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Location, Population and Language
Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya, is a sovereign state in Africa. Its capital and largest city is Nairobi. Kenya lies on the equator with the Indian Ocean to the south-east, Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west, South Sudan to the north-west, Ethiopia to the north and Somalia to the north-east.
Over 46 million reside in Kenya who speak the following langauges; English (official), Kiswahili (official, national), multiple ethnic languages (Bantu, Cushitic and Nilotic language groups). Literacy: 85% of population over age 15 can read and write.
Capital City & Currency
Nairobi (Nyrobi meaning ‘the place of cool waters’ in Maa), is the highest city in East Africa at 1,700 m. Modern and rapidly growing Nairobi has over 4 million inhabitants (estimated).
The local currency is the Kenyan Shilling. (KES)
Kenya is a Lower Middle-Income country and the fifth-largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa. It has a Growth Domestic Product (GDP) of $ 53.3 billion giving GDP per capita of $1,246. In 2014, the economic growth rate was estimated to be 5.3%.
The country has a warm and humid climate along its Indian Ocean coastline, with wildlife-rich savannah grasslands inland towards the capital. Nairobi has a cool climate that gets colder approaching Mount Kenya, which has three permanently snow-capped peaks. Further inland there is a warm and humid climate around Lake Victoria, and temperate forested and hilly areas in the western region.
The northeastern regions along the border with Somalia and Ethiopia are arid and semi-arid areas with near-desert landscapes. Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest fresh-water lake and the world’s largest tropical lake, is situated to the southwest and is shared with Uganda and Tanzania.
Ethnic Makeup & Religion
There are over 40 ethnic groups distinguished by two major language groups: Bantu and Nilotic.
The largest tribes of the Bantu are the Kikuyu, Meru, Gusii, Embu, Akamba, Luyha and Mijikenda. The largest tribes of the Nilotic are the Maasai, Turkana, Samburu, Pokot, Luo and Kalenjin.
A third group made up of Cushitic-speaking peoples includes the El-Molo, Somali, Rendille and Galla. The coastal region is the home of the Swahili people.
Kenyan people practise Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam.
Kenya’s services sector, which contributes about 61 percent of GDP, is dominated by tourism. The tourism sector has exhibited steady growth in most years since independence and by the late 1980s had become the country’s principal source of foreign exchange. Tourists, the largest number from Germany and the United Kingdom, are attracted mainly to the coastal beaches and the game reserves, notably, the expansive East and West Tsavo National Park (20,808 square kilometres (8,034 sq mi)) in the southeast.
Governments and Politics
Kenya is a presidential representative democratic republic. The President is both the head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly or parliamentary lower house. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
The agricultural sector is very critical and has been identified as the engine of prosperity, chiefly due to its direct positive impact on its Kenya’s rural population. It contributes approximately 24% of the nation’s GDP, 60% of export earnings and about 75 % of industrial raw materials. It also accounts for 65% of the country’s total export, 18% and 60% of formal and total employment respectively.
The landscape of Kenya is distinctly divided into two halves – the eastern half which slopes gently to the coral-backed seashore, and the western portion, which rises abruptly through a series of hills and plateaus to the Eastern Rift Valley. West of the Rift is a westward-sloping plateau, and the lowest part is covered by Lake Victoria. The highest point in the country is the snow-capped peak of Mount Kenya (5,199 m), the second highest mountain in Africa. The coastline extends some 536 km from the Tanzanian border in the southeast, to the Somali border in the northeast. The main rivers are the Athi/Galana and the Tana. The major lakes are: Lake Victoria, Turkana, Baringo, Naivasha, Magadi, Jipe, Bogoria, Nakuru and Elementaita.
The largest share of Kenya’s electricity supply comes from 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. Kenya’s installed capacity stood at 1,142 megawatts between 2001 and 2003. The state-owned Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen), established in 1997 under the name of Kenya Power Company, handles the generation of electricity, while the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC), which is slated for privatisation, handles transmission and distribution. Shortfalls of electricity occur periodically, when drought reduces water flow. To become energy sufficient, Kenya aims to build a nuclear power plant by 2017.
Kenya’s flora is diverse. Coastal forests contain palm, mangrove, teak, copal and sandalwood trees. Forests of baobab, euphorbia and acacia trees cover the lowlands to an elevation of approximately 915 m. Extensive areas of savannah are interspersed with groves of acacia and papyrus, which characterize the terrain from 915 to 2,745 m above sea level. Bamboo and camphor are common in the dense rainforest of the eastern and southeastern mountain slopes. The alpine zone (above 3,550 m) contains many Senecio and Lobelia plants.
There are 80 major animal species ranging from the ‘Big Five’ (elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros, lion and leopard) to tiny antelopes such as the dik-dik, which is slightly larger than a rabbit. At least 32 endemic species are endangered.
Kenya boasts around 1,137 species of birds. Spotting over 100 bird species in a day is not uncommon.