Background: Revered president and liberation struggle icon Jomo KENYATTA led Kenya from independence until his death in 1978, when current President Daniel Toroitich arap MOI took power in a constitutional succession. The country was a de facto one-party state from 1969 until 1982 when the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) made itself the sole legal party in Kenya. MOI acceded to internal and external pressure for political liberalization in late 1991. The ethnically fractured opposition failed to dislodge KANU from power in elections in 1992 and 1997, which were marred by violence and fraud, but are viewed as having generally reflected the will of the Kenyan people. The country faces a period of political uncertainty because MOI is constitutionally required to step down at the next elections that have to be held by early 2003.
Government type: republic
Currency: 1 Kenyan shilling (KSh) = 100 cents
Geography of Kenya
Location: Eastern Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean, between Somalia and Tanzania
Geographic coordinates: 1 00 N, 38 00 E
total: 582,650 sq km
land: 569,250 sq km
water: 13,400 sq km
total: 3,446 km
border countries: Ethiopia 830 km, Somalia 682 km, Sudan 232 km, Tanzania 769 km, Uganda 933 km
Coastline: 536 km
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: varies from tropical along coast to arid in interior
Terrain: low plains rise to central highlands bisected by Great Rift Valley; fertile plateau in west
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mount Kenya 5,199 m
Natural resources: gold, limestone, soda ash, salt barites, rubies, fluorspar, garnets, wildlife, hydropower
arable land: 7%
permanent crops: 1%
permanent pastures: 37%
forests and woodland: 30%
other: 25% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 660 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: recurring drought in northern and eastern regions; flooding during rainy seasons
Environment – current issues: water pollution from urban and industrial wastes; degradation of water quality from increased use of pesticides and fertilizers; water hyacinth infestation in Lake Victoria; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; poaching.
Environment – international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: the Kenyan Highlands comprise one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa; glaciers on Mt. Kenya; unique physiography supports abundant and varied wildlife of scientific and economic value
People of Kenya
Kenya has a very diverse population that includes most major language groups of Africa. Traditional pastoralists, rural farmers, Muslims, and urban residents of Nairobi and other cities contribute to the cosmopolitan culture. The standard of living in major cities, once relatively high compared to much of Sub-Saharan Africa, has been declining in recent years. Most city workers retain links with their rural, extended families and leave the city periodically to help work on the family farm. About 75% of the work force is engaged in agriculture, mainly as subsistence farmers. The national motto of Kenya is harambee, meaning “pull together.” In that spirit, volunteers in hundreds of communities build schools, clinics, and other facilities each year and collect funds to send students abroad.
Population: 33,829,590 (July 2005 est.)
0-14 years: 41.95%
15-64 years: 55.26%
65 years and over: 2.79%
Population growth rate: 1.27%
Birth rate: 28.5 births/1,000 population
Death rate: 14.35 deaths/1,000 population
Net migration rate: -1.5 migrant(s)/1,000 population
note: according to UNHCR, by the end of 1999 Kenya was host to 223,700 refugees from neighboring countries, including: Somalia 141,000 and Sudan 64,250
Infant mortality rate: 67.99 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 47.49 years
male: 46.57 years
female: 48.44 years
Total fertility rate: 3.5 children born/woman
Ethnic groups: Kikuyu 22%, Luhya 14%, Luo 13%, Kalenjin 12%, Kamba 11%, Kisii 6%, Meru 6%, other African 15%, non-African (Asian, European, and Arab) 1%
Religions: Protestant 38%, Roman Catholic 28%, indigenous beliefs 26%, Muslim 7%, other 1%
Languages: English (official), Kiswahili (official), numerous indigenous languages
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 78.1%
female: 70% (1995 est.)
History of Kenya
Fossils found in East Africa suggest that protohumans roamed the area more than 20 million years ago. Recent finds near Kenya’s Lake Turkana indicate that hominids lived in the area 2.6 million years ago.
Cushitic-speaking people from northern Africa moved into the area that is now Kenya beginning around 2000 BC. Arab traders began frequenting the Kenya coast around the first century A.D. Kenya’s proximity to the Arabian Peninsula invited colonization, and Arab and Persian settlements sprouted along the coast by the eighth century. During the first millennium A.D., Nilotic and Bantu peoples moved into the region, and the latter now comprises three-quarters of Kenya’s population.
The Swahili language, a mixture of Bantu and Arabic, developed as a lingua franca for trade between the different peoples. Arab dominance on the coast was eclipsed by the arrival in 1498 of the Portuguese, who gave way in turn to Islamic control under the Imam of Oman in the 1600s. The United Kingdom established its influence in the 19th century.
