Kenya facts for kids
Quick facts for kids
Republic of Kenya
Jamhuri ya Kenya (Swahili)
(English: "Let us all pull together")
Anthem: "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu"
(English: "O God of all creation")
and largest city
|Government||Unitary presidential republic|
• Deputy President
• Senate Speaker
from the United Kingdom
|12 December 1963|
|12 December 1964|
|580,367 km2 (224,081 sq mi) (48th)|
• Water (%)
• 2023 estimate
• 2019 census
|82/km2 (212.4/sq mi) (124th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2023 estimate|
|$333.1 billion (66th)|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2023 estimate|
|$118.1 billion (66th)|
• Per capita
|Gini (2015)||▼ 40.8
|HDI (2021)|| 0.575
medium · 152nd
|Currency||Kenyan shilling (KES)|
|Time zone||UTC+3 (East Africa Time)|
|Date format||dd/mm/yy (AD)|
|ISO 3166 code||KE|
According to the CIA, estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of mortality because of AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex, than would otherwise be expected.
Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya (Swahili: Jamhuri ya Kenya), is a country in East Africa. With a population of more than 47.6 million in the 2019 census, Kenya is the 28th most populous country in the world and 7th most populous in Africa.
Kenya's capital and largest city is Nairobi, while its oldest and second largest city, which until 1907 was also Kenya's first capital city, is the coastal city of Mombasa which includes Mombasa Island in the Indian Ocean and the surrounding mainland. Kisumu is the third-largest city and also an inland port in the Winam Gulf which, along with its numerous bays and human settlements, is one of the important maritime transport, fishing, farming, commercial, history and tourism hubs on Lake Victoria.
As of 2020, Kenya is the third-largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria and South Africa. Kenya is bordered by South Sudan to the northwest, Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the east, Uganda to the west, Tanzania to the south, and the Indian Ocean to the southeast. Its geography, climate and population vary widely, ranging from cold snow-capped mountaintops (Batian, Nelion and Point Lenana on Mount Kenya) with vast surrounding forests, wildlife and fertile agricultural regions to temperate climates in western and rift valley counties and dry less fertile arid and semi-arid areas and absolute deserts (Chalbi Desert and Nyiri Desert).
Kenya's earliest inhabitants were hunter-gatherers, like the present-day Hadza people. According to archaeological dating of associated artifacts and skeletal material, Cushitic speakers first settled in Kenya's lowlands between 3,200 and 1,300 BC, a phase known as the Lowland Savanna Pastoral Neolithic. Nilotic-speaking pastoralists (ancestral to Kenya's Nilotic speakers) began migrating from present-day South Sudan into Kenya around 500 BC. Bantu people settled at the coast and the interior between 250 BC and 500 AD.
European contact began in 1500 AD with the Portuguese Empire, and effective colonisation of Kenya began in the 19th century during the European exploration of the interior. Modern-day Kenya emerged from a protectorate established by the British Empire in 1895 and the subsequent Kenya Colony, which began in 1920. Numerous disputes between the UK and the colony led to the Mau Mau revolution, which began in 1952, and the declaration of independence in 1963. After independence, Kenya remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The current constitution was adopted in 2010 and replaced the 1963 independence constitution.
- Early History
- British Kenya (1888–1962)
- Mau Mau Uprising
- The first president of Kenya
- Administrative divisions
- Industry and manufacturing
- See also
Fossils found in Kenya suggest that primates roamed the area more than 20 million years ago. Recent findings near Lake Turkana indicate that hominids such as Homo habilis (1.8 and 2.5 million years ago) and Homo erectus (1.9 million to 350,000 years ago) are possible direct ancestors of modern Homo sapiens, and lived in Kenya in the Pleistocene period.
During excavations at Lake Turkana in 1984, Richard Leakey assisted by Kamoya Kimeu discovered the Turkana Boy, a 1.6-million-year-old fossil belonging to Homo erectus. Remarkable prehistoric sites in the interior of Kenya include the archaeoastronomical (study of ancient or traditional astronomies) site Namoratunga on the west side of Lake Turkana and the walled settlement of ThimLich Ohinga in Migori County.
The first inhabitants of present-day Kenya were hunter-gatherer groups. These people were later replaced by agropastoralist Cushitic speakers from the Horn of Africa. During the early Holocene, the regional climate shifted from dry to wetter climatic conditions, providing an opportunity for the development of cultural traditions, such as agriculture and herding, in a more favourable environment.
