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Introduction

Background

Trade centers such as Mombasa have existed along the Kenyan and Tanzanian coastlines, known as the Land of Zanj, since at least the 2nd century. These centers traded with the outside world, including China, India, Indonesia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Persia. By around the 9th century, the mix of Africans, Arabs, and Persians who lived and traded there became known as Swahili ("people of the coast") with a distinct language (KiSwahili) and culture. The Portuguese arrived in the 1490s and, using Mombasa as a base, sought to monopolize trade in the Indian Ocean. The Portuguese were pushed out in the late 1600s by the combined forces of Oman and Pate, an island off the coast. In 1890, Germany and the UK divided up the region, with the UK taking the north and the Germans the south, including present-day Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda. The British established the East Africa Protectorate in 1895, which in 1920 was converted into a colony and named Kenya after its highest mountain. Numerous political disputes between the colony and the UK subsequently led to the violent Mau Mau Uprising, which began in 1952, and the eventual declaration of independence in 1963.

Jomo KENYATTA, the founding president and an icon of the liberation struggle, led Kenya from independence in 1963 until his death in 1978, when Vice President Daniel Arap MOI took power in a constitutional succession. The country was a de facto one-party state from 1969 until 1982, after which time the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) changed the constitution to make itself the sole legal political 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. President MOI stepped down in December 2002 following fair and peaceful elections. Mwai KIBAKI, running as the candidate of the multiethnic, united opposition group, the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), defeated KANU candidate Uhuru KENYATTA, the son of founding president Jomo KENYATTA, and assumed the presidency following a campaign centered on an anticorruption platform. 

KIBAKI's reelection in 2007 resulted in two months of post-election ethnic violence that caused the death of more than 1,100 people and the dislocation of hundreds of thousands. Opposition candidate, Raila ODINGA, accused the government of widespread vote rigging. African Union-sponsored mediation led by former UN Secretary General Kofi ANNAN resulted in a power-sharing accord that brought ODINGA into the government in the restored position of prime minister. The power sharing accord included a broad reform agenda, the centerpiece of which was constitutional reform. In 2010, Kenyans overwhelmingly adopted a new constitution in a national referendum. The new constitution introduced additional checks and balances to executive power and devolved power and resources to 47 newly created counties. It also eliminated the position of prime minister. Uhuru KENYATTA won the first presidential election under the new constitution in March 2013. KENYATTA won a second and final term in office in November 2017 following a contentious, repeat election.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Eastern Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean, between Somalia and Tanzania

Geographic coordinates

1 00 N, 38 00 E

Area

total: 580,367 sq km

land: 569,140 sq km

water: 11,227 sq km

country comparison to the world: 51

Area - comparative

five times the size of Ohio; slightly more than twice the size of Nevada

Area comparison map
Area comparison map

Land boundaries

total: 3,457 km

border countries (5): Ethiopia 867 km; Somalia 684 km; South Sudan 317 km; Tanzania 775 km; Uganda 814 km

Coastline

536 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation

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

Elevation

highest point: Mount Kenya 5,199 m

lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m

mean elevation: 762 m

Natural resources

limestone, soda ash, salt, gemstones, fluorspar, zinc, diatomite, gypsum, wildlife, hydropower

Land use

agricultural land: 48.1% (2018 est.)

arable land: 9.8% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.9% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 37.4% (2018 est.)

forest: 6.1% (2018 est.)

other: 45.8% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

1,030 sq km (2012)

Major lakes (area sq km)

Fresh water lake(s): Lake Victoria (shared with Tanzania and Uganda) - 62,940 sq km

Salt water lake(s): Lake Turkana (shared with Ethiopia) - 6,400 sq km

Major watersheds (area sq km)

Atlantic Ocean drainage: (Mediterranean Sea) Nile (3,254,853 sq km)

Major aquifers

Ogaden-Juba Basin

Population distribution

population heavily concentrated in the west along the shore of Lake Victoria; other areas of high density include the capital of Nairobi, and in the southeast along the Indian Ocean coast as shown in this population distribution map

Natural hazards

recurring drought; flooding during rainy seasons

volcanism: limited volcanic activity; the Barrier (1,032 m) last erupted in 1921; South Island is the only other historically active volcano

Geography - note

the Kenyan Highlands comprise one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa; glaciers are found on Mount Kenya, Africa's second highest peak; unique physiography supports abundant and varied wildlife of scientific and economic value; Lake Victoria, the world's largest tropical lake and the second largest fresh water lake, is shared among three countries: Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda

Map description

Kenya map showing major cities as well as parts of surrounding countries and the Indian Ocean.

