Developments in Kenya

Updated: 27 October 2017

Kenya is East Africa’s largest economy with a relatively well-developed business sector, in contrast to many of its neighbouring countries. However, the resources in the country are unevenly distributed, more than in most of the neighbouring countries, and nearly half of the population lives in poverty. The Kenyan democracy still has major shortcomings, although a multiparty system was introduced in 1991.

Kenya is located on the equator in East Africa and is larger than Sweden in area. Between 2002 and 2013, Kenya was governed by Mwai Kibaki and under his regime, ethnic conflicts increasingly came to the surface. When Kibaki was newly elected in 2007, widespread violence broke out.

In 2013, Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the freedom hero and former President Jomo Kenyatta, was elected president. This was although he was charged by an international court for crimes against humanity in connection with the violence that broke out at the re-election of Kibaki in 2007.

In August 2017, Kenyatta was re-elected as president, but after accusations of extensive election fraud, the election results were appealed and the Supreme Court decided that the election would be redone.

Human rights and security

In 2010, a constitution was adopted that strengthens the freedom of speech and the press. However, the Kenyan government has since been criticised for new laws that limit this freedom. It happens that journalists are subjected to threats, violence and harassment.

In Kenya, the right to strike is limited and many public employees may not form unions. Despite this, strikes are common.

Kenya’s neighbouring countries are characterised by internal unrest, which affects their relations. The ties to the Western World have traditionally been good, however. A number of acts of terrorism have recently come to be a serious threat to security in Kenya.

Economy and enterprise

Kenya is a centre for finance, IT technology and transportation in the region. The industrial sector is significantly larger and more varied than in the neighbouring countries and tourism is an important branch of business. Growth is partly held back by widespread corruption and the pressured world market prices on raw materials.

Among Kenya’s most important assets are fertile agricultural land, and a rich animal life and beautiful nature that attract many tourists. Agriculture still forms a mainstay in the economy and agricultural products dominate exports, although agriculture’s share of the economy has decreased over time.

Despite economic growth, the high population growth in the country means that the growth in prosperity is relatively slow. Ever since independence in 1963, Kenya has received significant development assistance from individual countries and international lending organisation, but on several occasions since the 1990s, the country’s most important development assistance and lenders have stopped large parts of the payments due to misrule, a lack of democracy and unrealised deregulation of the economy.

A majority of Kenyans are employed in the informal sector, mainly with cultivation and the care of livestock.

Social development

A for the region uncommonly large share of the rural population in Kenya owns no land at all, which contributes to many families living in deep poverty. This is due to large areas of land having been seized ever since the colonial time. In Kenya, growing numbers of people make their way to the cities where the slums are spreading. 62 per cent of the population of Nairobi are considered to live in the slums.

Drought is a recurring problem in the agriculturally dependent Kenya. The most severe drought in more than half a century struck the region in 2011. Nearly one out of ten Kenyans lived under the threat of starvation for some time according to the UN. The situation was made worse by strongly rising world market prices on food.

In 2003, schools in Kenya became free of tuition and since then, nearly all children receive at least a few years of schooling. Writing skills and literacy in Kenya have also increased markedly.

In healthcare, an investment has been made in primary care. Free care shall be offered to the poorest members of the population, but in the countryside, there are many people who do not have access to medical care in reality. In the 1990s, the AIDS epidemic contributed to reducing life expectancy, but it is now on the way back up. Other diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis, are also major public health problems.

Page owner: Department for Africa

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