Around 500 BC pastoralists started migrating from present-day Southern Sudan into Kenya. These groups in Kenya include the Samburu, Luo, Turkana, Maasai.
By the first millennium AD, Bantu-speaking farmers had moved into the region. The Bantus originated in West Africa along the Benue River in what is now eastern Nigeria and western Cameroon. The Bantu migration brought new developments in agriculture and iron working to the region. The Kenyan coast had served host to communities of ironworkers and communities of Bantu subsistence farmers, hunters and fishers who supported the economy with agriculture, fishing, metal production and trade with foreign countries. These communities formed the earliest city states in the region which were collectively known as Azania.
Throughout the centuries, the Kenyan Coast has played host to many merchants and explorers. Among the cities that line the Kenyan coast is the City of Malindi. It has remained an important Swahili settlement since the 14th century and once rivalled Mombasa for dominance in the African Great Lakes region. Malindi has traditionally been a friendly port city for foreign powers. In 1414, the Chinese trader and explorer Zheng He representing the Ming Dynasty visited the East African coast on one of his last 'treasure voyages'. Malindi authorities welcomed the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498.
British Kenya (1888–1962)
The colonial history of Kenya dates from the establishment of a German protectorate over the Sultan of Zanzibar's coastal possessions in 1885, followed by the arrival of the Imperial British East Africa Company in 1888. Imperial rivalry was prevented when Germany handed its coastal holdings to Britain in 1890. This was followed by the building of the Kenya–Uganda railway passing through the country.
The building of the railway was resisted by some ethnic groups—notably the Nandi led by Orkoiyot Koitalel Arap Samoei for ten years from 1890 to 1900—however the British eventually built the railway. The Nandi were the first ethnic group to be put in a native reserve to stop them from disrupting the building of the railway.
During the railway construction era, there was a significant inflow of Indian people, who provided the bulk of the skilled manpower required for construction. They and most of their descendants later remained in Kenya and formed the core of several distinct Indian communities such as the Ismaili Muslim and Sikh communities.
At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the governors of British East Africa and German East Africa agreed a truce in an attempt to keep the young colonies out of direct hostilities. Lt. Col. Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck took command of the German military forces, determined to tie down as many British resources as possible.
Completely cut off from Germany, von Lettow conducted an effective guerrilla warfare campaign, living off the land, capturing British supplies, and remaining undefeated. He eventually surrendered in Northern Rhodesia (today Zambia) fourteen days after the Armistice was signed in 1918.
To chase von Lettow, the British deployed the British Indian Army troops from India but needed large numbers of porters to overcome the problems of transporting supplies far into the interior on foot. The Carrier Corps was formed and ultimately mobilised over 400,000 Africans, contributing to their long-term politicisation.
In 1920, the East Africa Protectorate was turned into a colony and renamed Kenya for its highest mountain. During the early part of the 20th century, the interior central highlands were settled by British and other European farmers, who became wealthy farming coffee and tea. By the 1930s, approximately 30,000 white settlers lived in the area and gained a political voice because of their contribution to the market economy.
The central highlands were already home to over a million members of the Kikuyu people, most of whom had no land claims in European terms and lived as itinerant farmers. To protect their interests, the settlers banned the growing of coffee, introduced a hut tax, and the landless were granted less and less land in exchange for their labour. A massive move to the cities began as their ability to provide a living from the land dwindled. There were 80,000 white settlers living in Kenya in the 1950s.
Throughout World War II, Kenya was an important source of manpower and agriculture for the United Kingdom. Kenya itself was the site of fighting between Allied forces and Italian troops in 1940–41 when Italian forces invaded. Wajir and Malindi were bombed as well.
In 1952, Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip were on holiday at the Treetops Hotel in Kenya when her father, King George VI, died in his sleep. The young princess cut short her trip and returned home immediately to take her throne. She was crowned Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey in 1953 and as British hunter and conservationist Jim Corbett (who accompanied the royal couple) put it, she went up a tree in Africa a princess and came down a queen.
Mau Mau Uprising
From October 1952 to December 1959, Kenya was in a state of emergency arising from the Mau Mau rebellion against British rule. The Mau Mau, also known as the Kenya Land and Freedom Army, were primarily members of the Kikuyu Group.
The governor requested and obtained British and African troops, including the King's African Rifles. The British began counter-insurgency operations. In May 1953, General Sir George Erskine took charge as commander-in-chief of the colony's armed forces, with the personal backing of Winston Churchill.
