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Brief History

The Colony of Kenya came to an end as soon as it gained its independence from the British in 1963. Since then, it is known as Kenya, or The Republic of Kenya, and is named after Mount Kenya, a significant landmark and the second among the highest mountain peaks of Africa. Following the 1997 elections, civil unrest continued and crime and corruption increased. This corruption was referred to as the economic equivalent of AIDS and lasted for a long time until 2002. In that yeara7 , Mwai Kibaki, the successor of Daniel Arap Moi, was elected President after Moi was constitutionally barred from running for the elections. The elections were judged free and fair by local and international observers, and seemed to mark a turning point in Kenya's democratic evolution.

Geography

Kenya, capital Nairobi, lies on the Indian Ocean coast, at the equator, and forms part of the East African Region. Two other major towns are Nakuru, Kisumu and the port of Mombasa. Covering an area of 580,367 square kilometers, Kenya is bordered by Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the north-east, Tanzania to the south, Uganda and Lake Victoria to the west and Sudan to the north-west. Its climate varies from tropical along coast to arid in interior and suffers from recurring drought and flooding during the rainy seasons from April to June. The Kenyan Highlands comprise one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa. Kenya has numerous wildlife reserves, containing thousands of animal species. The country is rich in natural resources such as limestone, soda ash, salt, gemstones, fluorspar, zinc, diatomite, gypsum, wildlife, hydropower.

People

Kenya has a population of 40,046,566 (2010) of many African and non-African ethnic groups (Arabs, Asians, Europeans) that speak English and Swahili, which are the official languages. Other languages include African languages such as Bantu, Nilotic, Cushitic and a minority of Middle-Eastern and Asian languages. The literacy rate is 85.1% (2009) and it has an unemployment rate of 40% (2009). Its religions are distributed among 78% Christians, 10% Muslims and 12% followers of indigenous beliefs.

Government

Kenya is a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President, currently Mwai Kibak, is both the head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Its Vice-President is Kalonzo Stephen Musyoka. Its legal system is based on Kenyan statutory law, Kenyan and English common law, tribal law, and Islamic law. It accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdictions with reservations. Executive power is exercised by the government while legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The 2008 constitutional amendments established the coalition government and the position of prime minister that is occupied by Raila Odinga. Its official currency is the Kenyan Shilling where 80.58 shillings are equivalent to US$1.

Economy

Kenya's economy is market-based, with a few state-owned infrastructure enterprises, and maintains a liberalized external trade system. The country is generally perceived as Eastern and central Africa's hub for Financial, Communication and Transportation services. The country’s GDP was estimated to be US$ 63.73 million in 2009. Kenya's economy is reasonably diversified, though most employment depends on agriculture, which contributes 19% of GDP. Industry makes 18% of the country’s GDP and services make 62.6% of the GDP. There is a high level of computer literacy, especially among the youth. The government, generally perceived as investment friendly, has enacted several regulatory reforms to simplify both foreign and local investment. An increasingly significant portion of Kenya's foreign inflows is from remittances by non-resident Kenyans who work in the US, Middle East, Europe and Asia. Compared to its neighbors, Kenya has a well developed social and physical infrastructure. It is considered the main alternative location to South Africa, for major corporations seeking entry into the African continent. Post-election violence in early 2008, coupled with the effects of the global financial crisis on remittance and exports, reduced estimated GDP growth to 2% or lower in 2008 and 2009.

In addition to its growing oil industry, Kenya has an active chemicals industry, as well as being one of the larger markets in the lubricants industry of the East African region. The major export commodities in Kenya include cut flowers, fluorspar, gemstones, gold, petroleum, pyrethrum, salt, soda ash, sodium carbonate, sugar, tea and coffee.

Imports include automobiles, beverages, capital goods, consumer goods, crude oil, and equipment, petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, professional and scientific instruments and resins.

The government has prioritized combating corruption having recently introduced key governance legislation, and has taken initial steps towards strengthening the judiciary. These efforts have helped to improve Kenya’s image which has previously been very poor and as a result donor aid was resumed in 2003

Kenya has an inflation rate of 20.5% (2009) and its Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is estimated to be US$766.62 (2008).


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