People and Society

Population

55,864,655 (2022 est.)

note: estimates for this country explicitly taken into account the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic

country comparison to the world: 27

Nationality

noun: Kenyan(s)

adjective: Kenyan

Ethnic groups

Kikuyu 17.1%, Luhya 14.3%, Kalenjin 13.4%, Luo 10.7%, Kamba 9.8%, Somali 5.8%, Kisii 5.7%, Mijikenda 5.2%, Meru 4.2%, Maasai 2.5%, Turkana 2.1%, non-Kenyan 1%, other 8.2% (2019 est.)

Languages

English (official), Kiswahili (official), numerous indigenous languages

major-language sample(s):
The World Factbook, the indispensable source for basic information. (English)

The World Factbook, Chanzo cha Lazima Kuhusu Habari ya Msingi. (Kiswahili)

Kiswahili audio sample:

Religions

Christian 85.5% (Protestant 33.4%, Catholic 20.6%, Evangelical 20.4%, African Instituted Churches 7%, other Christian 4.1%), Muslim 10.9%, other 1.8%, none 1.6%, don't know/no answer 0.2% (2019 est.)

Demographic profile

Kenya has experienced dramatic population growth since the mid-20th century as a result of its high birth rate and its declining mortality rate. More than 40% of Kenyans are under the age of 15 because of sustained high fertility, early marriage and childbearing, and an unmet need for family planning. Kenya’s persistent rapid population growth strains the labor market, social services, arable land, and natural resources. Although Kenya in 1967 was the first Sub-Saharan country to launch a nationwide family planning program, progress in reducing the birth rate has largely stalled since the late 1990s, when the government decreased its support for family planning to focus on the HIV epidemic. Government commitment and international technical support spurred Kenyan contraceptive use, decreasing the fertility rate (children per woman) from about 8 in the late 1970s to less than 5 children twenty years later, but it has plateaued at just over 3 children today.

Kenya is a source of emigrants and a host country for refugees. In the 1960s and 1970s, Kenyans pursued higher education in the UK because of colonial ties, but as British immigration rules tightened, the US, the then Soviet Union, and Canada became attractive study destinations. Kenya’s stagnant economy and political problems during the 1980s and 1990s led to an outpouring of Kenyan students and professionals seeking permanent opportunities in the West and southern Africa. Nevertheless, Kenya’s relative stability since its independence in 1963 has attracted hundreds of thousands of refugees escaping violent conflicts in neighboring countries; Kenya shelters more than 300,000 Somali refugees as of April 2017.

Age structure

0-14 years: 38.71% (male 10,412,321/female 10,310,908)

15-24 years: 20.45% (male 5,486,641/female 5,460,372)

25-54 years: 33.75% (male 9,046,946/female 9,021,207)

55-64 years: 4.01% (male 1,053,202/female 1,093,305)

65 years and over: 3.07% (2020 est.) (male 750,988/female 892,046)

2022 population pyramid
2022 population pyramid

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 69.8

youth dependency ratio: 65.5

elderly dependency ratio: 4.3

potential support ratio: 23.5 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 20 years

male: 19.9 years

female: 20.1 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 195

Birth rate

26.39 births/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 43

Death rate

5.01 deaths/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 196

Net migration rate

-0.19 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 111

Population distribution

population heavily concentrated in the west along the shore of Lake Victoria; other areas of high density include the capital of Nairobi, and in the southeast along the Indian Ocean coast as shown in this population distribution map

Urbanization

urban population: 29% of total population (2022)

rate of urbanization: 4.09% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

5.119 million NAIROBI (capital), 1.389 million Mombassa (2022)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.75 male(s)/female

total population: 1 male(s)/female (2022 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

20.3 years (2014 est.)

note: median age at first birth among women 25-49

Maternal mortality ratio

342 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 32

Infant mortality rate

total: 27.86 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 30.92 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 24.74 deaths/1,000 live births (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 59

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 69.69 years

male: 67.98 years

female: 71.43 years (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 175

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 91.3% of population

rural: 63.3% of population

total: 71.2% of population

unimproved: urban: 8.7% of population

rural: 36.7% of population

total: 28.8% of population (2020 est.)