The capture of Warũhiũ Itote (also known as General China) on 15 January 1954 and his interrogation led to a better understanding of the Mau Mau command structure for the British. Operation Anvil opened on 24 April 1954, after weeks of planning by the army with the approval of the War Council. The operation effectively placed Nairobi under military siege.
Nairobi's occupants were screened and the Mau Mau supporters moved to detention camps. By the end of the emergency 4,686 Mau Mau, amounting to 42% of the total insurgents had been killed.
The capture of Dedan Kimathi on 21 October 1956 in Nyeri signified the ultimate defeat of the Mau Mau and essentially ended the military offensive. During this period, substantial governmental changes to land ownership occurred. The most important of these was the Swynnerton Plan, which was used to both reward loyalists and punish Mau Mau.
The first direct elections for native Kenyans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957. Despite British hopes of handing power to "moderate" local rivals, it was the Kenya African National Union (KANU) of Jomo Kenyatta that formed a government. The Colony of Kenya and the Protectorate of Kenya each came to an end on 12 December 1963 with independence being conferred on all of Kenya.
The United Kingdom ceded sovereignty over the Colony of Kenya. Kenya became an independent country under the Kenya Independence Act 1963 of the United Kingdom. Exactly 12 months later on 12 December 1964, Kenya became a republic under the name "Republic of Kenya".
Concurrently, the Kenyan army fought the Shifta War against ethnic Somali rebels inhabiting the Northern Frontier District, who wanted to join their kin in the Somali Republic to the north. A ceasefire was eventually reached with the signature of the Arusha Memorandum in October 1967, but relative insecurity prevailed through 1969. To discourage further invasions, Kenya signed a defence pact with Ethiopia in 1969, which is still in effect.
The first president of Kenya
On 12 December 1964 the Republic of Kenya was proclaimed, and Jomo Kenyatta became Kenya's first president. Under Kenyatta, corruption became widespread throughout the government, civil service, and business community. Kenyatta and his family were tied up with this corruption as they enriched themselves through the mass purchase of property after 1963. Their acquisitions in the Central, Rift Valley, and Coast Provinces aroused great anger among landless Kenyans. His family used his presidential position to acquire property. The Kenyatta family also heavily invested in the coastal hotel business, with Kenyatta personally owning the Leonard Beach Hotel. He ruled until his death on 22 August 1978.
Since the independence of Kenya in 1963, Kenya has usually had a one-party government and has been a member of the British Commonwealth. The people are, like the Congo, divided into many tribes that often fight. However, Kenya's government is trying to get the people to work together and has encouraged them to run businesses and factories. Kenya is a developing country, slowly growing more modern.
Following general elections held in 1997, the Constitution of Kenya Review Act designed to pave the way for more comprehensive amendments to the Kenyan constitution was passed by the national parliament.
In December 2002, Kenya held democratic and open elections, which were judged free and fair by most international observers. The 2002 elections marked an important turning point in Kenya's democratic evolution in that power was transferred peacefully from the Kenya African National Union (KANU), which had ruled the country since independence to the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), a coalition of political parties.
Under the presidency of Mwai Kibaki, the new ruling coalition promised to focus its efforts on generating economic growth, combating corruption, improving education, and rewriting its constitution. A few of these promises have been met. There is free primary education. In 2007, the government issued a statement declaring that from 2008, secondary education would be heavily subsidised, with the government footing all tuition fees.
2013 elections and new government
Under the new constitution and with President Kibaki prohibited by term limits from running for a third term, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta ran for office. He won with 50.51% of the vote in March 2013.
In December 2014, President Kenyatta signed a Security Laws Amendment Bill, which supporters of the law suggested was necessary to guard against armed groups. Opposition politicians, human rights groups, and nine Western countries criticised the security bill, arguing that it infringed on democratic freedoms. The governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France also collectively issued a press statement cautioning about the law's potential impact. Through the Jubilee Coalition, the Bill was later passed on 19 December in the National Assembly under acrimonious circumstances.
At 580,367 km2 (224,081 sq mi), Kenya is the world's 47th-largest country (after Madagascar). It lies between latitudes 5°N and 5°S, and longitudes 34° and 42°E. From the coast on the Indian Ocean, the low plains rise to central highlands which are bisected by the Great Rift Valley, and fertile plateaus lie on either side, around Lake Victoria and to the east.
The Kenyan Highlands are one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa. The highlands are the site of the highest point in Kenya and the second highest peak on the continent: Mount Kenya, which reaches a height of 5,199 m (17,057 ft) and is the site of glaciers. Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 m or 19,341 ft) can be seen from Kenya to the south of the Tanzanian border.
