Join our weekly newsletter.
Articles, news, and ideas.

Languages, people and their cultures.

In need of a translation or interpreting service? Get a 5% lifetime discount now!

Kenya

Kenya Guide. Kenya Country Profile.

Country Profile: Kenya.

Fact: Kenya is named after the majestic Mount Kenya, a soaring mountain rising almost 5,200 meters into the air with mountain peaks covered with glaciers.

Kenya is one of the most well known countries in Africa and is often associated with going on safari, because it is here that the Big Five animals of Africa could be easily found. The Republic of Kenya is a country that is located in the eastern portion of the African continent.

Kenya boasts of being the most industrially developed nation in the East African region. The capital city of the country is Nairobi, which is also the most populated city in Kenya, having almost 3.4 million residents. The coastal city of Mombasa is another major city in terms of population with under a million residents, while the city of Kisumu has over 650,000, and Nakuru is home to 1.3 million people.

Kenya's highlands have been developed into one of the most successful agricultural regions in the continent. The country’s plateaus are some of the most beautiful and biodiverse in the continent. At the same time, the sprawling lands of Kenya, especially in the Masai Mara are the backdrop for one of the most amazing natural phenomenon in the world, the great wildebeest migration. Between the months of June and September, about 11.5 million wildebeest make the migration from the Serengeti in Tanzania to Masai Mara, covering a distance of 1,800 miles.

From the interesting cuisine, rich culture, diverse people and amazing natural scenery, Kenya has it all.

:: Brief History ::

Kenya is one of the oldest countries in the world, with a long and rich history dating back to prehistoric times. Fossils of giant crocodiles found near Lake Turkana indicate activity in the area more than 200 million years ago. Paleontologists have also unearthed fossils of primates that date back over 20 million year ago, indicating some form of human life, proving that Kenya is one of the early cradles of civilization.

The first human inhabitants of Kenya were classified as hunter-gatherers, which later developed agricultural and herding techniques. In 500 BC, Turkana, Maasai, Samburu, and Luo tribes that practiced animal husbandry and raised livestock from Sudan migrated to Kenya. In the first millennium, Bantu farmers such as the Kikuyu, Kamba, Meru, Luhya, Mijikenda, Ambeere, Kisii and Aermbu groups from West Africa migrated to Kenya, bringing with them modern agricultural techniques as well as ironworking skills.

Between the 1st to the 15th centuries, Arab and Persian traders arrived at the Kenyan coast to establish trade and eventually settle in the area. The Arabs eventually established sultanates in the region and are responsible for the spread of Islam to the people. The Arabs are credited with developing Mombasa as an important trading port, while the Persians introduced the use of copper coins in the 8th century. This diversity in the region resulted in a thriving community based in a number of industries. Unfortunately, many of those living on the Kenyan coast were placed in the prosperous slave trade of the country. Ivory was another valuable commodity in the country during pre-colonial times.

The 19th century marked the beginning of the country’s colonial history. By 1890, the Imperial British East Africa Company arrived on the country’s shores. The British were responsible for building the Kenya-Uganda railway, bringing in numerous Indian immigrants to work. The use of English and the spread of Christianity are also credited to the Europeans.

In the 20th century, the Europeans led by the British, settled in the area making their wealth from coffee and tea plantations. By the 1930s, the whites had majority control of the country’s political power, land, wealth and important industries, while the over one million Kikuyu people remained as farm workers.

This social inequality resulted in the Mau Mau Rebellion in the 1950s, resulting in the loss of life of about 4,700 Mau Mau people. The people sought to gain independence from British rule. However, it was not until 1963 that Kenya would be declared an independent Republic from the United Kingdom.

The Republic of Kenya was declared on December 12, 1964, with Jomo Kenyatta as the first president of the country, which was quickly succeeded by the more than two-decade rule of Daniel arap Moi. Following Kenya’s post-colonial period, the country underwent much political and social turmoil.

Today, Kenya is recognized as a presidential representative democratic republic, with 47 semi-autonomous counties. Compared to its other African neighbors, Kenya has managed to maintain political stability despite many corruption problems.

It has the largest East African economy, with a GDP (purchasing power parity) of almost $70.1 billion in 2011. This is the 83rd biggest GDP in the world although about half of the population is still considered to be living below the poverty line.

Services, agriculture and industry make up the country’s GDP. Tea, coffee, sugarcane, wheat, corn, fruit and vegetables, as well as dairy products and various meats continue to be agricultural staples of the country, while small-scale consumer good production, oil refining, and various industries such as aluminum, lead, steel, and cement continue to thrive. Kenya also has a solid tourism industry as well as a strong commercial ship repair industry.

