Officially known as the Republic of Kenya, Kenya is part of the East African Region. It is comprised of 47 semi autonomous counties, each headed by an elected governor. It has a population of 52.2 Million people and is the largest economy in East Africa. Kenya’s largest city and capital is Nairobi while the coastal city of Mombasa is the country’s oldest city and first capital. Kisumi is the third largest city—an inland port on Lake Victoria. Other important urban centers are Nakuru and Eldoret.
A former British Colony, Kenya attained independence following a protracted struggle engineered by an indigenous fighting force called Mau Mau, formed in 1952. As a rebel group, Mau Mau didn’t register any commendable military success on the battlefield. After the capture of its key leaders like General China and Dedan Kimathi, it was defeated. However with the end of WW II, colonialism as a policy of economic and political hegemony would no longer survive in the post WW II world and the British were receptive to that fact. In 1963 the union jack was officially lowered and in its place the new Kenyan flag was hoisted to signify the country’s attainment of independence.
On the 12th Dec 1964 the Republic of Kenya was proclaimed and Jomo Kenyatta became the country’s first president. His term of office spanned over a decade during which he used his office as president to amass wealth. Several enterprises and huge tracts of land belonged to the Kenyatta family, as corruption threatened to undo the gains of self-rule. Kenyatta ruled Kenya until his death on the 22/08/ 1978. Following his death, Daniel Arap Moi ascended into state house but his presidency did not occasion any significant change in the way Kenya was governed. The country essentially remained a one party state under the all-powerful Kenya African National Union (KANU). Moi’s repressive rule came to an end in 2002, marking the demise of Kenya’s one party politics.
Mwai Kibaki became the country’s first president under a multi party system of governance. He swept to power under the National Rainbow Coalition Party. In 2007 he won another elective term in what was a highly contested presidential campaign. His rival Raila Odinga accused him of vote rigging. The charged stand off nearly culminated into a civil war. In the ensuing chaos, 1,500 people were killed in ethnic clashes and another 600,000 were internally displaced. Relations were to thaw later when a political deal brokered by former UN secretary General Kofi Anan saw the two political heavy weights agree to work together, with Kibaki retaining the presidency and Odinga serving as prime minister.
In 2010 Kenyans held a referendum and passed a new constitution, limiting presidential powers and devolving the central government. This further galvanized the country’s multi party system where each of the three arms of government was independent of the other.
Kenya is keen on maintaining friendly relations with its neighbors and is a member of the UN, IMF, World Bank, COMESA, a number of other international bodies and a signatory to several protocols across the world. In July 2015 Obama visited Kenya thereby becoming the first serving American president to do so. Close ties with her other Swahili speaking neighbors in the African Great Lakes Region are generally strong and is working with Uganda and Tanzania to establish Economic and Social Integration through common membership in the East African Community. As a regional peace broker, Kenya deployed troops in war torn Somalia- a UN funded mission by a couple of African states under the AMISOM umbrella.
Kenya’s Economy is agriculture based, with the sector employing 75% of the total workforce. This compared to less than 3 % in the food secure developed countries. The agricultural sector is the country’s prime foreign exchange earner but comes second in terms of GDP contributions. The top slot goes to the services sector. The main cash crops are tea, coffee and horticultural produce. Also grown in the fertile Kenya Highlands are sisal, pyrethrum, corn and wheat. In the lowlands we find coconuts, cotton sugarcane, sisal and cashew nuts. It is an emerging market but certainly not one of the least developed countries. Due to occasional dry spells, Kenya is sometimes victim to moments of severe famine.
The country has a strong services sector especially Telecom and Financial Services aggregating to 62% of GDP. Kenya’s performance on the Capital Market Index is quite encouraging, the Nairobi Securities Exchange is ranked 4TH in Africa in terms of Market Capitalization. The Central Bank of Kenya supervises over 40 Commercial Banks, alongside Mortgage Companies, savings and loan associations including a number of several core foreign exchange bureaus.
With 60 national parks and game reserves under Kenya Tourism Board, Tourism is another sector where the country rakes in million of dollars annually. Leading National Parks include; Hells Gate National Park, Nairobi National Park, Tsavo National Park, Amboseli National Park, Sambura National Reserve, the Masai Mara to mention but a few. In the Masai Mara, one of nature’s spectacular’s feats of the animal kingdom takes place. Zebras, antelopes but essentially wildebeests in excess of a million migrate from the Serengeti crossing the Mara River in search of fresh pasture and water. This annual, miraculous coordinated animal migration is such a marvel that it has been included onto the list of the wonders of the world. Other tourist sites worth visiting include Lamu Island, Lake Nakuru, Mount Kenya, Malindi, Masai markets and manyattas.
Like most third world countries, Kenya’s manufacturing capacity is nascent if not undeveloped. The country suffers acute technological innovativeness; existing industrial activity is mainly dominated by food processing like grain milling, beer production, sugar cane crushing. There is also ginning, leather tanning and a robust cement industry. Because of its oil refinery, the country imports crude petroleum, which it processes to get finished petroleum products. Supplementary to a budding industrial base, there is a massive informal sector commonly referred to as Jua Kali engaged in small scale manufacturing mainly of household items, auto parts and farm implements. Kenya is beneficiary to the United State’s initiative—African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA). In 2006, it exported to the US market, 270 US million dollars worth of textiles, fabrics and other products. The country’s oil deposits are still in the exploration stages, spearheaded by Tullow Oil and China State controlled offshore Oil and Gas Company (CNOOC)
With 15 airports all with paved runways, Kenya’s supremacy in the region as an aviation hub goes without much contest. It has a well-developed road network system connecting the capital to other smaller towns. The cornerstone of such roads is the ultra modern six-lane Thika highway. In addition, there is a modern railway network system and the first of its kind in the region, the standard gauge railway connecting Nairobi to Mombasa. Plans are underway to extend the line to Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret up to the Ugandan border.
Kenya is a multi ethnic society with an estimated 47 different communities –Bantu 67%, Nilotes 30% constitute majority of the local residents. Among the minorities are the Cushitic peoples, Arabs Indian and Europeans. The Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin, and Luo are the largest ethnic groups respectively. English and Swahili are the two official languages. In spite of its relatively enviable economic progress compared to her neighbors, Kenya’s income inequality remains so glaringly obvious as evidenced by the mushrooming of a number of slums, key among them—Kibera, considered the biggest in Africa.
Kenya is a highly religious country with Christianity accounting for 83%, 47.7 % of whom are Anglican, while 23.5 % Roman Catholic. Islam is the second largest religion comprising 15% of the population. Non-religious Kenyans make up 2.4%.
In the field of sports, Kenya is mainly active in cricket, rallying, football ruby and boxing. However the country is better known for producing some of the best middle and long distance athletes, having consistently emerged victorious in several Olympic and Commonwealth Championships.
Kenya still needs to take a few more strides in the field of Education. 38.5 % of its adult population is illiterate, with varying regional disparities. Nairobi enjoys the highest level of literacy at 87 % while the North East province has the lowest percentage at 8. Despite the impressive commercial approach and interests in the country, Kenya’s academia and higher education system is notoriously rigid and disconnected from the needs of the local labor market. It takes blame for the high number of unemployable and half-baked university graduates struggling to fit in the modern workplace.