Kenya's climate varies from tropical along the coast to temperate inland to arid in the north and northeast parts of the country. The area receives a great deal of sunshine every month. It is usually cool at night and early in the morning inland at higher elevations.
The "long rains" season occurs from March/April to May/June. The "short rains" season occurs from October to November/December. The rainfall is sometimes heavy and often falls in the afternoons and evenings. Climate change is altering the natural pattern of the rainfall period, causing an extension of the short rains, which has begat floods, and reducing the drought cycle from every ten years to annual events, producing strong droughts such as the 2008–09 Kenya Drought.
The temperature remains high throughout these months of tropical rain. The hottest period is February and March, leading into the season of the long rains, and the coldest is in July, until mid-August.
Kenya has considerable land area devoted to wildlife habitats, including the Masai Mara, where blue wildebeest and other bovids participate in a large-scale annual migration. More than one million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras participate in the migration across the Mara River.
The "Big Five" game animals of Africa, that is the lion, leopard, buffalo, rhinoceros, and elephant, can be found in Kenya and in the Masai Mara in particular. A significant population of other wild animals, reptiles, and birds can be found in the national parks and game reserves in the country. The annual animal migration occurs between June and September, with millions of animals taking part, attracting valuable foreign tourism. Two million wildebeest migrate a distance of 2,900 kilometres (1,802 mi) from the Serengeti in neighbouring Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya, in a constant clockwise fashion, searching for food and water supplies. This Serengeti Migration of the wildebeest is listed among the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa.
Kenya had a 2019 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 4.2/10, ranking it 133rd globally out of 172 countries.
Kenya is divided into 47 semi-autonomous counties that are headed by governors. These 47 counties form the first-order divisions of Kenya.
The smallest administrative units in Kenya are called locations. Locations often coincide with electoral wards. Locations are usually named after their central villages/towns. Many larger towns consist of several locations. Each location has a chief, appointed by the state.
Constituencies are an electoral subdivision, with each county comprising a whole number of constituencies. An interim boundaries commission was formed in 2010 to review the constituencies and in its report, it recommended the creation of an additional 80 constituencies. Previous to the 2013 elections, there were 210 constituencies in Kenya.
Tourism in Kenya is the second-largest source of foreign exchange revenue following agriculture. The Kenya Tourism Board is responsible for maintaining information pertaining to tourism in Kenya. The main tourist attractions are photo safaris through the 60 national parks and game reserves. Other attractions include the wildebeest migration at the Masaai Mara, which is considered to be the 7th wonder of the world; historical mosques, and colonial-era forts at Mombasa, Malindi, and Lamu; renowned scenery such as the white-capped Mount Kenya and the Great Rift Valley; tea plantations at Kericho; coffee plantations at Thika; a splendid view of Mount Kilimanjaro across the border into Tanzania; and the beaches along the Swahili Coast, in the Indian Ocean. Tourists, the largest number being from Germany and the United Kingdom, are attracted mainly to the coastal beaches and the game reserves, notably, the expansive East and Tsavo West National Park, 20,808 square kilometres (8,034 sq mi) to the southeast.
Agriculture is the second largest contributor to Kenya's gross domestic product (GDP) after the service sector. In 2005, agriculture, including forestry and fishing, accounted for 24% of GDP, as well as for 18% of wage employment and 50% of revenue from exports. The principal cash crops are tea, horticultural produce, and coffee. Horticultural produce and tea are the main growth sectors and the two most valuable of all of Kenya's exports. The production of major food staples such as corn is subject to sharp weather-related fluctuations. Production downturns periodically necessitate food aid—for example in 2004, due to one of Kenya's intermittent droughts.
A consortium led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has had some success in helping farmers grow new pigeon pea varieties instead of maize, in particularly dry areas. Pigeon peas are very drought-resistant, so can be grown in areas with less than 650 millimetres (26 in) annual rainfall. Successive projects encouraged the commercialisation of legumes by stimulating the growth of local seed production and agro-dealer networks for distribution and marketing. This work, which included linking producers to wholesalers, helped to increase local producer prices by 20–25% in Nairobi and Mombasa. The commercialisation of the pigeon pea is now enabling some farmers to buy assets ranging from mobile phones to productive land and livestock, and is opening pathways for them to move out of poverty.
