health centers (level III facilities), run by clinical officers; sub-county hospitals (level IV facilities), which may be run by a clinical officer or a medical officer; county hospitals (level V facilities), which may be run by a medical officer or a medical practitioner; and national referral hospitals (level VI facilities), which are run by fully qualified medical practitioners.
Nurses are by far the largest group of front-line health care providers in all sectors, followed by clinical officers, medical officers, and medical practitioners. These are absorbed and deployed into government service in accordance with the Scheme of Service for Nursing Personnel (2014), the Revised Scheme of Service for Clinical Personnel (2020) and the Revised Scheme of Service for Medical Officers and Dental Officers (2016).Traditional healers (herbalists, witch doctors, and faith healers) are readily available, trusted, and widely consulted as practitioners of first or last choice by both rural and urban dwellers.
Despite major achievements in the health sector, Kenya still faces many challenges. The estimated life expectancy dropped in 2009 to approximately 55 years — five years below the 1990 level. The infant mortality rate was high at approximately 44 deaths per 1,000 children in 2012. The WHO estimated in 2011 that only 42 percent of births were attended by a skilled health professional.
Diseases of poverty directly correlate with a country's economic performance and wealth distribution: Half of Kenyans live below the poverty level. Preventable diseases like malaria, HIV/AIDS, pneumonia, diarrhoea, and malnutrition are the biggest burden, major child-killers, and responsible for much morbidity; weak policies, corruption, inadequate health workers, weak management, and poor leadership in the public health sector are largely to blame. According to 2009 estimates, HIV/AIDS prevalence is about 6.3 percent of the adult population. However, the 2011 UNAIDS Report suggests that the HIV epidemic may be improving in Kenya, as HIV prevalence is declining among young people (ages 15–24) and pregnant women. Kenya had an estimated 15 million cases of malaria in 2006.
The total fertility rate in Kenya was estimated to be 4.49 children per woman in 2012. According to a 2008-09 survey by the Kenyan government, the total fertility rate was 4.6 percent and the contraception usage rate among married women was 46 percent. Women were economically empowered before colonialization. By colonial land alienation, women lost access and control of land. They became more economically dependent on men. A colonial order of gender emerged where males dominated females. Median age at first marriage increases with increasing education. Rape, defilement, and battering are not always seen as serious crimes. Reports of sexual assault are not always taken seriously.
Children attend nursery school, or kindergarten in the private sector until they are five years old. This lasts one to three years (KG1, KG2 and KG3) and is financed privately because there has been no government policy on pre-schooling until recently. Basic formal education starts at age six and lasts 12 years, consisting of eight years in primary school and four in high school or secondary. Primary school is free in public schools and those attending can join a vocational youth/village polytechnic or make their own arrangements for an apprenticeship program and learn a trade such as tailoring, carpentry, motor vehicle repair, brick-laying and masonry for about two years.
Those who complete high school can join a polytechnic or other technical college and study for three years, or proceed directly to university and study for four years. Graduates from the polytechnics and colleges can then join the workforce and later obtain a specialized higher diploma qualification after a further one to two years of training, or join the university—usually in the second or third year of their respective course. The higher diploma is accepted by many employers in place of a bachelor's degree and direct or accelerated admission to post-graduate studies is possible in some universities.
Public universities in Kenya are highly commercialized institutions and only a small fraction of qualified high school graduates are admitted on limited government-sponsorship into programs of their choice. Most are admitted into the social sciences, which are cheap to run, or as self-sponsored students paying the full cost of their studies. Most qualified students who miss out opt for middle-level diploma programs in public or private universities, colleges, and polytechnics.
In 2018, 18.5 percent of the Kenyan adult population was illiterate, which was the highest rate of literacy in East Africa. There are very wide regional disparities: for example, Nairobi had the highest level of literacy at 87.1 per cent, compared to North Eastern Province, the lowest, at 8.0 per cent. Preschool, which targets children from age three to five, is an integral component of the education system and is a key requirement for admission to Standard One (First Grade). At the end of primary education, pupils sit the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE), which determines those who proceed to secondary school or vocational training. The result of this examination is needed for placement at secondary school.
