macrohistory & world report

Republic of Kenya

Map of Kenya

Kenya (capital Nairobi) and neighboring states

World Factbook as of November 2014: "Kenya has been hampered by corruption and by reliance upon several primary goods whose prices have remained low. Low infrastructure investment threatens Kenya's long-term position as the largest East African economy, although the Kenyatta administration has prioritized infrastructure development. International financial lenders and donors remain important to Kenya's economic growth and development. Unemployment is high at around 40%. The country has chronic budget deficits. Inflationary pressures and sharp currency depreciation peaked in early 2012 but have since abated following low global food and fuel prices and monetary interventions by the Central Bank. Recent terrorism in Kenya and the surrounding region threatens Kenya's important tourism industry. Kenya, in conjunction with neighboring Ethiopia and South Sudan, intends to begin construction on a transport corridor and oil pipeline into the port of Lamu in 2014."

Economic growth rate
2011: 4.3%
2010: 5.6%
2009: 2.6%

Labor force in agriculture
2007: 75%

Unemployment rate
2008: 40%

Public debt
2011: 48.5% of GDP

Export commodities
tea, horticultural products, coffee, petroleum products, fish, cement

Export partners
2009: Uganda 10.1%, Tanzania 9.8%, UK 8.8%, Netherlands 8.2%, US 5.8%, Egypt 4.7%, Democratic Republic of the Congo 4.3%

Income Distribution – GINI index
Ranks 50th among 140 countries (lower rank number is less equal).

Kenya has been described as having a landed elite that hires managers to run their estates while they live elsewhere – absentee owners – and that this elite controls much of the industrial and commercial sectors of the economy.

Health expenditures
2009: 12% of GDP


Living in an urban area
2010: 22%

Net migration rate
2011: Net loss of 0.23 persons per 1,000 population

Abortion is illegal in Kenya except to save the life of the mother. It is a contentious issue. Juliet Njeri writes for the BBC that "... over 300,000 Kenyan women undergo backstreet abortions every year, say human rights groups, and at least 2,600 of them die as a result of the often dangerous procedures."

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%

Protestant 45%, Roman Catholic 33%, Muslim 10%, indigenous beliefs 10%, other 2%. Note: estimates for the percentage adhering to Islam or indigenous beliefs vary widely.

Literacy (age 15 and over and can read and write)
2003: males: 90.6%, females: 79.7%


Eastern Africa, south of Somalia and north of Tanzania. 536 kilometers of coastline, on the Indian Ocean. More than twice the size of Nevada, equivalent to 763 by 763 kilometers. Capital: Nairobi. 

Kenya's population is almost 14 times greater than that of Kansas, with only 44% of agricultural land area of Kansas. In 2007 Kenya had roughly 926 persons per square kilometer of agricultural land, compared to 31 per square kilometer in Kansas.

Kenya has 569,250 square kilometers of land, but only 7% of it can be used for growing food.


(As of May 2014) Chief of state and head of government: Uhuru Kenyatta (president) since 9 April 2013, Roman Catholic, the National Alliance.

The president is elected by popular vote for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The National Assembly (parliament) is; unicameral with 224 seats; 210 of these are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms. The president appoints 12 of the members.

Recent History

On August 4, 2010 Kenyans approved a new Constitution, replacing the constitution created in 1963 at the time it became independent of British colonial rule. The 1963 Constitution was blamed for inequality and political patronage and described as ill-suited to multiparty politics. Under the 1963 Constitution the President was both head of state and head of government. Under the new Constitution the President will share powers with a Prime Minister.

Under the new Constitution, winning the presidency requires 50% of the vote and more than 25% of the vote in more that half of the electoral areas. It is expected that presidential candidates will now try to appeal to the whole population rather than individual ethnic groups.

The presidential election of 2007 engendered rioting that killed more than 1,000 people.

The new Constitution includes a clause that permits abortion in a few circumstances only, including if “the life or health of the mother is in danger.” Some church leaders, Catholic and Evangelical, urged a no vote in the referendum on August 4, claiming that the new Constitution would pave the way for abortion on demand.

There is talk in Kenya of less emphasis on ethnic identity than there was in 2007 and into 2008 but also talk of voters continuing to vote in blocs.

In Kenya, legislative power will rest with both the government and the National Assembly, and the judiciary is officially independent of the executive and the legislature.

April 9, 2013: Uhuru Kenyatta is sworn is sworn in as President, the first to be elected under Kenya's new constitution. For BBC News, Gabriel Gatehouse writes "it is hoped [that this] will put an end to the fierce tribalism that has bedevilled Kenyan politics. The fact that last month's poll passed off largely peacefully is perhaps a sign of its success."

Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.