The Country of Kenya

Kenya is a country situated in East Africa, and it gained independence in 1963. It relies on agriculture due to its favorable climate.

Biophysical Overview

Kenya is a country that has various climate conditions in different parts of the country. There is a tropical climate along the coastal region, whereas the temperate climate prevails in the arid and semi-arid Northern and North Eastern regions of the country. The central and western region comprises of the highlands, which are dissected by the Great Rift Valley. The highlands have a cool climate with the area receiving heavy rainfall especially between March and May (long rain season) as well as October and December (short rain season) (Aquastat, 2005). The climate is ideal for agricultural activities. Majority of the country receives ample rainfall, which enables agricultural activities. The temperature at the coast averages 270C. In Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, the average temperature is 190C, while the arid and semi-arid areas have the temperature averaging between 210C and 300C. Rainfall determines the seasons in Kenya. The annual rainfall varies depending on the topographical region, with the arid areas receiving about 13 centimeters, and the area around Lake Victoria with about 193 centimeters per year. The highland and coast areas receive an average rainfall of 102 centimeters.

The country borders the Indian Ocean to its southeast. It has a coastline extending along 536 kilometers and the territorial sea limit of 22 kilometers. The country has various lakes with the two main and most significant ones, namely Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana. Lake Victoria is at the border of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania (Aquastat, 2005). The lake lies 1,130 meters above sea level, and it has an area of 69,490 km2. It is the second largest lake in the world, and it is the main source of the River Nile. Lake Turkana is about 250 km long and has a maximum width of 56 km (Aquastat, 2005). The country’s part of the Rift Valley has various lakes including Baringo, Naivasha, Nakuru, and Magadi. The country’s largest perennial rivers are the Tana and Galana. River Tana is about 724 km. They empty into the Indian Ocean, and they are navigable. River Nzoia, which is about 257 km, is another large river emptying into Lake Victoria (Aquastat, 2005). The country’s only terrain classified as a dessert is the Chalbi Dessert. Lake Turkana is located within it. Mount Kenya is an extinct volcano situated on the eastern highlands (Aquastat, 2005).

Historical and Settlement Characteristics

Kenya became independent in 1963 after several years of fighting, which was led by the mau mau fighters. The first president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, was one of the people who led the country towards liberation. There were other leaders like the Kapenguria Six, who were fighters who got arrested in 1952 due to their struggle for independence. They included Jomo Kenyatta, Bildad Kagia, Paul Ngei, Kung’u Karuba, Achieng’ Oneko, Fred Kubai. In early days, Kenya had steady but slow rural-urban migration. However, the migration has increased in recent years, and it has led to the emergence of informal settlements in the urban areas. During the colonial period, European settlers engaged in agriculture on the Kenyan highlands and after they had left, the native people continued farming. Therefore, it is now the backbone of the Kenyan economy. The settlement patterns in Kenya have been influenced by various factors, including culture, economic activities, and conflicts (NCPD, 2013). Majority of them have settled in the fertile highlands, where a small area held a high number of people. The communities who engage in the fishing activities, especially near Lake Victoria, have settled around the lake region. However, due to the increase in population in the rural areas, most of the people migrate into the urban areas in search of employment. Since, most of the people do not qualify for the white collar jobs and the employment levels are low, they live in the emerged informal settlements and search for the casual jobs.  Therefore, rural population and settlement relies on the economic activities being conducted while the urban areas have been planned as central business districts, industrial and residential areas. However, the informal settlements can emerge almost anywhere, especially near the industrial places (NCPD, 2013).