Physicians density

0.16 physicians/1,000 population (2018)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 84% of population

rural: 48.1% of population

total: 58.2% of population

unimproved: urban: 16% of population

rural: 51.9% of population

total: 41.8% of population (2020 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: very high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever

vectorborne diseases: malaria, dengue fever, and Rift Valley fever

water contact diseases: schistosomiasis

animal contact diseases: rabies

Alcohol consumption per capita

total: 1.68 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

beer: 0.81 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

wine: 0.04 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

spirits: 0.81 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

other alcohols: 0.03 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 134

Tobacco use

total: 11.1% (2020 est.)

male: 19.5% (2020 est.)

female: 2.7% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 130

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 81.5%

male: 85%

female: 78.2% (2018)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 12.9%

male: 12%

female: 13.8% (2019)

Environment

Environment - current issues

water pollution from urban and industrial wastes; water shortage and degraded water quality from increased use of pesticides and fertilizers; flooding; water hyacinth infestation in Lake Victoria; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; poaching

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Convention, Marine Dumping-London Protocol, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 25.85 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 17.91 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 37.65 megatons (2020 est.)

Climate

varies from tropical along coast to arid in interior

Land use

agricultural land: 48.1% (2018 est.)

arable land: 9.8% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.9% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 37.4% (2018 est.)

forest: 6.1% (2018 est.)

other: 45.8% (2018 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 29% of total population (2022)

rate of urbanization: 4.09% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0% of GDP (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 121

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: very high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever

vectorborne diseases: malaria, dengue fever, and Rift Valley fever

water contact diseases: schistosomiasis

animal contact diseases: rabies

Food insecurity

exceptional shortfall in aggregate food production/supplies: due to drought conditions - in the March to June 2022 period, about 4.1 million people are estimated to be severely food insecure; this figure is about 40% higher than the same time last year; severe rainfall deficits during the March-May 2022 rainy season have impaired pasture regeneration in several central, northern and eastern pastoral and agro-pastoral areas; as of late July 2022, between 25% and more than 85% of the grassland was affected by severe drought reflecting consecutive poor rainy seasons since late 2020 affecting both crop and livestock production; prices of maize are at high levels across the country due to reduced availability and high fuel prices inflating production and transportation costs; as the June–September 2022 dry season has just started and forecasts point to a poor October–December 2022 “short‑rains” season, food insecurity conditions are expected to further deteriorate (2022)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 5,595,099 tons (2010 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 447,608 tons (2009 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 8% (2009 est.)

Major lakes (area sq km)

Fresh water lake(s): Lake Victoria (shared with Tanzania and Uganda) - 62,940 sq km

Salt water lake(s): Lake Turkana (shared with Ethiopia) - 6,400 sq km

Major watersheds (area sq km)

Atlantic Ocean drainage: (Mediterranean Sea) Nile (3,254,853 sq km)

Major aquifers

Ogaden-Juba Basin

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 495 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

industrial: 303 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

agricultural: 3.234 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Total renewable water resources

30.7 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Republic of Kenya

conventional short form: Kenya

local long form: Republic of Kenya (English)/ Jamhuri ya Kenya (Swahili)

local short form: Kenya

former: British East Africa

etymology: named for Mount Kenya; the meaning of the name is unclear but may derive from the Kikuyu, Embu, and Kamba words "kirinyaga," "kirenyaa," and "kiinyaa" - all of which mean "God's resting place"

Government type

presidential republic

Capital

name: Nairobi

geographic coordinates: 1 17 S, 36 49 E

time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: the name derives from the Maasai expression meaning "cool waters" and refers to a cold water stream that flowed through the area in the late 19th century

Administrative divisions

47 counties; Baringo, Bomet, Bungoma, Busia, Elgeyo/Marakwet, Embu, Garissa, Homa Bay, Isiolo, Kajiado, Kakamega, Kericho, Kiambu, Kilifi, Kirinyaga, Kisii, Kisumu, Kitui, Kwale, Laikipia, Lamu, Machakos, Makueni, Mandera, Marsabit, Meru, Migori, Mombasa, Murang'a, Nairobi City, Nakuru, Nandi, Narok, Nyamira, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Samburu, Siaya, Taita/Taveta, Tana River, Tharaka-Nithi, Trans Nzoia, Turkana, Uasin Gishu, Vihiga, Wajir, West Pokot

Independence

12 December 1963 (from the UK)

National holiday

Jamhuri Day (Independence Day), 12 December (1963); note - Madaraka Day, 1 June (1963) marks the day Kenya attained internal self-rule

Constitution

history: current constitution passed by referendum on 4 August 2010

amendments: amendments can be proposed by either house of Parliament or by petition of at least one million eligible voters; passage of amendments by Parliament requires approval by at least two-thirds majority vote of both houses in each of two readings, approval in a referendum by majority of votes cast by at least 20% of eligible voters in at least one half of Kenya’s counties, and approval by the president; passage of amendments introduced by petition requires approval by a majority of county assemblies, approval by majority vote of both houses, and approval by the president