:: Geography of Kenya ::

Measuring over 580,000 square kilometers, Kenya is the 48th largest country in the world in terms of size. The majority of Kenya’s area is comprised of land, while only a small portion of the country is water.

Kenya’s typography is varied, ranging from the coast of the Indian Ocean, to low plains in the central highlands. The Kenyan Highlands are the highest point in the country and a fertile agricultural region of the country.

Location

Kenya is in the African continent close to the Equator belt. It faces the Indian Ocean and is located in Eastern Africa between the countries of Somalia and Tanzania. Its geographic coordinates are 1° 00’ North and 38° 00’ East.

Area

Kenya is a vast nation covering 580,000 square kilometers of land, or 224,080 square miles. The country’s size is slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Texas. Its enormous size places it as the 48th largest country in the world in terms of land area. Of its total area, just over two percent comprises water, giving the country only 11,227 square kilometers of water, or just 4,335 square miles.

Land Boundaries

Kenya lies on the earth’s equator and is bordered by several other African nations. To the south is the country of Tanzania, while its western neighbor is Uganda. To the northwest is the country of South Sudan, with Ethiopia sharing its northern border. Finally, on the northeast side is the neighboring country of Somalia.

The total land boundaries of Kenya measure 3,477 kilometers. Uganda is the largest land border at 933 kilometers, followed by Ethiopia at 861 kilometers. Tanzania’s land border measures 769 kilometers, while Somalia is at 682 kilometers. Finally, South Sudan shares a land border of 232 kilometers.

Maritime Claims

Kenya has a coastline that measures 536 kilometers and faces the Indian Ocean. Its territorial sea stretches out 12 nautical miles while the exclusive economic zone reaches up to 200 nautical miles. The continental shelf of Kenya is measured at a depth of 200 nautical miles or up to the depth of exploitation.

Climate

Most of Kenya enjoys a hot tropical climate, averaging about 30 °C or 86 °F during the day. Those who live on the coast enjoy a more temperate climate, while the temperatures tend to rise further inland. Those in the south, west and central regions enjoy a climate that is typical of other countries found close to the earth’s equator. In the country’s north and northeast side. The climate is more arid and semi-arid.

Sunshine is predominant throughout the year, although it is slightly cooler during the evening and early morning hours in the country. The months of March to June receive the most rains, called “long rains.” From October to December, the country experiences “short rains.” When rain occurs in the country, it is usually heavy and normally concentrated in the afternoon or evening hours. February and March are known as the hottest months in the country, while the coolest months are July and August.

Terrain

Kenya is spread on the low coastal plain facing the Indian Ocean and at the same time has several mountain ridges and fertile plateaus in the west. The Great Rift Valley bisects the central highlands of the country. The center of the country sits at 3,000 meters or 9,000 feet above sea level.

Elevation Extremes

Mount Kenya is the highest point in the country, with the peak measuring 5,199 meters or 17,057 feet. This is the second highest mountain in the African continent, after Mount Kilimanjaro, and is often covered by glaciers. It is also the 32nd tallest mountain in the world. Mount Kenya can be found in the Kenyan highlands, which are bisected by the Great Rift Valley. It is after this great mountain that the country of Kenya was named after.

Mount Kenya is only 150 kilometers or 93 miles away from the capital city of Nairobi. The highest peaks of Mount Kenya are Batian, which measures 5,199 meters, Nelion, which measures 5,188 meters, and Point Leana, which stands at 4,985 meters. Mount Kenya is regarded as an extinct stratovolcano dating back more than three million years. The center of the mountain has been categorized as a National Park that is visited by more than 16,000 visitors each year. This is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The lowest point in Kenya is the Indian Ocean.

Natural Resources

Kenya is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. Limestone, soda ash, salt, fluorspar, zinc, diatomite, gypsum and various gemstones are some of the minerals and natural resources available in the country. The country is also rich in hydropower.

Wildlife is likewise abundant in the country, especially in the Masai Mara. In fact, Kenya is known for the great wildebeest migration, which happens every year. It is considered one of the Natural Wonders of the World. The Big Five animals of Africa are also abundant in Kenya. This is why the country has become known for travelers on safari seeking lions, leopards, buffalos, rhinoceros and elephants. Other wild animals are aplenty in Kenya, as well as various reptiles and various bird species.

Land Use

Only eight percent of the land is used as arable land. Less than a percent of the land is used for permanent crops, while other uses such as residential and industrial use account for 91% of land use. As of 2003, 1,030 square kilometers of the country’s land has been irrigated.

