(Supported by a Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities)
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Kenya: A Profile

NAME: Formal name: Republic of Kenya; short form: Kenya.

FORMER COLONIAL HISTORY: A British colony and protectorate.

INDEPENDENCE: December 12, 1963. Kenya proclaimed itself a republic on December 12, 1964.

CAPITAL: Nairobi (population 1,646,000 in 1994).

HEAD OF STATE: President and Commander-in-chief: His Excellency The Hon. Mwai Kibaki C.G.H., M.P.

AREA: The nation's total area is 224,961 square miles (582,647 sq. km), of which over 4,100 square miles consists of natural lakes.

GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION: In Eastern Africa, straddling the equator, between latitudes 4o N and 4o S, and longitudes 34o E and 41o E; bordered on the east by Somalia and the Indian Ocean, on the north by Ethiopia and Sudan, on the west by Uganda and on the south by Tanzania.

TOPOGRAPHY: Seven distinct geographic regions. Kenya's regions make up two larger divisions: one consisting of elevated lands forming the southwestern third of the country, the remaining two-thirds forming an arc of low plateaus and plains. The land rises gradually westward from a narrow coastal plain in a series of plateaus, culminating in a highland area that is bisected by the great Rift Valley and includes the country's highest point, Mount Kenya. The northern and northeastern regions of the country consist mainly of arid plains and are peopled by semi-nomadic pastoralists.

CLIMATE: A combination of meteorological and topographic factors give the result that only about one-seventh of Kenya's land area, mainly the coastal and southern highland regions, receive a reliable yearly rainfall of thirty inches or more. Though much of country has two wet and two dry seasons, total rainfall varies unpredictably. Its highlands are temperate and its coastal zone hot and humid; arid areas are generally hot.

POPULATION: A full census is undertaken every ten years. Kenya's population in 1989 was reported to be 21.4m with an annual growth rate of 3.3%. UN estimates for mid-1996 give a figure of 31.8m.

LANGUAGES: English, Swahili, and local languages (e.g. Kikuyu, Nandi, Luhya, Luo, etc.).

RELIGION: Christianity, Islam, and traditional beliefs.

EDUCATION: Kenya offers its citizens a complete educational system from primary school through university. Primary education is provided free of charge. A student who continues through the educational system will have spend eight years in primary schools, four years in secondary schools and four years at university. Kenya's leading educational institutions include the University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University, Moi University, Kenya Polytechnic, the Jomo Kenyatta College of Agriculture and Technology, Kenya Medical Training College and Mombasa Polytechnic.

HEALTH: Kenya's most serious medical problems include malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis, parasitic infections, and childhood diseases. These are aggravated and complicated by malnutrition and poor sanitary conditions.

ECONOMY: Much of Kenya's population traditionally engages in farming for its subsistence and income. However, an expanding economy allowed Kenya during 1964-72 to lead most African countries in its growth rate, largely due to tourism, consumer manufacturing, and crop exports, though its economy has not been consistently strong in all regions. Agriculture still accounts for 30% of the country's GDP.. Kenya has the largest economy of the three countries of the East African Community by virtue of its population, though its GDP per head in 1996 was marginally lower than Uganda in dollar terms.

CURRENCY: The Kenyan Shilling (KSh).

FOREIGN TRADE: Principal exports include coffee, tea, canned pineapples, sisal, beans, Pyrethrum, soda ash, cement, etc. Principal imports include crude oil, machinery, vehicles, refined petroleum, plastics, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, etc.


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