Legal system

mixed legal system of English common law, Islamic law, and customary law; judicial review in the new Supreme Court established by the new constitution

International law organization participation

accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Kenya

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 4 out of the previous 7 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President William RUTO (since 13 September 2022); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government

head of government: President William RUTO (since 13 September 2022)

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president, subject to confirmation by the National Assembly

elections/appointments: president and deputy president directly elected on the same ballot by qualified majority popular vote for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); in addition to receiving an absolute majority popular vote, the presidential candidate must also win at least 25% of the votes cast in at least 24 of the 47 counties to avoid a runoff; election last held on 26 October 2017 (next to be held on 9 August 2022)

election results: 2017: Uhuru KENYATTA reelected president; percent of vote - Uhuru KENYATTA (Jubilee Party) 98.3%, Raila ODINGA (ODM) 1%, other 0.7%; note - Kenya held a previous presidential election on 8 August 2017, but Kenya's Supreme Court on 1 September 2017 nullified the results, citing irregularities; the political opposition boycotted the October vote

2013:  Uhuru KENYATTA elected president in first round; percent of vote - Uhuru KENYATTA (TNA) 50.1%, Raila ODINGA (ODM) 43.7%, Musalia MUDAVADI (UDF) 4.0%, other 2.2%

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Parliament consists of:
Senate (68 seats; 47 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 20 directly elected by proportional representation vote - 16 women, 2 representing youth, 2 representing the disabled, and one Senate speaker; members serve 5-year terms)
National Assembly (350 seats; 290 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote, 47 women in single-seat constituencies elected by simple majority vote, and 12 members nominated by the National Assembly - 6 representing youth and 6 representing the disabled, and one Assembly speaker; members serve 5-year terms)

elections: Senate - last held on 9 August 2022 (next to be held in August 2027)
National Assembly - last held on 9 August 2022 (next to be held in August 2027)

election results: Senate - percent of vote by party/coalition - NA; seats by party/coalition - Kenya Kwanza 34; Azimio La Umoja 33; composition - men 47, women 21, percent of women is 31%

National Assembly - percent of vote by party/coalition - NA; seats by party/coalition - Azimio La Umoja 173, Kenya Kwanza 161, independent 12, other 3; composition - men 275, women 75, percent of women 21.4%; note - total Parliament percent of women 23%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court (consists of chief and deputy chief justices and 5 judges)

judge selection and term of office: chief and deputy chief justices nominated by Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and appointed by the president with approval of the National Assembly; other judges nominated by the JSC and appointed by president; chief justice serves a nonrenewable 10-year term or until age 70, whichever comes first; other judges serve until age 70

subordinate courts: High Court; Court of Appeal; military courts; magistrates' courts; religious courts

Political parties and leaders

Azimio La Umoja–One Kenya Coalition Party [Raila ODINGA] (includes DAP-K, JP, KANU, KUP, MCC, MDG, ODM, PAA, UDM, UDP, UPA, UPIA, and WDM-K)
Amani National Congress or ANC [Musalia MUDAVADI]
Chama Cha Kazi or CCK [Moses KURIA]
Democratic Action Party or DAP-K [Wafula WAMUNYINYI]
Democratic Party or DP [Joseph MUNYAO, Chairman]
Forum for the Restoration of Democracy–Kenya or FORD-Kenya  [Moses WETANGULA]
Grand Dream Development Party or GDDP [Fabian KYULE]           
Independents  
Jubilee Party or JP [Uhuru KENYATTA]
Kenya African National Union or KANU [Gideon MOI]
Kenya Kwanza coalition [William RUTO] (includes ANC, CCK, DP, FORD-Kenya, TSP, and UDA)
Kenya Union Party or KUP [John LONYANGAPUO]
Maendeleo Chap Chap Party or MCC [Alfred MUTUA]
Movement for Democracy and Growth or MDG [David OCHIENG]
National Agenda Party or NAP-K [Alfayo AGUFANA]                        
National Ordinary People Empowerment Union or NOPEU [Rodgers MPURU, Secretary General}
Orange Democratic Movement or ODM [Raila ODINGA]
Pamoja African Alliance or PAA [Amason KINGI]
The Service Party or TSP [Mwangi KIUNJURI]
United Democratic Alliance or UDA [William RUTO]
United Democratic Movement or UDM [Philip MURGOR]
United Democratic Party or UDP [Cyrus Jirongo]                                                
United Party of Independent Alliance or UPIA [Ukur YATANI]                                      
United Progressive Alliance or UPA [Kenneth NYAMWAMU]                                        
Wiper Democratic Movement-Kenya or WDM-K [Kalonzo MUSYOKA]   