Primary school is for students aged 6-14 years. For those who proceed to the secondary level, there is a national examination at the end of Form Four—the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), which determines those proceeding to the universities, other professional training, or employment. Students sit examinations in eight subjects of their choosing. However, English, Kiswahili, and mathematics are compulsory subjects.
The Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS), formerly the Joint Admissions Board (JAB), is responsible for selecting students joining the public universities. Other than the public schools, there are many private schools, mainly in urban areas. Similarly, there are a number of international schools catering to various overseas educational systems. Despite its impressive commercial approach, Kenya's academia and higher education system is somehow rigid. However, Kenyan University Graduates are highly skilled, and they are accepted in the job market domestically as well as internationally.
The culture of Kenya comprises multiple traditions. Kenya has no single prominent culture. It instead consists of the various cultures of the country's different communities. Notable populations include the Swahili on the coast, several other Bantu communities in the central and western regions, and Nilotic communities in the northwest. The Maasai culture is well known to tourism, despite constituting a relatively small part of Kenya's population. They are renowned for their elaborate upper-body adornment and jewelry. Additionally, Kenya has an extensive music, television, and theatre scene.
Kenya has a number of media outlets that broadcast domestically and globally. They cover news, business, sports, and entertainment. Popular Kenyan newspapers include: The Daily Nation, part of the Nation Media Group (largest market share); The Standard, The Star; The People, East Africa Weekly, and the Taifa Leo. Television stations based in Kenya include: Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Citizen TV, Kenya Television Network, NTV (part of the Nation Media Group, Kiss Television, K24 Television, and Kass-TV.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is one of Kenya's best-known writers. His novel Weep Not, Child depicts life in Kenya during the British occupation. The story details the effects of the Mau Mau on the lives of Kenyans. Its combination of themes—colonialism, education, and love—helped make it one of the best-known African novels. M.G. Vassanji's 2003 novel The In-Between World of Vikram Lall won the Giller Prize in 2003. It is the fictional memoir of a Kenyan of Indian heritage and his family's they adjust to the changing political climates in colonial and post-colonial Kenya.
Since 2003, the literary journal Kwani? has been publishing Kenyan contemporary literature. Kenya has also nurtured emerging versatile authors such as Paul Kipchumba (Kipwendui, Kibiwott) who demonstrate a Pan-African outlook.
Kenya has a diverse assortment of popular music forms, in addition to multiple types of folk music based on the variety of over 40 regional languages. Drums are the most dominant instrument in popular Kenyan music. Drum beats are very complex and include both native rhythms and imported ones, especially the Congolese cavacha rhythm. Popular Kenyan music usually involves the interplay of multiple parts, and more recently, showy guitar solos as well. Lyrics are most often in Kiswahili or English.
There is also some emerging aspect of Lingala borrowed from Congolese musicians. Lyrics are also written in local languages. Urban radio generally only plays English music, though there also exist a number of vernacular radio stations. Zilizopendwa is a genre of local urban music that was recorded in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s by musicians such as Daudi Kabaka, Fadhili William, and Sukuma Bin Ongaro, and is particularly enjoyed by older people—having been popularized by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation's Kiswahili service.
The Isukuti is a vigorous dance performed by the Luhya sub-tribes to the beat of a traditional drum called the Isukuti during many occasions such as the birth of a child, marriage, or funeral. Other traditional dances include the Ohangla among the Luo, Nzele among the Mijikenda, Mugithi among the Kikuyu, and Taarab among the Swahili. Benga music has been popular since the late 1960s, especially in the area around Lake Victoria. The word benga is occasionally used to refer to any kind of pop music. Bass, guitar, and percussion are the usual instruments.
Additionally, Kenya has a growing Christian gospel music scene. Prominent local gospel musicians include the Kenyan Boys Choir.
Kenya is active in several sports, among them cricket, rallying, football, rugby, field hockey, and boxing. In track and field and long distance running, the country is known chiefly for its dominance in middle-distance and long-distance competition, having consistently produced Olympic and Commonwealth Games champions in various distance events, especially the 800m, 1,500m, 3,000m steeplechase, 5,000m, 10,000m, and the marathon. Kenyan athletes (particularly Kalenjin), continue to dominate the world of distance running, although competition from Morocco and Ethiopia has reduced this supremacy.
