General Information

General information on Kenya with quick facts about the country, the people, history, the geography. Facts you may need to know about Kenya.

Kenya is located on the eastern coast of Africa. Coordinates between 34⁰ – 42⁰ East and 5⁰ North to 5⁰ South hence it lies on the Equator. The Great Rift Valley dissects the country into two from the North. It occupies an area of 580,370km².  It borders Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the south-east, Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west, and Southern Sudan to the Northwest.

It has coastal beaches, a savanna plateau, fertile highlands standing beside the rift valley.  The northeastern is a semi-arid and arid desert.

Human occupation and politics.

The archaeological discoveries in Lake Turkana “the cradle of mankind” confirmed the belief that Kenya was inhabited as long as the history of man. Giant crocodile fossils were discovered in Kenya dating from the Mesozoic Era, over 200 million years ago. In July–August 2004, an excavation of the fossils in Lokitaung Gorge, near Lake Turkana. This was conducted by a team from the University of Utah and the National Museums of Kenya.

Fossils found in East Africa suggest that primates roamed the area more than 20 million years ago. Recent findings near Kenya’s Lake Turkana indicate that hominids such as Homo habilis (1.8 and 2.5 million years ago) and Homo erectus (1.8 million to 350,000 years ago) are possible direct ancestors of modern Homo sapiens, and lived in Kenya in the Pleistocene epoch.

The first people were hunters and gatherers who changed or got assimilated by the incoming immigrants who were herders, agriculturalists, or fishermen. It is a well-represented combination of major ethnoracial and linguistic groups found in Africa. There are an estimated 43 different communities, with Bantus and Nilotes {plain, highlands and river-lake nilotes} constituting the majority of local residents. Cushitic groups {Somali, Boni, Rendille,  Wata} also form a small ethnic minority, as do Arabs, Indians, and Europeans.

Around 500 BC, Nilotic speaking pastoralists started migrating from present-day Southern Sudan into Kenya. Nilotic groups in Kenya include the Samburu, Luo, Turkana, Maasai, and Kalenjin. The Bantus are believed to have settled by 1,000AD migrated from 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. Bantu groups in Kenya include the Kikuyu, Luhya, Kamba, Kisii, Meru, Embu, Mbeere, Taita, Wapokomo and Mijikenda among others.

Arabs from southern Arabia settled on the coast among the Bantu people and helped to establish many new autonomous city-states, including Mombasa, Malindi, and Zanzibar; the Arab migrants also introduced Islam to the area. This blending of cultures left a notable Arabian influence on the local Bantu Swahili culture and language of the coast. The Swahili built Mombasa into a major port city and established trade links with other nearby city-states, as well as commercial centres in Persia, Arabia, and even India.

By the 15th-century, Portuguese voyager Duarte Barbosa claimed that “Mombasa is a place of great traffic and has a good harbour in which there are always moored small craft of many kinds and also great ships, both of which are bound from Sofala and others which come from Cambay and Melinde and others which sail to the island of Zanzibar”. 

Malindi 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 Swahili Sultan of Malindi initiated diplomatic relations with the Ming Dynasty of China during the voyages of the explorer Zheng He. Malindi authorities welcomed the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498.

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. The British were more interested in controlling Uganda (because of the Nile river) than Kenya but needed Kenya in order to do that. The Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEAC) was authorized to set up commercial operations in Uganda and Kenya, but when it failed its mission, Kenya and Uganda were made a direct British protectorate in 1895.

An incipient imperial rivalry was forestalled 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. 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.

Kenya became the crown colony from 1920 to 1963. 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 exodus to the cities ensued as their ability to provide a living from the land dwindled. Moreover, World War I proved that Europeans were not so civilized as they appeared to be. The British lost a lot of prestige in the eyes of Africans. Several movements began to agitate against colonization. They became more aware of their own Kenya history. Interestingly enough, they were generally started by Kenyans who had attended missionary schools, where they had learned about justice, freedom, and love.

The British held on to its colony until Africans revolted, formed “Mau Mau” to agitate for land and freedom. The government declared the uprising illegal. In 1952 – 1959 a state of emergency had been declared. 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, and the occupants were screened and the Mau Mau supporters moved to detention camps. The “home guards” formed the core of the government’s strategy as it was composed of loyalist Africans. 

Many Africans were put in detention, maimed, and killed. Kenyatta was imprisoned alongside other leaders. In 1960, a conference in London gave Africans a majority seat in the {Legco}  legislative council, which led to the formation of political parties. Kenyatta was elected chairman of KANU while in detention. He was later released in 1961 and led a delegation to London in 1962 to agitate for independence. KANU won elections held in May 1963.

Kenya gained independence on 12th Dec 1963 and under the new constitution, it became a republic on 12th Dec 1964. The first African president of Kenya was Jomo Kenyatta. He won subsequent general elections until his death in 1978. He died having developed a free open-market economy to foreign investments.