note: only parties with seats in the National Assembly and Senate included             

International organization participation

ACP, AfDB, AU, C, CD, COMESA, EAC, EADB, FAO, G-15, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCT, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IGAD, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, MINUSMA, MONUSCO, NAM, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNISFA, UNMIL, UNMISS, UNSOM, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Lazarus Ombai AMAYO (since 17 July 2020)

chancery: 1616 P Street NW, Suite 340, Washington, DC 20036

telephone: [1] (202) 387-6101

FAX: [1] (202) 462-3829

email address and website:
information@kenyaembassydc.org

https://kenyaembassydc.org/#

consulate(s) general: Los Angeles

consulate(s): New York

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Eric W. KNEEDLER (since 20 January 2021)

embassy: P.O. Box 606 Village Market, 00621 Nairobi

mailing address: 8900 Nairobi Place, Washington, DC  20521-8900

telephone: [254] (20) 363-6000

FAX: [254] (20) 363-6157

email address and website:
kenya_acs@state.gov

https://ke.usembassy.gov/

Flag description

three equal horizontal bands of black (top), red, and green; the red band is edged in white; a large Maasai warrior's shield covering crossed spears is superimposed at the center; black symbolizes the majority population, red the blood shed in the struggle for freedom, green stands for natural wealth, and white for peace; the shield and crossed spears symbolize the defense of freedom

National symbol(s)

lion; national colors: black, red, green, white

National anthem

name: "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu" (Oh God of All Creation)

lyrics/music: Graham HYSLOP, Thomas KALUME, Peter KIBUKOSYA, Washington OMONDI, and George W. SENOGA-ZAKE/traditional, adapted by Graham HYSLOP, Thomas KALUME, Peter KIBUKOSYA, Washington OMONDI, and George W. SENOGA-ZAKE

note: adopted 1963; based on a traditional Kenyan folk song

National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 7 (4 cultural, 3 natural)

selected World Heritage Site locales: Lake Turkana National Parks (n); Mount Kenya National Park (n); Lamu Old Town (c); Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests (c); Fort Jesus, Mombasa (c); Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley (n); Thimlich Ohinga Archaeological Site (c)

Economy

Economic overview

Kenya is the economic, financial, and transport hub of East Africa. Kenya’s real GDP growth has averaged over 5% for the last decade. Since 2014, Kenya has been ranked as a lower middle income country because its per capita GDP crossed a World Bank threshold. While Kenya has a growing entrepreneurial middle class and steady growth, its economic development has been impaired by weak governance and corruption. Although reliable numbers are hard to find, unemployment and under-employment are extremely high, and could be near 40% of the population. In 2013, the country adopted a devolved system of government with the creation of 47 counties, and is in the process of devolving state revenues and responsibilities to the counties.

 

Agriculture remains the backbone of the Kenyan economy, contributing one-third of GDP. About 75% of Kenya’s population of roughly 48.5 million work at least part-time in the agricultural sector, including livestock and pastoral activities. Over 75% of agricultural output is from small-scale, rain-fed farming or livestock production. Tourism also holds a significant place in Kenya’s economy. In spite of political turmoil throughout the second half of 2017, tourism was up 20%, showcasing the strength of this sector. Kenya has long been a target of terrorist activity and has struggled with instability along its northeastern borders. Some high visibility terrorist attacks during 2013-2015 (e.g., at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall and Garissa University) affected the tourism industry severely, but the sector rebounded strongly in 2016-2017 and appears poised to continue growing.

 

Inadequate infrastructure continues to hamper Kenya’s efforts to improve its annual growth so that it can meaningfully address poverty and unemployment. The KENYATTA administration has been successful in courting external investment for infrastructure development. International financial institutions and donors remain important to Kenya's growth and development, but Kenya has also successfully raised capital in the global bond market issuing its first sovereign bond offering in mid-2014, with a second occurring in February 2018. The first phase of a Chinese-financed and constructed standard gauge railway connecting Mombasa and Nairobi opened in May 2017.

 

In 2016 the government was forced to take over three small and undercapitalized banks when underlying weaknesses were exposed. The government also enacted legislation that limits interest rates banks can charge on loans and set a rate that banks must pay their depositors. This measure led to a sharp shrinkage of credit in the economy. A prolonged election cycle in 2017 hurt the economy, drained government resources, and slowed GDP growth. Drought-like conditions in parts of the country pushed 2017 inflation above 8%, but the rate had fallen to 4.5% in February 2018.