Kenya's best-known athletes include the four-time women's Boston Marathon winner and two-time world champion Catherine Ndereba, 800m world record holder David Rudisha, and former marathon stalwarts, current world record-holder Paul Tergat, and John Ngugi. Kenya won several medals during the Beijing Olympics: six gold, four silver, and four bronze, making it Africa's most successful nation in the 2008 Olympics. New athletes gained attention, such as Pamela Jelimo, the women's 800m gold medalist who went on to win the IAAF Golden League jackpot; and Samuel Wanjiru, 2008 winner of the men's marathon.
Retired Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion Kipchoge Keino helped usher in Kenya's ongoing distance dynasty in the 1970s and was followed by Commonwealth Champion Henry Rono's spectacular string of world record performances. Lately, there has been controversy in Kenyan athletics circles, with the defection of a number of Kenyan athletes to represent other countries, chiefly Bahrain and Qatar. The Kenyan Ministry of Sports has tried to stop the defections with little success, with Bernard Lagat being the latest, choosing to represent the US. Most of these defections occur because of economic or financial factors. Decisions by the Kenyan government to tax athletes' earnings may also be a motivating factor. Some elite Kenyan runners who cannot qualify for their country's strong national team find it easier to qualify by running for other countries.
Kenya has been a dominant force in women's volleyball within Africa, with both the clubs and the national team winning various continental championships in the past decade. The women's team has competed at the Olympics and World Championships, though without any notable success.
Cricket is another popular sport, also ranking as the most successful team sport. Kenya has competed in the Cricket World Cup since 1996. They upset some of the world's best teams and reached the semi-finals of the 2003 tournament. They won the inaugural World Cricket League Division 1 hosted in Nairobi and participated in the World T20. They also participated in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. Their current captain is Rakep Patel.
Kenya is represented by Lucas Onyango as a professional rugby league player who plays with the English club Oldham. Besides the former Super League team, he has played for the Widnes Vikings and with the Sale Sharks.
Rugby is increasing in popularity, especially with the annual Safari Sevens tournament. The Kenya Sevens team ranked 9th in the IRB Sevens World Series for the 2006 season. In 2016, the team beat Fiji at the Singapore Sevens finals, making Kenya the second African nation after South Africa to win a World Series championship.
Kenya was once also a regional powerhouse in football. However, its dominance has been eroded by wrangles within the now defunct Kenya Football Federation, leading to a suspension by FIFA which was lifted in March 2007.
In the motor rallying arena, Kenya is home to the world-famous Safari Rally, commonly acknowledged as one of the toughest rallies in the world. It was a part of the World Rally Championship for many years until its exclusion after the 2002 event owing to financial difficulties. Some of the best rally drivers in the world have taken part in and won the rally, such as Björn Waldegård, Hannu Mikkola, Tommi Mäkinen, Shekhar Mehta, Carlos Sainz, and Colin McRae. Although the rally still runs annually as part of the Africa rally championship, the organizers are hoping to be allowed to rejoin the World Rally championship in the next couple of years. Nairobi has hosted several major continental sports events, including the FIBA Africa Championship 1993, where Kenya's national basketball team finished in the top four, its best performance to date.
Kenyans generally have three meals in a day—breakfast, lunch, and supper. In between, they have the 10 a.m. tea, and 4 p.m. tea. Breakfast is usually tea or porridge with bread, boiled sweet potatoes or yams. Githeri is a common lunchtime dish in many households, while Ugali with vegetables, sour milk (mursik), meat, fish or any other stew is generally eaten by much of the population for lunch or supper. Regional variations and dishes also exist. In western Kenya, home of the Luo, fish is a common dish. Among the Kalenjin, who dominate much of the Rift Valley Region, mursik is a customary drink.
In cities such as Nairobi, there are fast-food restaurants, including Steers, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Subway. There are also many fish-and-chips diners and takeouts. Cheese is becoming more popular in Kenya, with consumption increasing particularly among the middle class.
Jarrette Fellows, Jr. / Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License