By then, Kenya ranked high among African countries for political stability and economic growth. However, Kenyatta was criticized because of authoritarian politics and favouritism: during his land reforms the best pieces of the land went to his relatives and friends (the “Kiambu Mafia”), and Kenyatta himself became the nation’s largest landowner.

He was succeeded peacefully by his deputy, Daniel T. Moi {Kalenjin, minority tribe} He propagated the same pro-west policies held by his predecessor.  In 1982, an unsuccessful coup was staged. This led to arrests of friends and anti-government oppositionists. This made him rule with an iron fist.

The 1990s were troubled with widespread massive corruption leading to stagnating the economy, ethnic violence between Kikuyus and Kalenjin, and the halting of program loans and grants by the World Bank and IMF. Pressure increased to change the constitution and open up multi-party democracy from within with help of international communities. In 1992 & 1997, the multi-party election was held with Moi-led KANU in winning.

The constitution had been partially amended to a ceiling of two terms of presidency. Moi was barred from contesting. Mwai Kibaki won the 2002 election on an opposition ticket against Uhuru Kenyatta of Kanu. He had promised to fight corruption but failed. He was credited with abolishing school fees to introduce free universal primary education. This made a 1.7million record enrollment in a primary school in 2004.

In the 2007 general election, he won amid protests from the opposition and led to the worst tribal clashes. Many were killed, maimed, livelihood lost, and displaced. The matter was referred to ICC with persons with the greatest responsibility accused. The case is ongoing.  Critics say his cabinet spent much to their benefit than the general masses. He served a two-term presidency.
Finally, Uhuru Kenyatta the son of the founding father became the fourth president of Kenya after winning the elections of 2013. He and his deputy {William Ruto} were accused at ICC when they won the elections.

Religion & Culture.

The country has no official religion but has been granted the right to worship in the constitution. It is also ranked among the top ten religious populations in the world.  The diversity of ethnic tribes renders a spectrum of culture which is all equally respected. There is no official Kenyan culture.

Christianity is practised by 80% of the population. This constitutes 23% of Roman Catholicism brought by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century. In the 1920s the colonialists helped in spreading it further inland.  Protestant denominations make up to 47%.  These include Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian among others. They are also some who are neither non-Catholic nor non-protestant and add up to 11%. These include Branhamis, Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witness. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is also present with 39 congregations, approximately 10,000 members.

Islam takes a population of 11%. These are mainly concentrated on the coastal strip and the northeastern. However, in all towns, their presence is seen. Most Muslims are Sunni of the Shaffi rite. Shia makes about 7% while Ahmadi is 4%.  Sharia court under the Kadhi court is recognized in the constitution to cater to certain civil matters such as divorce and inheritance.
Hinduism is rife in major urban centres practised by the Hindu community.

African traditional religions are typically based on reverence to ancestors and natural phenomena. The dead are presumed to merely transform into another state of being and capable of bringing good fortune or calamity to the living. Most religious rites are therefore centred on appeasing the dead through sacrifices and proper burial rites. The dead’s wishes must also be followed to the letter. Some communities have elaborate rites with dedicated men to preside over. The Mijikenda have shrines “Kaya” in the forest while Kikuyu believed that Mt. Kenya was the throne of their God. They pray and sleep facing the mountain.

There is also about 1% of the Baha’i faith.
There is an insignificant number of people who claim no religion.


Kenya has a market-based economy, with a few state-owned infrastructure enterprises, and maintains a liberalized external trade system. The country is generally perceived as Eastern and central Africa’s hub for Financial, Communication, and Transportation services. Kenya practices a capitalist economy, encouraging investments from all right-minded individuals and entities. The currency is Kenya Shilling {Ksh or KES }

After independence, Kenya promoted rapid economic growth through public investment, encouragement of smallholder agricultural production, and incentives for private often foreign industrial investment. This made the economy rise steadily for ten years. However, between 1974 and 1990, the economy dropped due to Kenya’s inward-looking policy of import substitution and rising oil prices made Kenya’s manufacturing sector uncompetitive. The government began a massive intrusion into the private sector.

Lack of export incentives, tight import controls, and foreign exchange controls made the domestic environment for investment even less attractive. Foreign donors stopped grants and loans in 1991. Kenya had its worst economic performance since independence. Growth in GDP stagnated, and agricultural production shrank at an annual rate of 3.9%. Inflation reached a record 100% in August 1993, and the government’s budget deficit was over 10% of GDP. In 1993, the Government of Kenya began a program to revive the economy.

A new minister of finance and a new governor of the central bank undertook a series of economic measures with the assistance of the World Bank and the (IMF). The government eliminated price controls and import licensing, removed foreign exchange controls, privatized a range of publicly owned companies, reduced the number of civil servants, and introduced conservative fiscal and monetary policies.  The fever of the 1997 elections and drought stagnated the economy.