Natural Hazards

The lack of water is a major concern in Kenya. Recurring droughts are a problem especially during the dry season, while flooding is a major concern during the rainy season. Volcanic activity is a slight concern in the country since there is limited volcanic activity over the years. The only active volcano in the country is South Island, while the Barrier’s last known eruption was almost a century ago.

Current Environmental Issues

Kenya has serious water concerns. Not only does the country have little water supply, the existing waters are in danger of water pollution from urban and industrial wastes. The heavy use of pesticides in farming and other agricultural activities have also degraded the water quality in the country. In Lake Victoria, there is a water hyacinth infestation, indicating water pollution.

The country’s forests are also at risk for deforestation. This is a major concern since many of the country’s wildlife and big game reside and rely on the country’s forests. Soil erosion and desertification are other environmental concerns facing the country today.

Poaching is also a major problem in Africa. Many of the Big Five animals and other big game are being placed at risk for extinction due to indiscriminate illegal poaching. The continued population explosion, as well as cattle overgrazing and the worldwide climate changes are some of the reasons that are continuing to exacerbate the environmental problems of the country.

International Environmental Agreements

In response to the growing environmental concerns in the country, Kenya has entered into several international agreements. Kenya entered into agreements on biodiversity, as well as climate change. It has signed with the Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol. It has also entered agreements to address ozone layer protection, desertification, the endangered species and hazardous wastes. To protect its waters and marine life, Kenya has agreements regarding the Law of the Sea, Marine dumping and Marine Life Conservation, as well as ship pollution, wetlands protection and whaling. Kenya is yet to ratify any of these signed agreements.

:: People of Kenya ::

As of 2012, more than 43 million people call Kenya their home. The people of Kenya are referred to as Kenyans, encompassing 42 various peoples and cultures in the country. The three major African sociolinguistic groups in the country are Bantu at 67% of the total population, Nilotic, which accounts for 30% of the people, and Cushitic, that makes up 3% of the total demographic.

Population

The population in Kenya is at 43,013,341 as of 2012. This makes it the 31st most populated country in the world although the people of Kenya account for just 0.61% of the world’s total population. This is a tremendous leap from the 2009 census listing Kenya as having 38.6 million residents. In the last century, the country experienced a population explosion, growing from under three million residents at the start of the 20th century to over 40 million by the 21st century.

There are 67.2 people living per square kilometer in Kenya, or a population density of 174.1 individuals per square mile. The most populated city in the country is the capital city of Nairobi, which is home to more than 2.7 million residents. The coastal city of Mombasa has close to 800,000 residents, while Nakuru in the Rift Valley is home to about 260,000 people. The city of Eldoret also in the Rift Valley has 218,000 citizens while Kisumu in the Nyanza province has over 216,000 residents.

Age Structure

Kenya has a young population with a median age of only 18.9. Of the 43 million Kenyans that live in the country, the bulk of the population is between the ages of 15 to 64 years, accounting for over 55% of the total citizenry. Of this, 11.4 million are male, while 11.3 million are female. Over 42% of the population are minors aged between 0 to 14 years old. Of this group, there are once again slightly more males than females. Male minors are at 8.7 million, while female minors are at 8.6 million. Finally, senior citizens make up a minuscule portion of the population, accounting for only 2.7% of the total count. However, among seniors, women outnumber men. There are 605,031 females and 497,389 males in the senior age group.

About 73% of the country’s total population is under the age of thirty, giving the country of Kenya a very young population.

Median Age

In Kenya, the median age is at 18.9 years. The median age of an average Kenyan man is at 18.8 years while a Kenyan woman’s median age is 19.

Population Growth Rate

Kenya has a slightly higher population growth rate compared to other nations in the world. In 2011, the population growth rate of the country is at 2.44%. This places it as the 29th highest growth rate in the world. However, it is still lower compared to other African nations such as Zimbabwe, which has the highest population growth rate in the continent at 4.36%, Niger at 3.64%, Uganda, which is at 3.58% and Ethiopia at 3.18%. Kenya’s population growth rate is lower than Nigeria and Senegal, which are at 2.5%, but higher than The British Virgin Islands and Mozambique, which have a 2.44% growth rate.

In the last century, the country’s population ballooned from under three million people to more than 40 million Kenyans.

Birth and Death Rates

There are 31.93 births per 1,000 people in the country. This makes the birth rate in the country the 37th highest in the world. At the same time, there are 7.26 deaths per 1,000 people, which places it in the 122nd position compared to death rates worldwide.

The fertility rate in the country is quite high compared to the worldwide average. Each Kenyan woman will have about 4.49 children. At the same time, the mortality rate of women is quite high due to the practice of female genital mutilation. The practice has been banned in Kenya since 2011 and massive educational campaigns have helped modernize the country, so the practice has been on the decline.