 

The economy, however, is well placed to resume its decade-long 5%-6% growth rate. While fiscal deficits continue to pose risks in the medium term, other economic indicators, including foreign exchange reserves, interest rates, current account deficits, remittances and FDI are positive. The credit and drought-related impediments were temporary. Now In his second term, President KENYATTA has pledged to make economic growth and development a centerpiece of his second administration, focusing on his "Big Four" initiatives of universal healthcare, food security, affordable housing, and expansion of manufacturing.

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$226.94 billion (2020 est.)

$227.64 billion (2019 est.)

$216.05 billion (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 64

Real GDP growth rate

5.39% (2019 est.)

6.32% (2018 est.)

4.79% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 38

Real GDP per capita

$4,200 (2020 est.)

$4,300 (2019 est.)

$4,200 (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 181

GDP (official exchange rate)

$95.52 billion (2019 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

5.1% (2019 est.)

4.6% (2018 est.)

8% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 181

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: B+ (2007)

Moody's rating: B2 (2018)

Standard & Poors rating: B+ (2010)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 34.5% (2017 est.)

industry: 17.8% (2017 est.)

services: 47.5% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 79.5% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 14.3% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 18.9% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: -1% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 13.9% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -25.5% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

sugar cane, milk, maize, potatoes, bananas, camel milk, cassava, sweet potatoes, mangoes/guavas, cabbages

Industries

small-scale consumer goods (plastic, furniture, batteries, textiles, clothing, soap, cigarettes, flour), agricultural products, horticulture, oil refining; aluminum, steel, lead; cement, commercial ship repair, tourism, information technology

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 61.1%

industry: 6.7%

services: 32.2% (2005 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 1.8%

highest 10%: 37.8% (2005)

Budget

revenues: 13.95 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 19.24 billion (2017 est.)

Public debt

54.2% of GDP (2017 est.)

53.2% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 84

Fiscal year

1 July - 30 June

Current account balance

-$57.594 billion (2019 est.)

-$56.194 billion (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 204

Exports

$11.49 billion (2019 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$11.56 billion (2018 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$9.723 billion (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 99

Exports - partners

Uganda 10%, United States 9%, Netherlands 8%, Pakistan 7%, United Kingdom 6%, United Arab Emirates 6%, Tanzania 5% (2019)

Exports - commodities

tea, cut flowers, refined petroleum, coffee, titanium (2019)

Imports

$20.41 billion (2019 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$20.17 billion (2018 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$18.653 billion (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 81

Imports - partners

China 24%, United Arab Emirates 10%, India 10%, Saudi Arabia 7%, Japan 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, cars, packaged medicines, wheat, iron products (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$7.354 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$7.256 billion (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 83

Debt - external

$29.289 billion (2019 est.)

$25.706 billion (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 86

Exchange rates

Kenyan shillings (KES) per US dollar -

111.45 (2020 est.)

101.4 (2019 est.)

102.4 (2018 est.)

98.179 (2014 est.)

87.921 (2013 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 85% (2019)

electrification - urban areas: 99% (2019)

electrification - rural areas: 79% (2019)

Electricity

installed generating capacity: 3.304 million kW (2020 est.)

consumption: 8.243 billion kWh (2019 est.)

exports: 16 million kWh (2019 est.)

imports: 277 million kWh (2019 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 2.724 billion kWh (2019 est.)

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 8.3% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

nuclear: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

solar: 1% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

wind: 10.7% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

hydroelectricity: 32.6% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

tide and wave: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

geothermal: 46.2% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

biomass and waste: 1.2% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

Coal

production: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

consumption: 821,000 metric tons (2020 est.)

exports: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

imports: 822,000 metric tons (2020 est.)

proven reserves: 0 metric tons (2019 est.)

Petroleum

total petroleum production: 0 bbl/day (2021 est.)

refined petroleum consumption: 116,400 bbl/day (2019 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate exports: 0 barrels/day (2018 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate imports: 0 barrels/day (2018 est.)

crude oil estimated reserves: 0 barrels (2021 est.)