Tourism dominates the service sector which controls about 63% of GDP. 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. In the late 1990s, tourism relinquished this position to tea exports, because of a terrorism-related downturn.

The 1998 American embassy bombing led to negative travel advisories by western governments. The government and tourism industry organizations have taken steps to address the security problem and to reverse negative publicity. Such steps include establishing tourist police and launching marketing campaigns in key tourist origin markets.

To name a few attractions which include: The Sunny beaches and related activities, Tsavo east & west for game viewing, Amboseli for game viewing, Nairobi for conference tourism and game viewing, Aberdares for game viewing, fishing, hiking, Hells gate for game viewing, hiking, cycling, climbing, boating. Nakuru for birding, game viewing, Mt Kenya for trekking, rock climbing, ice climbing, Maasai Mara for game viewing, ballooning, Samburu/Shaba for game viewing, Meru for game viewing


Agriculture is the second main driver of the Kenyan economy although only 15% of the land has fertile and receives adequate rainfall. About 50% of agriculture output is non-marketed subsistence production. The production of major food staples such as maize is subject to sharp weather-related fluctuations. Production the downturns periodically necessitate food aid—for example, in 2004 aid for 1.8 million people because of one of Kenya’s intermittent droughts.

However, the expansion of credit to the agricultural sector has enabled farmers to better deal with the large risk of agriculture based on rainfall and the dramatic fluctuations of the prices of agricultural products 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.

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 maize are grown in the lower-lying areas.

Mining and Minerals. 

Kenya has no large-scale mineral deposits. Lake Magadi produces soda ash. Other minerals include limestone, gold, salt, large quantities of niobium, fluorspar, and fossil fuel.
All unextracted minerals are government property, according to the Mining Act. The Department of Mines and Geology, under the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, controls the exploration and exploitation of such minerals


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), handles transmission and distribution. Kenya imports electricity power from Uganda.

There are some hydroelectric power stations erected on the upper River Tana, Sondu Miriu, and Turkwel Gorge dam. Geothermal facilities at Alkaria on the floor of Rift valley generate power. Hydrocarbons {oil} reserves have been found in Turkana, northern Kenya.

More explorations are still ongoing in the coastal region.  Kenya currently imports all crude petroleum requirements and refined at a sole refinery in Mombasa. This is piped to storage tanks in Nairobi, Nakuru, Eldoret, and Kisumu.


The official language is English and Swahili. Kenya has over 75 different languages spoken within its borders.

Diplomatic Representation   

Nearly every country has diplomatic representation in Kenya. Information about the location of the diplomatic mission is available in hotels and local directories.


Generally, Kenya has warm days and cold nights throughout the year. Has only two seasons, that is the rainy season and the sunny season. The long rains occur from March to May while the short rains occur from October to November. The average temperature is 25 degrees and the coldest month is July. The coastal region is extremely humid during the day and cold during the night, hence temperatures ranging between 27-32 degrees.


Just like any other major city in the world, Nairobi has its security lapses. One has to take extra care of his or her variables. Avoid lonely streets and beaches and don’t expose your variables. Photography It’s illegal to take photos of police officers, presidential motorcades, statehouses, airports, and parliament buildings. For the general public ask for permission first.


Malaria is an epidemic in East and Central Africa. Above all, the advice is to take malaria preventive tablets a week before travelling and continue taking them as prescribed by his or her physician. One should also take a medical checkup before travel.

Vaccination requirements for international travellers.

Cholera vaccination certificates are not required for travellers coming in. Only valid yellow fever vaccination and Covid-19 certificates are required of travellers over one year old, arriving from yellow fever infected countries mainly in central and west Africa, south and central America, South East Asia, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh.

Vaccination for international travellers is obtained from all international air and seaports, city and major municipal councils. NB: Make sure you get your yellow fever shot in good time since the yellow fever certificate is valid for travel use ten(10) days after vaccination.

Flying Doctors Society

Flying Doctors Society membership is highly recommended and only costs $25 a month. In event of an accident or sickness while on safari, the society will fly patients by air ambulance to Nairobi for proper care at a well-equipped hospital.

Train Services                                                                                                   

The Kenya – Uganda railway starts in Mombasa and goes via Nairobi to Kampala, Uganda. This train service is a famous “Lunatic Express” that featured in the Michael Douglas film “The Ghost and the Darkness”.

Commuter Bus Services

Kenya has a network of long-distance bus services but with a speed limit of 80kph. Private bus companies such as City Hoppa and Metro Trans offers cheap and regular services between the city centre and the suburbs. The busses have a seating capacity of 20 – 50 passengers. The law prohibits standing passengers.

Covid-19 policy
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