The Republic of Kenya is located in East Africa. Lying along the Indian Ocean, at the equator, Kenya is bordered by Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the northeast, Tanzania to the south, Uganda plus Lake Victoria to the west and Sudan to the northwest. The capital city is Nairobi. Kenya spans an area about 85% the size of France or Texas. The population has grown rapidly in recent decades to nearly 38 million. Kenya has numerous wildlife reserves, containing thousands of animal species. The country is named after Mount Kenya, a very significant landmark and the second among the highest mountain peaks of Africa.
Geography and Climate
At 224,961 square miles, Kenya is the world’s forty-seventh largest country (after Madagascar). From the coast on the Indian Ocean the Low plains rise to central highlands. The highlands are bisected by the Great Rift Valley; a fertile plateau in the east. The Kenyan Highlands comprise one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa. The highlands are the site of the highest point in Kenya: Mount Kenya, which reaches 5,199m (17,057 ft) and is also the site of glaciers. Climate varies from tropical along the coast to arid in the interior. Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895m – 19,341 ft) can be seen from Kenya to the South of the Tanzanian border.
Kenya has considerable land area of wildlife habitat, including the Masai Mara, where Blue Wildebeest and other bovids participate in a large scale annual migration. Up to 250,000 blue wildebeest perish each year in the long and arduous movement to find forage in the dry season. The “Big Five” animals of Africa can also be found in Kenya: the lion, leopard, buffalo, rhinoceros and elephant. A significant population of other wild animals, reptiles and birds can be found in the national parks and game reserves in the country. The environment of Kenya is threatened by high population growth and its side effects.
Kenya has a tropical climate. It is hot and humid at the coast, temperate inland and very dry in the north and northeast parts of the country. There is however a lot of rain between March and May, and moderate rain in October and November. The temperature remains high throughout these months.
After independence, Kenya promoted rapid economic growth through public investment, encouragement of smallholder agricultural production, and incentives for private (often foreign) industrial investment. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an annual average of 6.6% from 1963 to 1973. Agricultural production grew by 4.7% annually during the same period.
Between 1974 and 1990, however, Kenya’s economic performance declined. Inappropriate agricultural policies, inadequate credit, and poor international terms of trade contributed to the decline in agriculture. From 1991 to 1993, Kenya had its worst economic performance since independence.
In 1993, the Government of Kenya began a major program of economic reform and liberalization. As part of this program, 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. From 1994 to 1996, Kenya’s real GDP growth rate averaged just over 4% a year.
In 1997, however, the economy entered a period of slowing or stagnant growth, due in part to adverse weather conditions and reduced economic activity before general elections in December 1997. In 2000, GDP growth was negative, but improved slightly in 2001 as rainfall returned closer to normal levels. Economic growth continued to improve slightly in 2002 and reached 1.4% in 2003. It was 4.3% in 2004 and 5.8% in 2005.
In 2007, the Kenyan government unveiled Vision 2030, which is a very ambitious economic blueprint and which, if implemented in its entirety, has the potential of putting the country in the same league as the Asian Economic Tigers.
Kenya is active in several sports, among them cricket, rallying, football (soccer), rugby union and boxing. But the country is known chiefly for its dominance in Middle-distance and long-distance athletics. Kenya has regularly produced Olympic and Commonwealth Games champions in various distance events. Kenyan athletes (particularly Kalenjin) continue to dominate the world of distance running, although competition from Morocco and Ethiopia has reduced this supremacy. Kenya’s best-known athletes included the four-time women’s Boston Marathon winner and two-time world champion Catherine Ndereba, former Marathon world record-holder Paul Tergat, and John Ngugi.
Kenya won several medals during the Beijing Olympics, 5 gold, 5 silver and 4 bronze, making it Africa’s most successful Nation in the 2008 Olympics. New athletes gained attention, such as Pamela Jelimo, the women’s 800m gold medalist who went ahead to win the Golden League jackpot, and Samuel Wanjiru who won the men’s marathon.
Kenya has also been a dominant force in ladies’ volleyball within Africa, with both the clubs and the national team winning various continental championships in the past decade. The womens’ team has also competed at the Olympics and World Championships.
Cricket is another popular and successful team sport. Kenya has competed in the Cricket World Cup since 1996. They upset some of the World’s best teams and reached semi-finals of the 2003 tournament. Kenya is making a name for itself in rugby union. It is popular in Kenya especially with the annual Safari Sevens tournament.
In the motor rallying arena, Kenya is home to the world famous Safari Rally, commonly acknowledged as one of the toughest rallies in the world and a part of the World Rally Championship for many years until its exclusion after the 2002 event owing to financial difficulties..