Founding president and liberation struggle icon Jomo KENYATTA led Kenya from independence in 1963 until his death in 1978, when Vice President Daniel MOI took power in a constitutional succession. The country was a de facto one-party state from 1969 until 1982 when the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) made itself the sole legal party in Kenya. MOI acceded to internal and external pressure for political liberalization in late 1991. The ethnically fractured opposition failed to dislodge KANU from power in elections in 1992 and 1997, which were marred by violence and fraud, but were viewed as having generally reflected the will of the Kenyan people. President MOI stepped down in December 2002 following fair and peaceful elections. Mwai KIBAKI, running as the candidate of the multiethnic, united opposition group, the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), defeated KANU candidate Uhuru KENYATTA, the son of founding president Jomo KENYATTA, and assumed the presidency following a campaign centered on an anticorruption platform.
Eastern Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean, between Somalia and Tanzania
limestone, soda ash, salt, gemstones, fluorspar, zinc, diatomite, gypsum, wildlife, hydropower
Population - distribution
population heavily concentrated in the west along the shore of Lake Victoria; other areas of high density include the capital of Nairobi, and in the southeast along the Indian Ocean coast
English (official), Kiswahili (official), numerous indigenous languages
NAIROBI (capital) 3.915 million; Mombassa 1.104 million (2015)
- Conventional long form
- Republic of Kenya
- Conventional short form
- Local long form
- Republic of Kenya/Jamhuri ya Kenya
- Local short form
- Geographic coordinates
- 1 17 S, 36 49 E
- Time difference
- UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
Kenya is the economic, financial, and transport hub of East Africa. Kenya’s real GDP growth has averaged over 5% for the last eight years. Since 2014, Kenya has been ranked as a lower middle income country because its per capita GDP crossed a World Bank threshold. While Kenya has a growing entrepreneurial middle class and steady growth, its economic and development trajectory could be impaired by weak governance and corruption. Although reliable numbers are hard to find, unemployment and under-employment are extremely high, and could be near 40% of the population.
- External debt stocks
- US$ 19,147,781,000
- Total tax rate (% of commercial profits)
- Real Interest Rate
- Manufacturing, value added (% of GDP)
- Current Account Balance
- US$ -6,339,432,924
- Labor Force, Total
- Employment in Agriculture
- Employment in Industry
- Employment in Services
- Unemployment Rate
- Imports of goods and services
- US$ 16,475,231,527
- Exports of goods and services
- US$ 10,275,881,773
- Total Merchandise Trade
- FDI, net inflows
- US$ 1,437,000,004
- Commercial Service Exports
- US$ 4,027,047,728
tea, coffee, corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruit, vegetables; dairy products, beef, fish, pork, poultry, eggs
small-scale consumer goods (plastic, furniture, batteries, textiles, clothing, soap, cigarettes, flour), agricultural products, horticulture, oil refining; aluminum, steel, lead; cement, commercial ship repair, tourism
- tea, horticultural products, coffee, petroleum products, fish, cement
- Uganda 10.7%, US 7.9%, Tanzania 7.7%, Netherlands 7%, Zambia 5.8%, UK 5.7% (2015)
- machinery and transportation equipment, petroleum products, motor vehicles, iron and steel, resins and plastics
- China 30%, India 15.5%, UAE 5.7%, US 4.8%, Japan 4.7% (2015)
- Country Risk Rating
- A somewhat shaky political and economic outlook and a relatively volatile business environment can affect corporate payment behavior. Corporate default probability is still acceptable on average.
- Business Climate Rating
- The business environment is mediocre. The availability and the reliability of corporate financial information vary widely. Debt collection can sometimes be difficult. The institutional framework has a few troublesome weaknesses. Intercompany transactions run appreciable risks in the unstable, largely inefficient environments rated B.
- Leading East African economy
- Pivotal role in East African Community, the leading African common market
- Diversified agriculture
- Growth in services sector (telecommunications and financial services)
- Dynamic demographics and emerging middle class
- Business climate has improved
- Agricultural production highly dependent on climate conditions
- Lack of skilled workforce and persistent bottlenecks
- Significant terrorist risk
- Improving governance, but persistent corruption
Growth gained momentum in 2016 reflecting favourable weather conditions, the recovery in tourism (reduction in insecurity), cheap oil and increasing public investment. Activity is expected to continue to accelerate from 2017 thanks to infrastructure modernisation (transport and energy), deeper regional integration and an improved business climate (over the past two years, Kenya has been one of the ten economies to have made the most progress in this area, according to the World Bank).
The deterioration in external and domestic financing conditions, such as to act as a brake on private and public investment, has, however, prompted the authorities to revise downward the macro-economic outlook for their programme (which benefits from IMF support under two new credit facilities agreed in March 2016 as a precautionary measure). Moreover, if the shock felt in 2015 (drop in capital flows and major terrorist attack) has given way to a more buoyant situation, bearish risks continue to weigh on this growth scenario, such as a new phase of market volatility, new security challenges, dependence on weather conditions and a degree of banking sector vulnerability. In late 2015, the banking sector experienced a temporary liquidity crisis. Meanwhile, a cap on maximum interest on loans is putting pressure on the small banks.
Inflation remained within the range provided for by the authorities (5% ± 2.5%) in 2016, despite temporary pressure on food prices. It is expected to converge gradually towards the middle of the target, if weather conditions permit.
Although slightly down as a share of GDP, the current account deficit is still high due, notably, to the growth in imports of capital goods associated with the implementation of major infrastructure projects (specifically the construction of a new railway line) and oil exploration (operation of the oilfields is unlikely to start for several years due to the absence of an oil pipeline). Exports are projected to continue growing in 2017, because of higher sales of tea, of which the country is the 3rd largest producer and leading exporter in the world, and of horticulture products (2nd largest export item), as well as increased remittances by expatriate workers. In contrast, the oil bill will increase slightly.
After depreciating in 2015 (-12% against the dollar between January and December), the Kenyan shilling stabilised in 2016. Foreign exchange reserves have risen, notably because of the growth in foreign direct investments, so that they now represent about 5 months of imports.
Infrastructure investments and increased spending on security explain to a large extent the high budget deficit levels. These are, however, on a declining trend, due to the improved economic picture, the creation of new taxes and cuts in some spending. The government programme provides for a reduction in the deficit of three percentage points of GDP between 2016 and 2018 thanks, mainly, to completion of phase one of the new railway line project and, to a lesser extent, to the broadening of the tax base, better tax collection and cuts to current spending in favour of development expenditure. The authorities will need to resist pressure on spending in the run-up to the August 2017 elections. The public debt rose substantially in 2014-2015, reflecting a sovereign bond issue, the drawdown on a credit facility granted by China and the granting of a syndicated loan, but the country continues to present a weak risk of debt distress.
President Kenyatta could stand again in August 2017 for a second five-year term, on a joint ticket with Vice-president Ruto. Both men have had charges against them in connection with inter-ethnic violence following the December 2007 presidential elections dropped by the International Criminal Court. They merged their political parties in September 2016 in order to present a united front at the parliamentary elections, which will also be held in August. The build-up to the campaign and a close result for both elections could foment unrest, even though all parties have agreed to a new electoral law and the appointment of a new electoral commission.
The domestic security situation has improved after the murderous attacks perpetrated by Somalia's al-Shabab group in Kenya in September 2013 and April 2015. A Kenyan contingent, which is part of the African Union force in Somalia, remains deployed in that country.