The colonial history of Kenya dates from the Berlin Conference of 1885, when the European powers first partitioned East Africa into spheres of influence. In 1895, the U.K. Government established the East African Protectorate and, soon after, opened the fertile highlands to white settlers. The settlers were allowed a voice in government even before it was officially made a U.K. colony in 1920, but Africans were prohibited from direct political participation until 1944.
From October 1952 to December 1959, Kenya was under a state of emergency arising from the “Mau Mau” rebellion against British colonial rule. During this period, African participation in the political process increased rapidly.
The first direct elections for Africans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957. Kenya became independent on December 12, 1963, and the next year joined the Commonwealth. Jomo Kenyatta, a member of the predominant Kikuyu tribe and head of the Kenya African National Union (KANU), became Kenya’s first president. The minority party, Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU), representing a coalition of small tribes that had feared dominance by larger ones, dissolved itself voluntarily in 1964 and joined KANU.
A small but significant leftist opposition party, the Kenya People’s Union (KPU), was formed in 1966, led by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a former vice president and Luo elder. The KPU was banned and its leader detained after political unrest related to Kenyatta’s visit to Nyanza Province. No new opposition parties were formed after 1969, and KANU became the sole political party. At Kenyatta’s death in August 1978, Vice President Daniel arap Moi became interim President. On October 14, Moi became President formally after he was elected head of KANU and designated its sole nominee.
In June 1982, the National Assembly amended the constitution, making Kenya officially a one-party state, and parliamentary elections were held in September 1983. The 1988 elections reinforced the one-party system. However, in December 1991, parliament repealed the one-party section of the constitution. By early 1992, several new parties had formed, and multiparty elections were held in December 1992.
President Moi was reelected for another 5-year term. Opposition parties won about 45% of the parliamentary seats, but President Moi’s KANU Party obtained the majority of seats. Parliamentary reforms in November 1997 enlarged the democratic space in Kenya, including the expansion of political parties from 11 to 26. President Moi won re-election as President in the December 1997 elections, and his KANU Party narrowly retained its parliamentary majority, with 109 out of 122 seats.
Economy – overview: Kenya is well placed to serve as an engine of growth in East Africa, but its economy has been stagnating because of poor management and uneven commitment to reform. In 1993, the government of Kenya implemented a program of economic liberalization and reform that included the removal of import licensing, price controls, and foreign exchange controls. With the support of the World Bank, IMF, and other donors, the reforms led to a brief turnaround in economic performance following a period of negative growth in the early 1990s. Kenya’s real GDP grew 5% in 1995 and 4% in 1996, and inflation remained under control. Growth slowed after 1997, averaging only 1.5% in 1997-2000. In 1997, political violence damaged the tourist industry, and Kenya’s Enhanced Structural Adjustment Program lapsed due to the government’s failure to maintain reform or address public sector corruption. Severe drought in 1999 and 2000 caused water and energy rationing and reduced agricultural sector productivity. A new economic team was put in place in 1999 to revitalize the reform effort, strengthen the civil service, and curb corruption. The IMF and World Bank renewed their support to Kenya in mid-2000, but a number of setbacks to the economic reform program in late 2000 have renewed donor and private sector concern about the government’s commitment to sound governance. Long-term barriers to development include electricity shortages, inefficient government dominance of key sectors, endemic corruption, and high population growth.
GDP: purchasing power parity – $45.6 billion (2000 est.)
GDP – real growth rate: 0.4% (2000 est.)
GDP – per capita: purchasing power parity – $1,500 (2000 est.)
GDP – composition by sector:
services: 56% (1999 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 1.8%
highest 10%: 34.9% (1994)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 7% (2000 est.)
Labor force: 9.2 million (1998 est.)
Labor force – by occupation: agriculture 75%-80%
Unemployment rate: 50% (1998 est.)
revenues: $2.91 billion
expenditures: $2.97 billion (2000 est.)
Industries: small-scale consumer goods (plastic, furniture, batteries, textiles, soap, cigarettes, flour), agricultural products processing; oil refining, cement; tourism
Industrial production growth rate: 0.5% (2000 est.)
Electricity – production: 4.225 billion kWh (1999)
Electricity – production by source:
fossil fuel: 31%
other: 2% (1999 est.)
Agriculture – products: coffee, tea, corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruit, vegetables; dairy products, beef, pork, poultry, eggs
Exports: $1.7 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Exports – commodities: tea, coffee, horticultural products, petroleum products, fish, cement
Exports – partners: Uganda 18%, United Kingdom 13%, Tanzania 12%, Pakistan 8% (1999)
Imports: $3 billion (f.o.b., 2000 est.)
Imports – commodities: machinery and transportation equipment, petroleum products, iron and steel
Imports – partners: United Kingdom 12%, UAE 8%, Japan 8%, US 7% (1999)
Debt – external: $6.2 billion (2000)
Economic aid – recipient: $457 million (1997)
Currency: Kenyan shilling (KES)