Natural gas

production: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

consumption: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

exports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

imports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

proven reserves: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

17.709 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from coal and metallurgical coke: 1.25 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 16.459 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from consumed natural gas: 0 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 90

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 66,646 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: (2020 est.) less than 1

country comparison to the world: 149

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 61,408,904 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 114 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 26

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: Kenya’s telecom market continues to undergo considerable changes in the wake of increased competition, improved international connectivity, and rapid developments in the mobile market; the country is directly connected to a number of submarine cables, and with Mombasa as a landing point for LIT’s newly completed East and West Africa terrestrial network, the country serves as a key junction for onward connectivity to the Arabian states and the Far East; the additional internet capacity has meant that the cost of internet access has fallen dramatically in recent years, allowing services to be affordable to a far greater proportion of the population; the incumbent fixed-line telco Telkom Kenya has struggled to make headway in this market, prompting reorganization in 2018 which included a sale and leaseback arrangement with its mobile tower portfolio; a further restructuring exercise in late 2020 was aimed at repositioning the company for the digital age, and to improve its ability to compete in the market; numerous competitors are rolling out national and metropolitan backbone networks and wireless access networks to deliver services to population centers across the country; several fiber infrastructure sharing agreements have been forged, and as a result the number of fiber broadband connections has increased sharply in recent years; much of the progress in the broadband segment is due to the government’s revised national broadband strategy, which has been updated with goals through to 2030, and which are largely dependent on mobile broadband platforms based on LTE and 5G. (2022)

domestic: fixed-line subscriptions stand at less than 1 per 100 persons; multiple providers in the mobile-cellular segment of the market fostering a boom in mobile-cellular telephone usage with teledensity reaching 114 per 100 persons (2020)

international: country code - 254; landing point for the EASSy, TEAMS, LION2, DARE1, PEACE Cable, and SEACOM fiber-optic submarine cable systems covering East, North and South Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia; satellite earth stations - 4 Intelsat; launched first micro satellites in 2018 (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced a downturn, particularly in mobile device production; progress towards 5G implementation has resumed, as well as upgrades to infrastructure; consumer spending on telecom services has increased due to the surge in demand for capacity and bandwidth; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home is still evident, and the spike in this area has seen growth opportunities for development of new tools and increased services

Broadcast media

about a half-dozen large-scale privately owned media companies with TV and radio stations, as well as a state-owned TV broadcaster, provide service nationwide; satellite and cable TV subscription services available; state-owned radio broadcaster operates 2 national radio channels and provides regional and local radio services in multiple languages; many private radio stations broadcast on a national level along with over 100 private and non-profit regional stations broadcasting in local languages; TV transmissions of all major international broadcasters available, mostly via paid subscriptions; direct radio frequency modulation transmissions available for several foreign government-owned broadcasters (2019)

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 674,191 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 1 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 82

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 25 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 188

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 5,935,831 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 294.97 million (2018) mt-km

Airports - with paved runways

total: 16

over 3,047 m: 5

2,438 to 3,047 m: 2

1,524 to 2,437 m: 2

914 to 1,523 m: 6

under 914 m: 1 (2021)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 181

1,524 to 2,437 m: 14

914 to 1,523 m: 107

under 914 m: 60 (2021)

Pipelines

4 km oil, 1,432 km refined products (2018)

Railways

total: 3,819 km (2018)

standard gauge: 485 km (2018) 1.435-m gauge

narrow gauge: 3,334 km (2018) 1.000-m gauge

country comparison to the world: 52

Roadways

total: 161,452 km (2018)

paved: 14,420 km (2017) (8,500 km highways, 1,872 urban roads, and 4,048 rural roads)

unpaved: 147,032 km (2017)

country comparison to the world: 32

Waterways

(2011) none specifically; the only significant inland waterway is the part of Lake Victoria within the boundaries of Kenya; Kisumu is the main port and has ferry connections to Uganda and Tanzania

Merchant marine

total: 26

by type: oil tanker 3, other 23 (2021)

country comparison to the world: 139

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Kisumu, Mombasa

LNG terminal(s) (import): Mombasa

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Kenya Defense Forces (KDF): Kenya Army, Kenya Navy, Kenya Air Force (2022)

note 1: the National Police Service maintains internal security and reports to the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government; it includes a paramilitary General Service Unit

note 2: the Kenya Coast Guard Service (established 2018) is under the Ministry of Interior but led by a military officer and comprised of personnel from the military, as well as the National Police Service, intelligence services, and other government agencies

Military expenditures

1.2% of GDP (2021 est.)