Tea, coffee, sisal, pyrethrum, corn, and wheat are grown in the fertile highlands, one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa. Livestock predominates in the semi-arid savanna to the north and east. Coconuts, pineapples, cashew nuts, cotton, sugarcane, sisal, and corn are grown in the lower-lying areas. Kenya has not attained the level of investment and efficiency in agriculture that can guarantee food security, and coupled with resulting poverty (53% of the population lives below the poverty line), a significant portion of the population regularly starves and is heavily dependent on food aid. Poor roads, an inadequate railway network, under-used water transport, and expensive air transport have isolated mostly arid and semi-arid areas, and farmers in other regions often leave food to rot in the fields because they cannot access markets. This was last seen in August and September 2011, prompting the Kenyans for Kenya initiative by the Red Cross.
Kenya's irrigation sector is categorised into three organizational types: smallholder schemes, centrally-managed public schemes, and private/commercial irrigation schemes.
The smallholder schemes are owned, developed, and managed by individuals or groups of farmers operating as water users or self-help groups. Irrigation is carried out on individual or on group farms averaging 0.1–0.4 ha. There are about 3,000 smallholder irrigation schemes covering a total area of 47,000 ha. The country has seven large, centrally managed irrigation schemes, namely Mwea, Bura, Hola, Perkera, West Kano, Bunyala, and Ahero, covering a total area of 18,200 ha and averaging 2,600 ha per scheme. These schemes are managed by the National Irrigation Board and account for 18% of irrigated land area in Kenya. Large-scale private commercial farms cover 45,000 hectares, accounting for 40% of irrigated land. They utilise high technology and produce high-value crops for the export market, especially flowers and vegetables.
Kenya is the world's 3rd largest exporter of cut flowers. Roughly half of Kenya's 127 flower farms are concentrated around Lake Naivasha, 90 kilometres northwest of Nairobi. To speed their export, Nairobi airport has a terminal dedicated to the transport of flowers and vegetables.
Industry and manufacturing
Although Kenya is a low middle-income country, manufacturing accounts for 14% of the GDP, with industrial activity concentrated around the three largest urban centres of Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu, and is dominated by food-processing industries such as grain milling, beer production, sugarcane crushing, and the fabrication of consumer goods, e.g., vehicles from kits.
Kenya also has a cement production industry. Kenya has an oil refinery that processes imported crude petroleum into petroleum products, mainly for the domestic market. In addition, a substantial and expanding informal sector commonly referred to as jua kali engages in small-scale manufacturing of household goods, auto parts, and farm implements.
Kenya's inclusion among the beneficiaries of the US Government's African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has given a boost to manufacturing in recent years. Since AGOA took effect in 2000, Kenya's clothing sales to the United States increased from US$44 million to US$270 million (2006). Other initiatives to strengthen manufacturing have been the new government's favourable tax measures, including the removal of duty on capital equipment and other raw materials.
The country has an extensive network of paved and unpaved roads. Kenya's railway system links the nation's ports and major cities, connecting it with neighbouring Uganda. There are 15 airports which have paved runways.
The largest share of Kenya's electricity supply comes from geothermal energy, followed by hydroelectric stations at dams along the upper Tana River, as well as the Turkwel Gorge Dam in the west. A petroleum-fired plant on the coast, geothermal facilities at Olkaria (near Nairobi), and electricity imported from Uganda make up the rest of the supply. A 2,000 MW powerline from Ethiopia is nearing completion.
Kenya's installed capacity increased from 1,142 megawatts between 2001 and 2003 to 2,341 in 2016. The state-owned Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), established in 1997 under the name of Kenya Power Company, handles the generation of electricity, while Kenya Power handles the electricity transmission and distribution system in the country. Shortfalls of electricity occur periodically, when drought reduces water flow. To become energy sufficient, Kenya has installed wind power and solar power (over 300 MW each), and aims to build a nuclear power plant by 2027.
Kenya has proven deposits of oil in Turkana. Tullow Oil estimates the country's oil reserves to be around one billion barrels. Exploration is still continuing to determine whether there are more reserves. Kenya currently imports all crude petroleum requirements. It has no strategic reserves and relies solely on oil marketers' 21-day oil reserves required under industry regulations. Petroleum accounts for 20% to 25% of the national import bill.
Kenya had a population of approximately 48 million in January 2017. The country has a young population, with 73% of residents under 30 because of rapid population growth, from 2.9 million to 40 million inhabitants over the last century.
Nairobi is home to Kibera, one of the world's largest slums. The shantytown is believed to house between 170,000 and one million people. The UNHCR base in Dadaab in the north houses around 500,000.