Population Characteristics

The Kenyan population is increasing rapidly. The country had about 38.6 million people in 2009 (PRB, 2011). The fertility rate per woman in 2009 was 4.6 children, and even if it were declined to about 3.7 children per woman, the population would increase to 65.9 million by 2030. Additionally, about 43% of the population was under 15 years, according to the 2009 census. Figure 1 below illustrates the age-sex structure of the population.
Pyramid illustrating the age-sex structure
Figure 1: Pyramid illustrating the age-sex structure. Source (PRB, 2011)

The increase in population among the young people has led to the majority of the people believing that there is insufficient land in the rural areas for the agricultural activities. Since the parents usually divide their land among their children, increase in population has created pressure on the resource. Almost 70% of the people live in the rural areas. The current Kenyan First Lady has established “Beyond Zero Campaign” aimed at reducing maternal and child mortality (UNAID, 2014). After numerous campaigns on awareness and importance of the use of family planning, there has been an increase in the number of people using family planning methods. The number of women using family planning from the ages of 15 to 49 has increased to 46% (PRB, 2011). Some cultural activities, such as wife inheritance, also lead to an increase in population. In addition, there is a belief that a man should have a son as an heir. Therefore, most families in the rural areas can have many children while searching for a son or the husband can marry a second wife for the same reason.

The 2012 HDI value for Kenya is 0.519, which placed the country at 145 among 187 countries and territories. However, the HDI value has increased in by 22% since 1980. Notwithstanding, there could be changes that have emerged over the years, in the approach used to calculate. Table 1 show the HDI trend between 1980 and 2012.

Kenya’s HDI trends
Table 1: Kenya’s HDI trends. Source: (UNDP, 2013).

Kenya is in a transition between the first and the second stages in the demographic transition. The improvements in health care and decline in fertility rates will ensure that the dependency rate will also increase. The working population will grow at a higher percentage than the population increase rate. The use of family planning methods will also contribute. The country will also improve the income levels. On October 1, 2014, the Kenyan cabinet secretary for Devolution and Planning announced that Kenya had attained the middle-income country status (Braganza, 2014). However, although the health facilities and access are improving, it is still inadequate. Therefore, the maternal and child mortality is still high, but it has reduced since the past years from about 50% to 44%. In addition, the households bear most of the health bills, which makes it inaccessible. There is also poor regulation of medical technologies and products (NCPD, 2013).

Economic and Resource Characteristics

Kenya depends on agriculture as the main source of economic income. Approximately 75% of Kenyans engage in farming (KIPPRA, 2013). Majority of the farming is conducted on small individually-owned farms. The low-lying areas have coconuts, cashew nuts, sugarcane, and cotton growing. Rearing of cattle is also present, especially in the savanna areas of the country (KIPPRA, 2013). In addition, there is production of the dairy products, pork, poultry and eggs, although it is done on a small-scale. There are also various industries, dealing with horticulture, food processing, consumer goods, and petroleum products. Moreover, the country is reliant on its tourism industry as it is home to a wide range of game animals (Barr, 2011). The coastal beaches are also tourist attractions. The country’s development has resulted from its improved reliance on the private sector. The private sector has evolved under market-friendly policies since its independence. Most of this period has also been characterized by the political stability (Barr, 2011). This sector employs more than 10 million people. It focuses on numerous areas including production of agricultural products such as pinapples at the Del Monte and Flowers in Naivasha. There are also numerous services offered by the private sector including insurance, banking, hotels, and tourism (ADBG, 2013). Kenya’s development has been limited by various factors including corruption, poor economic policies and diseases. Majority of the leaders and public servants have been corrupt, and led to the deterioration of the economy. The country’s financial and agricultural polies have undermined the economy. The agricultural sector relies on rain rather than other modern technologies. Diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, have also led to limited development. It can be attributed to increased deaths and high dependency ratio due to the orphans (Mutua, 2012).

The government’s approach to economic development has its focus on various factors. It is concentrated on a long-term development blueprint, dubbed the Vision 2030, which is in-line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Its target is tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, and the energy sector (UN, 2012). They rely heavily on the sustainable management of the available natural resources. It is also focusing on improving access to resources by the women and the youth. There is a program called “kazi kwa vijana,” which aims at offering job opportunities in the casual sector to the youths. There is also women fund, which is meant for the female persons, so that they can improve their economic position (UN, 2012). The country’s economic future is promising, with a recent oil discovery in the country’s northern region. Additionally, improvement in the access of heath service and education levels creates a promising future for the country (UN, 2012).