The country’s maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world. At 530 deaths per 100,000 live births, Kenya’s maternal mortality rate ranks in the 26th place, just below the country of Rwanda and Lesotho, but slightly above Malawi, Zambia and Ethiopia.

Sex Ratio

Overall, there are about an equal number of males and females in the country. At birth, there are 1.02 males for every female. Between 0 to 14 years of age, there are 1.01 males for every female. At 15 to 64 years of age, the ratio evens out at one male for every female in the country. However, the ratio declines for males aged 65 years and older. At the senior level, there are only 0.79 males for every female.

Infant Mortality Rate

The country suffers from a high infant mortality rate, with about 44 deaths per 1,000 live births. Compared to the rest of the world, Kenya’s infant mortality rate is the 52nd highest in the world. For male children, there are 48 deaths per 1,000 live births, while for female babies, there are 39 deaths for every 1,000 live births.

Life Expectancy at Birth

In 2011, the life expectancy of the total population is at 63.07 years. This is an improvement from 2009 levels, wherein the life expectancy of an average Kenyan was only at 55 years. Compared to the rest of the world, the life expectancy at birth in the country is in the 176th place out of 221 countries listed. The Kenyan life expectancy is better than other African nations such as South Africa, which has a life expectancy of only 49.41 year. Its neighbor Tanzania has 53.14 years and Chad’s rate is at 48.69 years. Females outlive men, since males have an average life expectancy of 61.62 years, while females have an average life expectancy of 64.55 years.

There are various causes as to the low life expectancy rate in the country. Many preventable diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, pneumonia, diarrhea and malnutrition cause the deaths of many children in the country. Poor government health policies and lack of adequate medical care are also factors for the country’s poor life expectancy rates.

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is a serious problem in Kenya, a health situation shared by many other African nations. HIV in the country affects approximately 6.3% of the adult population of Kenya. There are about 1.5 million Kenyans living with HIV or AIDS, placing it just behind South Africa (5.5 million), Nigeria (3.3 million) and India (2.3 million). This places the country of Kenya as having one of the highest incidents of HIV/AIDS in the world.

In 2009, it has the 11th highest incidence of HIV/AIDS, just below Mozambique, Malawi and Uganda and slightly above Tanzania, Cameroon and Gabon. Fortunately, the prevalence of HIV for those between the ages of 15 and 24 years of age as well as in pregnant women has been on the decline.

HIV/AIDS in the country caused the deaths of about 80,000 Kenyans in 2009. This makes Kenya one of the top ten countries in the world with HIV/AIDS listed as a cause of death. Kenya is the country with the sixth highest deaths caused by HIV/AIDS in the world and the fifth highest HIV/AIDS death rate in Africa. It is behind South Africa, Nigeria, India, Tanzania and Zimbabwe and ahead of Mozambique, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia.

Ethnic Groups

Various ethnic groups make up the ethnic profile in Kenya. The Kikuyu make up the majority of the population, accounting for 22% of the total demographic. The Luhya account for 14% while the Luo make up 13% of the total population. Kalenjins account for 12% and Kamba at 11% while Kisii and Meru each account for 6% of the total population. Other African tribes comprise the remaining 15%. Asians, Europeans, Arabs and all other non-African groups only make up about one percent of the total population in the country.

Religions

Christianity is a key religion in Kenya, with over 83% of the Kenyans believing in Christ. Of this, Protestants account for over 47% while Roman Catholics are at over 23% of the population. The Christians are mostly concentrated in the western areas of coastal province. About 11% of the people in Kenya believe in the Muslim faith. Most of the Muslims are concentrated in the coast province and about 10% are located in the upper portion of the Eastern Province. Those who believe in the Hindu religion number at around 50,000. Baha’is is another religion practiced in Kenya, with indigenous beliefs accounting for 1.7% of the total population.

Language

There are two official languages in Kenya. The first is English and the second is Kiswahili or Swahili. Aside from this, there are numerous indigenous languages spoken by various tribes in the country.

Literacy

The adult literacy rate in Kenya is quite low. Only 85.1% of those above the age of 15 are functionally literate, or have the ability to read and write. In Kenya, men have a higher literacy rate than women. Over 90% of the male adult population is literate, compared to only 79.7% of women. Education is free for the first eight years of schooling although the school life expectancy from primary to tertiary education lasts 11 years. Only 92% of children who are qualified attend the various schools in Kenya.

:: References ::
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenya
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ke.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13681341
http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2962.htm