Kenya has a diverse population that includes many of Africa's major ethnoracial and linguistic groups. Although there is no official list of Kenyan ethnic groups, the number of ethnic categories and sub-categories recorded in the country's census has changed significantly over time, expanding from 42 in 1969 to more than 120 in 2019. Most residents are Bantus (60%) or Nilotes (30%). Cushitic groups also form a small ethnic minority, as do Arabs, Indians, and Europeans.
According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), in 2019, Kenya had a total population of 47,564,296. The largest native ethnic groups were the Kikuyu (8,148,668), Luhya (6,823,842), Kalenjin (6,358,113), Luo (5,066,966), Kamba (4,663,910), Somali (2,780,502), Kisii (2,703,235), Mijikenda (2,488,691), Meru (1,975,869), Maasai (1,189,522), and Turkana (1,016,174). The North Eastern Province of Kenya, formerly known as NFD, is predominantly inhabited by the indigenous ethnic Somalis. Foreign-rooted populations include Arabs, Asians, and Europeans.
Kenya's various ethnic groups typically speak their mother tongues within their own communities. The two official languages, English and Swahili, are used in varying degrees of fluency for communication with other populations. English is widely spoken in commerce, schooling, and government. Peri-urban and rural dwellers are less multilingual, with many in rural areas speaking only their native languages.
British English is primarily used in Kenya. Additionally, a distinct local dialect, Kenyan English, is used by some communities and individuals in the country, and contains features unique to it that were derived from local Bantu languages such as Kiswahili and Kikuyu. It has been developing since colonisation and also contains certain elements of American English. Sheng is a Kiswahili-based cant spoken in some urban areas. Primarily a mixture of Swahili and English, it is an example of linguistic code-switching.
69 languages are spoken in Kenya. Most belong to two broad language families: Niger-Congo (Bantu branch) and Nilo-Saharan (Nilotic branch), spoken by the country's Bantu and Nilotic populations respectively. The Cushitic and Arab ethnic minorities speak languages belonging to the separate Afroasiatic family, with the Indian and European residents speaking languages from the Indo-European family.
Largest cities or towns in Kenya
According to the 2019 Census
|1||Nairobi||4 397 073|
|2||Mombasa||1 208 333|
Most Kenyans are Christian (85.5%), with 53.9% Protestant and 20.6% Roman Catholic. The Presbyterian Church of East Africa has 3 million followers in Kenya and surrounding countries. There are smaller conservative Reformed churches, the Africa Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Independent Presbyterian Church in Kenya, and the Reformed Church of East Africa. Orthodox Christianity has 621,200 adherents. Kenya has by far the highest number of Quakers of any country in the world, with around 146,300. The only Jewish synagogue in the country is in Nairobi.
Islam is the second largest religion, comprising 10.9% of the population. 60% of Kenyan Muslims live in the Coastal Region, comprising 50% of the total population there, while the upper part of Kenya's Eastern Region is home to 10% of the country's Muslims, where they are the majority religious group. Indigenous beliefs are practised by 0.7% of the population, although many self-identifying Christians and Muslims maintain some traditional beliefs and customs. Nonreligious Kenyans are 1.6% of the population.
Some Hindus also live in Kenya. The numbers are estimated to be around 60,287, or 0.13% of the population.
Children attend nursery school, or kindergarten in the private sector until they are five years old. This lasts one to three years (KG1, KG2 and KG3) and is financed privately because there has been no government policy on pre-schooling until recently.
Basic formal education starts at age six and lasts 12 years, consisting of eight years in primary school and four in high school or secondary. Primary school is free in public schools and those attending can join a vocational youth/village polytechnic, or make their own arrangements for an apprenticeship program and learn a trade such as tailoring, carpentry, motor vehicle repair, brick-laying and masonry for about two years.
Those who complete high school can join a polytechnic or other technical college and study for three years, or proceed directly to university and study for four years. Graduates from the polytechnics and colleges can then join the workforce and later obtain a specialised higher diploma qualification after a further one to two years of training, or join the university—usually in the second or third year of their respective course. The higher diploma is accepted by many employers in place of a bachelor's degree and direct or accelerated admission to post-graduate studies is possible in some universities.
Public universities in Kenya are highly commercialised institutions and only a small fraction of qualified high school graduates are admitted on limited government-sponsorship into programs of their choice. Most are admitted into the social sciences, which are cheap to run, or as self-sponsored students paying the full cost of their studies. Most qualified students who miss out opt for middle-level diploma programs in public or private universities, colleges, and polytechnics.