Major Internal Issues

Peace has prevailed for long in the country. However, after the 2007 general election, there emerged internal conflict after the opposition leader failed to concede defeat. It led to tribal crashes which resulted in the internal displacement of the people (Blanchard, 2013). Consequently, there internally displaced people’s camps emerged, and although most of them have since been settled, some still remain in the camps. The country’s conflict resolution problem involves people being community-centric (Blanchard, 2013).  However, peace has prevailed since that time, but the current president and vice president are facing criminal charges at the ICC, The Hague, Netherlands (ICRtoP, 2014). The country was affected by the 1998’s Al-Qaeda terror attack on the U.S. embassy (Blanchard, 2013). It has also faced numerous terror interventions from the al-Shaabab militia group based in the neighboring Somalia. Since 2011, the militia group has staged numerous attacks leading to the death of hundreds of people. The largest attack was on the country’s Westgate Mall, on 21 September, 2013, which resulted in the death of more than 60 people (Blanchard, 2013).

International Role

Kenya is engaged at the international level with other countries. In recent years, there has been increased cooperation with the East African countries, including Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania, in the revival of the East African Community. The engagement seeks to improve economic relationships among the countries (KIPPRA, 2013). After the emergence of the al-Shabaab, the country has involved its military towards fighting the militia group in Somalia (Blanchard, 2013). Through the AMISOM, Kenyan troops are part of the military action taking place in Somalia. Although Kenya offers assistance to other countries, including refugees, it is mainly an aid recipient. The Kenyan population living in the ASAL regions receives food aid during drought. The country faces increased pressure from the growing population of the refugees. It has prompted the need for international assistance from aid agencies including the UN, World Bank, IMF, USAID, and others (Blanchard, 2013).

Conclusion

It is evident that Kenya is a country that has numerous opportunities to improve its economic position through the use of its resources and population. As the population increases, the country should address other issues such as health matters, to reduce mortality rates, and ensure that the people can contribute in the country’s development. Increased attention should also focus on eradication of the security threats. The country has ample resources that can improve its development. In addition, there is stability in the government, which has its foundation on a new constitution. The advancement and progression in recent years has seen the country move from a low income country to a middle income country, which is a great improvement. Reduction in corruption and focus on advanced technology in agriculture will improve the country’s economic performance. In addition, focus on the Tourism sector should be improved. The country should focus on a tourism marketing strategy that will promote it to the rest of the world. Borrowing from other developed countries, such as; the Asian Tigers will benefit and improve the country’s development.

Interesting Issue

Kenya has lagged behind in development compared to the developed nations can be attributed to several factors. The colonialists established a system where the agricultural products that got produced had to be exported raw, and imported as finished products. For instance, Kenya exports raw coffee and imports it after it is produced. Therefore, lack of value addition is one of the reasons why Kenya lags behind in development. Corruption has been rampant in the public offices. Consequently, funds meant to drive developmental projects get misappropriated. Hence, Kenya lags behind in development. Kenya’s future prospects indicate that it is in line with Rostow’s prediction. With the establishment of the Vision 2030, the country is in the take-off stage towards development. It has also moved from a low-income country into a middle-income country. Various elements may hold Kenya back from development. Corruption can lead to failure to realize the vision. In addition, if the plan is not adhered to, the country may also fail to develop, or delay in development.

The happiness report indicates a national aspect of a country. Kenya is improving in the happiness ranking. Considering the factor’s presented in the 2013 Happiness Report, the country’s well-being and sustainability of development is improving (Haliwell, Layard & Sachs, 2013). The life expectancy is increasing, while the maternal and child mortality is reducing. The country’s first lady has established the “Beyond Zero” campaign aimed at facilitating the remote areas with mobile clinics. The GDP per capita is also increasing although at a slow rate. The government is also focusing on the fight against corruption. The country has a commission named the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, which focuses on all corruption cases, despite the position or stature of individuals. It is expected that the country will improve in happiness levels over time, as long as, these factors are observed.