1.2% of GDP (2020)

1.2% of GDP (2019) (approximately $1.21 billion)

1.3% of GDP (2018) (approximately $1.24 billion)

1.4% of GDP (2017) (approximately $1.19 billion)

country comparison to the world: 116

Military and security service personnel strengths

approximately 24,000 personnel (20,000 Army; 1,500 Navy; 2,500 Air Force) (2022)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the KDF's inventory traditionally carried mostly older or second-hand Western weapons systems, particularly from France, the UK, and the US; however, since the 2000s it has sought to modernize and diversify its imports, and suppliers have included more than a dozen countries including China, Italy, Jordan, and the US (2022)

Military service age and obligation

no conscription; 18-26 years of age for male and female voluntary service (under 18 with parental consent; upper limit 30 years of age for specialists, tradesmen, or women with a diploma; 39 years of age for chaplains/imams), with a 9-year obligation (7 years for Kenyan Navy) and subsequent 3-year re-enlistments; applicants must be Kenyan citizens (2022)

Military deployments

260 Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO); 3,650 Somalia (ATMIS) (2022)

Military - note

Kenyan military forces intervened in Somalia in October 2011 to combat the al Qaida-affiliated al-Shabaab terrorist group, which had conducted numerous cross-border attacks into Kenya; in November 2011, the UN and the African Union invited Kenya to incorporate its forces into the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM); Kenyan forces were formally integrated into AMISOM in February 2012; as of 2022, they consisted of approximately 3,600 troops and were responsible for AMISOM’s Sector 2 comprising Lower and Middle Jubba (see Appendix T for additional details on al-Shabaab; note - as of May 2022, AMISOM was renamed the AU Transition Mission in Somalia or ATMIS) (2022)

Maritime threats

the International Maritime Bureau reports that shipping in territorial and offshore waters in the Indian Ocean remain at risk for piracy and armed robbery against ships

Terrorism

Terrorist group(s)

al-Shabaab; Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)/Qods Force

note: details about the history, aims, leadership, organization, areas of operation, tactics, targets, weapons, size, and sources of support of the group(s) appear(s) in Appendix-T

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

as of March 2022, Kenya provides shelter to nearly 548,000 refugees and asylum seekers, including Ugandans who flee across the border periodically to seek protection from Lord's Resistance Army rebels

Kenya-Ethiopia: their border was demarcated in the 1950s and approved in 1970; in 2012, Kenya and Ethiopia agreed to redemarcate their boundary following disputes over beacons and crossborder crime

Kenya-Somalia: Kenya works hard to prevent the clan and militia fighting in Somalia from spreading across the border, which has long been open to nomadic pastoralists; in 2021, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) gave Somalia control over a disputed ocean area where the seabeds are believed to hold vasts oil and gas deposits; the ICJ ruling gives Somalia the rights to several offshore oil exploration blocks previously claimed by Kenya; Kenya did not recognize the court’s decision

Kenya-South Sudan: two thirds of the boundary that separates Kenya and South Sudan's sovereignty known as the Ilemi Triangle has been unclear since British colonial times; Kenya has administered the area since colonial times; officials from Kenya and South Sudan signed a M.o.U. on boundary delimitation and demarcation and agreed to set up a joint committee; as of July 2019, the demarcation process was to begin in 90 days, but was delayed due to a lack of funding

Kenya-Sudan: Kenya served as an important mediator in brokering Sudan's north-south separation in February 2005

Kenya-Tanzania: Kenya and Tanzania were conducting a joint reaffirmation process in November 2021 to ensure the border was visibly marked with pillars

Kenya-Uganda: Kenya and Uganda began a joint demarcation of the boundary in 2021 

 

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 279,200 (Somalia), 144,441 (South Sudan), 52,312 (Democratic Republic of the Congo), 21,066 (Ethiopia), 7,697 (Burundi), 5,022 (Sudan) (2022)

IDPs: 190,000 (election-related violence, intercommunal violence, resource conflicts, al-Shabaab attacks in 2017 and 2018) (2021)

stateless persons: 16,820 (mid-year 2021); note - the stateless population consists of Nubians, Kenyan Somalis, and coastal Arabs; the Nubians are descendants of Sudanese soldiers recruited by the British to fight for them in East Africa more than a century ago; Nubians did not receive Kenyan citizenship when the country became independent in 1963; only recently have Nubians become a formally recognized tribe and had less trouble obtaining national IDs; Galjeel and other Somalis who have lived in Kenya for decades are included with more recent Somali refugees and denied ID cards

Illicit drugs

a transit country for a variety of illicit drugs, including heroin and cocaine; transit location for precursor chemicals used to produce methamphetamine and other drugs; transshipment country for heroin from Southwest Asia destined for international markets, mainly Europe, and cocaine transits shipped through Ethiopia from South America;  cultivates cannabis and miraa (khat) for both local use and export