Kenya Population and Economy

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The ethnic picture is a real mosaic, being composed of about sixty ethnic groups, sometimes very different from each other: the Bantu, originally from central Africa, prevail, followed by the Hamites and Niloto-Hamites, who arrived (perhaps 6000-5000 BC) from the north of the Arabian Peninsula, alongside small residual groups of the country’s oldest residents. Among the Bantu, the largest society is that of the Kikuyu, settled between the capital and Mount Kenya. Outside the Bantu populations, the most conspicuous group is that of the Luo, Nilotic breeders and farmers of the Lake Victoria area. The Maasai belong to the Niloto-Hamitic stock, who, practicing cattle breeding, live in the south-western section of the country and also cross over to Tanzania. In the north-eastern semi-arid territories several Hamitic societies (Somali, Galla, Borana etc.) are employed in itinerant breeding. The non-African element is represented by Indians and Pakistanis, immigrants especially at the time of the construction of the railway and then became traders or entrepreneurs; the sizeable Arab community is dedicated to trade and crafts, mostly settled in the coastal centers. Among the Europeans, the descendants of the farmers (English and South African) who at the beginning of the twentieth century embarked on a profitable agricultural-pastoral activity in the fertile plateau lands.

The first reliable data on the numerical consistency of the population were provided by the census carried out by the British in 1931: at that date the country had just over 3 million indigenous people and about 70,000 foreigners. Since then, the population has steadily increased: to 6.6 million in 1953, to 12.5 twenty years later, to 22 million at the beginning of the 1990s, to 39 in 2009; growth to which the very high birth rate contributed to a decisive extent (only in the first years of the 2nd millennium fell below 40 ‰), less and less balanced by a decidedly declining mortality rate. The annual rate of increase is around 2.6% (2009 estimate).

From a spatial point of view, the distribution of the population, closely linked to the variety of climatic conditions that make the central-western high lands fertile and suitable for human settlement, is very little homogeneous. At an average density of 67.2 residents / km 2, very high values ​​correspond in the provinces of Nairobi, Rift Valley, Central and Nyanza, and, on the contrary, very low in the North-Eastern, Coast and Eastern. The urban population is equal to 39% of the total; much of it is concentrated in Nairobi and Mombasa. Other important nodes of the urban network are Nakuru and Kisumu.

Official language is Swahili; English and some local languages ​​are widespread. From a religious point of view, the indigenous people for the most part profess traditional, animist beliefs; Islamism spread from the coast, brought by the Arabs and Indians. There are many Christians, both Protestants and Catholics.

Economic conditions

The shortage of mineral raw materials and energy sources and the dependence on commercial crops, exposed to fluctuations in international prices, as well as climatic risks, have hampered, after the achievement of independence, the formation of a balanced and solid economy. Other delay factors can be seen in the uncertainty of the reform policy, which did not encourage the arrival of foreign capital, in the international isolation during the centralizing regime of DA Moi (1978-2002), in the political conflicts within the government, in widespread poverty and in recurrent food emergencies.

According to, the Kenyan economy essentially rests on the primary sector, although its contribution to the formation of the gross domestic product (16.5%) is decreasing in favor of industry (18.7%) and the tertiary sector (65.0%). Plantation agriculture, practiced with advanced techniques by large foreign owners and multinationals, provides a diversified range of products: especially coffee (48,300 t in 2006), introduced in 1913 and widespread in particular in the highlands surrounding Mount Kenya, and tea (Kenya is the first African producer and the fourth in the world, with 295,000 t). Horticulture and floriculture were strengthened in the early years of the new millennium and in 2005 their products, in great demand on the international market, surpassed tea in terms of export value. The production of tropical fruit and pyrethrum is also significant (of which Kenya is the first world producer, with 8000 t in 2005). The most notable subsistence crops are maize, cassava, wheat and, in the driest areas, sorghum and millet. Even in breeding, especially bovine (11.5 million head), we must distinguish the traditional indigenous one, more numerous but largely nomadic and of little economic value,

From the geological prospecting there is no significant presence of important mineral resources; mining is limited to modest quantities of gold, asbestos, niobium, kaolin. Hydroelectric energy satisfies 80% of national needs; another 15% is covered by geothermal energy. Industrial activities still have a modest productive and employment significance, even if the sector appears rationally structured and more advanced than in the other countries of the area. In the field of manufacturing activities, in particular, the most important in terms of production value are the food, chemical, oil and petrochemical ones.

Rather deficient, with obvious consequences for the local economy, is the communications system. The railways measure 1917 km (2005): the backbone of the entire network is the Mombasa-Nairobi line. The roads stretch for about 64,000 km, of which 8,000 are asphalted, absolutely insufficient for such a vast state, and moreover, almost impassable during the rainy season. The port of Mombasa is one of the busiest in East Africa. The main airports are those of Nairobi-Kenyatta, Mombasa-Moi, Malindi and Kisumu.

The trade balance denounces a chronic deficit and remains subject to the repercussions deriving from the fluctuations in the world prices of coffee and tea; in imports dominate industrial products and fuels; in the export of agricultural products (tea, coffee, flowers, fruit). Main suppliers are the United States and some of the oil countries of the Near and Middle East (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates); exports are mainly directed to neighboring countries (Uganda, Tanzania), the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. The contribution of tourism (1.2 million entries registered in 2005) to the balance of payments has become particularly substantial since the mid-last decade of the twentieth century and can count on good infrastructure and an extraordinary natural heritage: a vast system of protected areas, which includes about thirty national parks, is the main tourist attraction.

Kenya Economy

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