Olympian runners, safaris, and warm beer!… facts about Kenya

Posted on January 31st, 2014 by BreAnn

Before we blog too much else about Kenya, I thought it would be nice to give you a little info about this great country in Africa… plus, some crazy and interesting facts!

Kenya is located in the CONTINENT of Africa towards the North-western side. The country 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.

Here are more basic facts:

Capital: Nairobi

Currency: Kenyan Shilling

Language: Swahili and English are the country’s official language. Swahili is spoken by the majority of the population in general, and English is widely spoken in commerce, schooling and government. Overall, there are over 65 total languages spoken in Kenya.

Population: 44 million people (2013)

Government: The Politics of Kenya take place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Kenya is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system in accordance with a new constitution passed in 2010. Executive power is exercised by the executive branch of government, headed by the President, who chairs the cabinet, that is composed of people chosen from outside parliament.

Economy: GDP: 77 billion, GDP Per capita: $1,800 (2012). Although Kenya is the biggest and most advanced economy in east and central Africa and a minority of the wealthy urban population often leaves a misleading impression of affluence, Kenya is still a poor developing country with a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.519, putting the country at position 145 out of 186 – one of the lowest in the world and about 38% of Kenyans live in absolute poverty.

The important agricultural sector is one of the least developed and largely inefficient, employing 75 percent of the workforce compared to less than 3 percent in the food secure developed countries. Despite western donors’ early disillusionment with the government, the economy has seen much expansion, seen by strong performance in tourism, higher education and telecommunications, and acceptable post-drought results in agriculture, especially the vital tea sector.

Religion: The vast majority of Kenyans are Christian (83%), with 47.7% regarding themselves as Protestant and 23.5% as Roman Catholic of the Latin Rite. Sizeable minorities of other faiths do exist: Muslim 11.2%, irreligious 2.4%, indigenous beliefs 1.7%.  Sixty percent of the Muslim population lives in Kenya’s Coastal Region, comprising 50 percent of the total population there.

Literacy Rate: 85%

Climate/Seasons: Kenya’s climate varies from tropical along the coast to temperate inland to arid in the north and northeast parts of the country. The area receives a great deal of sunshine every month, and summer clothes are worn throughout the year. It is usually cool at night and early in the morning inland at higher elevations. The hottest period is February and March, leading into the season of the long rains, and the coldest is in July and August.

Foods:  Breakfast is usually tea or porridge with bread, chapati, mahamri, boiled potatoes or yams. For lunch or supper, ugali with vegetables, sour milk, meat, fish or any other stew is generally eaten by most of the population.

Unemployment Rate: 40%!! (2013)

Education: Basic formal education starts at age six years and lasts 12 years comprising eight years in primary school (from age 6/7- 13/14 years) and four years in high school or secondary school. Primary school is free in public schools and those who exit at this level can join a vocational youth/village polytechnic or make their own arrangements for an apprenticeship program and learn a trade such as tailoring, carpentry, motor vehicle repair, brick-laying and masonry for about two years. Those who complete high school can join a polytechnic or other technical college and study for three years or proceed directly to the university and study for four years.

Life expectancy: 57 years old (2011). Preventable diseases like malaria, HIV/AIDS, pneumonia, diarrhea and malnutrition are the biggest burden, major child-killers, and responsible for much morbidity; weak policies, corruption, inadequate health workers, weak management and poor leadership in the public health sector are largely to blame.

Drinking/Smoking age: The legal age for both consumption of alcohol and being allowed to purchase and use tobacco products is 18 years old.

Driving: The driving age in Kenya is 17-18 years old. People drive on the LEFT side of the road (opposite of the U.S.)


Interesting Kenya facts:

  • Kenya is roughly the same size of Texas at 362,040 square miles.
  • Kenya is the setting for one of the Natural Wonders of the World – the great wildebeest migration. 11.5 million of these ungulates migrate a distance of 1,800 miles from the Serengeti in neighboring Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya, in a constant clockwise fashion, searching for food and water supplies.
  • Kenyans usually drink their beverages hot or at room temperature, INCLUDING BEER!
  • The country has a young population, with 73% of residents aged below 30 years because of rapid population growth; from 2.9 million to 40 million inhabitants over the last century.
  • Large animals such as lions, buffalo, leopards, elephants and rhinoceros are present in Kenya. In addition, you can commonly see zebras and hyenas in the wild as well.
  • The men of Kenya are allowed to have more than one wife.
  • Regarding sports, Kenya is known chiefly for its dominance in middle-distance and long-distance athletics. Kenya has consistently produced Olympic and Commonwealth Games champions in various distance events, especially in 800 m, 1,500 m, 3,000 m steeplechase, 5,000 m, 10,000 m and the marathon.
  • Before marriage some Kenyans still pay a dowry to the bride’s family, which usually starts at 20-40 cows. In one of the more well-known tribes, Maasai, they get a 10-cow discount on the dowry if they kill a lion, and another 10-cow discount if they can jump higher than the other men in the tribe. [Read more about this Maasai tribe here, in a post where James describes our experience visiting a Maasai Village.]


What was most interesting to you about these above facts?



One response to “Olympian runners, safaris, and warm beer!… facts about Kenya”

  1. Jenn jenn says:

    I miss their breakfast tea, and ugali! Have you had their samosas yet?

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