In 2018, 18.5 percent of the Kenyan adult population was illiterate, which was the highest rate of literacy in East Africa. There are very wide regional disparities: for example, Nairobi had the highest level of literacy at 87.1 per cent, compared to North Eastern Province, the lowest, at 8.0 per cent. Preschool, which targets children from age three to five, is an integral component of the education system and is a key requirement for admission to Standard One (First Grade). At the end of primary education, pupils sit the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE), which determines those who proceed to secondary school or vocational training. The result of this examination is needed for placement at secondary school.
Primary school is for students aged 6/7-13/14 years. For those who proceed to the secondary level, there is a national examination at the end of Form Four – the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), which determines those proceeding to the universities, other professional training, or employment. Students sit examinations in eight subjects of their choosing. However, English, Kiswahili, and mathematics are compulsory subjects.
The Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS), formerly the Joint Admissions Board (JAB), is responsible for selecting students joining the public universities. Other than the public schools, there are many private schools, mainly in urban areas. Similarly, there are a number of international schools catering to various overseas educational systems.
Kenya was ranked 85th in the Global Innovation Index in 2021.
The culture of Kenya comprises multiple traditions. Kenya has no single prominent culture. It instead consists of the various cultures of the country's different communities.
Notable populations include the Swahili on the coast, several other Bantu communities in the central and western regions, and Nilotic communities in the northwest. The Maasai culture is well known to tourism, despite constituting a relatively small part of Kenya's population. They are renowned for their elaborate upper-body adornment and jewellery.
Additionally, Kenya has an extensive music, television, and theatre scene.
Kenya has a number of media outlets that broadcast domestically and globally. They cover news, business, sports, and entertainment. Popular Kenyan newspapers include:
- The Daily Nation; part of the Nation Media Group (NMG) (largest market share)
- The Standard
- The Star
- The People
- East Africa Weekly
- Taifa Leo
Television stations based in Kenya include:
- Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC)
- Citizen TV
- Kenya Television Network (KTN)
- NTV (part of the Nation Media Group (NMG))
- Kiss Television
- K24 Television
All these terrestrial channels are transmitted via a DVB T2 digital TV signal.
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o is one of Kenya's best-known writers. His novel Weep Not, Child depicts life in Kenya during the British occupation. The story details the effects of the Mau Mau on the lives of Kenyans. Its combination of themes—colonialism, education, and love—helped make it one of the best-known African novels.
M.G. Vassanji's 2003 novel The In-Between World of Vikram Lall won the Giller Prize in 2003. It is the fictional memoir of a Kenyan of Indian heritage and his family as they adjust to the changing political climates in colonial and post-colonial Kenya.
Since 2003, the literary journal Kwani? has been publishing Kenyan contemporary literature. Kenya has also nurtured emerging versatile authors such as Paul Kipchumba (Kipwendui, Kibiwott) who demonstrate a pan-African outlook.
Kenya has a diverse assortment of popular music forms, in addition to multiple types of folk music based on the variety of over 40 regional languages.
Drums are the most dominant instrument in popular Kenyan music. Drum beats are very complex and include both native rhythms and imported ones, especially the Congolese cavacha rhythm. Popular Kenyan music usually involves the interplay of multiple parts, and more recently, showy guitar solos as well. There are also a number of local hip-hop artists, including Jua Cali; Afro-pop bands such as Sauti Sol; and musicians who play local genres like Benga, such as Akothee.
Lyrics are most often in Kiswahili or English. There is also some emerging aspect of Lingala borrowed from Congolese musicians. Lyrics are also written in local languages. Urban radio generally only plays English music, though there also exist a number of vernacular radio stations.
Zilizopendwa is a genre of local urban music that was recorded in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s by musicians such as Daudi Kabaka, Fadhili William, and Sukuma Bin Ongaro, and is particularly enjoyed by older people—having been popularised by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation's Kiswahili service (formerly called Voice of Kenya or VOK).
The Isukuti is a vigorous dance performed by the Luhya sub-tribes to the beat of a traditional drum called the Isukuti during many occasions such as the birth of a child, marriage, or funeral. Other traditional dances include the Ohangla among the Luo, Nzele among the Mijikenda, Mugithi among the Kikuyu, and Taarab among the Swahili.
Additionally, Kenya has a growing Christian gospel music scene. Prominent local gospel musicians include the Kenyan Boys Choir.
Benga music has been popular since the late 1960s, especially in the area around Lake Victoria. The word benga is occasionally used to refer to any kind of pop music. Bass, guitar, and percussion are the usual instruments.
Kenya is active in several sports, among them cricket, rallying, football, rugby, field hockey, and boxing. The country is known chiefly for its dominance in middle-distance and long-distance athletics, having consistently produced Olympic and Commonwealth Games champions in various distance events, especially in 800 m, 1,500 m, 3,000 m steeplechase, 5,000 m, 10,000 m, and the marathon. Kenyan athletes (particularly Kalenjin), continue to dominate the world of distance running, although competition from Morocco and Ethiopia has reduced this supremacy. Kenya's best-known athletes include the four-time women's Boston Marathon winner and two-time world champion Catherine Ndereba, 800m world record holder David Rudisha, former marathon world record-holder Paul Tergat, and John Ngugi.
Kenya won several medals during the Beijing Olympics: six gold, four silver, and four bronze, making it Africa's most successful nation in the 2008 Olympics. New athletes gained attention, such as Pamela Jelimo, the women's 800m gold medalist who went on to win the IAAF Golden League jackpot, and Samuel Wanjiru, who won the men's marathon. Retired Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion Kipchoge Keino helped usher in Kenya's ongoing distance dynasty in the 1970s and was followed by Commonwealth Champion Henry Rono's spectacular string of world record performances. Lately, there has been controversy in Kenyan athletics circles, with the defection of a number of Kenyan athletes to represent other countries, chiefly Bahrain and Qatar. The Kenyan Ministry of Sports has tried to stop the defections, but they have continued anyway, with Bernard Lagat being the latest, choosing to represent the United States. Most of these defections occur because of economic or financial factors. Decisions by the Kenyan government to tax athletes' earnings may also be a motivating factor. Some elite Kenyan runners who cannot qualify for their country's strong national team find it easier to qualify by running for other countries.
Kenya has been a dominant force in women's volleyball within Africa, with both the clubs and the national team winning various continental championships in the past decade. The women's team has competed at the Olympics and World Championships, though without any notable success. Cricket is another popular sport, also ranking as the most successful team sport. Kenya has competed in the Cricket World Cup since 1996. They upset some of the world's best teams and reached the semi-finals of the 2003 tournament. They won the inaugural World Cricket League Division 1 hosted in Nairobi and participated in the World T20. They also participated in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. Their current captain is Rakep Patel.
Rugby is increasing in popularity, especially with the annual Safari Sevens tournament. The Kenya Sevens team ranked 9th in the IRB Sevens World Series for the 2006 season. In 2016, the team beat Fiji at the Singapore Sevens finals, making Kenya the second African nation after South Africa to win a World Series championship. Kenya was once also a regional powerhouse in football. However, its dominance has been eroded by wrangles within the now defunct Kenya Football Federation, leading to a suspension by FIFA which was lifted in March 2007.
In the motor rallying arena, Kenya is home to the world-famous Safari Rally, commonly acknowledged as one of the toughest rallies in the world. First held in 1953, it was a part of the World Rally Championship for many years until its exclusion after the 2002 event owing to financial difficulties. Some of the best rally drivers in the world have taken part in and won the rally, such as Björn Waldegård, Hannu Mikkola, Tommi Mäkinen, Shekhar Mehta, Carlos Sainz, and Colin McRae. The Safari Rally returned to the world championship in 2021, after the 2003–2019 events ran as part of the African Rally Championship.
Nairobi has hosted several major continental sports events, including the FIBA Africa Championship 1993, where Kenya's national basketball team finished in the top four, its best performance to date.
Kenya also has its own ice hockey team, the Kenya Ice Lions. The team's home ground is the Solar Ice Rink at the Panari Sky Centre in Nairobi, which is the first and largest ice rink in all of Africa.
Kenyans generally have three meals in a day—breakfast (kiamsha kinywa), lunch (chakula cha mchana), and supper (chakula cha jioni or simply chajio). In between, they have the 10-o'clock tea (chai ya saa nne) and 4 p.m. tea (chai ya saa kumi). Breakfast is usually tea or porridge with bread, chapati, mahamri, boiled sweet potatoes, or yams. Githeri is a common lunchtime dish in many households, while Ugali with vegetables, sour milk (mursik), meat, fish, or any other stew is generally eaten by much of the population for lunch or supper. Regional variations and dishes also exist.
In western Kenya, among the Luo, fish is a common dish; among the Kalenjin, who dominate much of the Rift Valley Region, mursik—sour milk—is a common drink.
Cheese is becoming more popular in Kenya, with consumption increasing particularly among the middle class.
In Spanish: Kenia para niños
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